NFL Power Rankings Week 6
I have a handicapping tip for you:
Over the next four months, you should ignore NFL teams’ win-loss records.
I know it’s hard. The records are usually right there next to the team’s name when odds are listed. But, mentally, you need to try to pay as little attention as you can to a team’s record.
There is that old school, Parcells School of Thought that you are what your record says you are. That’s not true, though. And it is especially not true when you are trying to factor in a point spread and handicap pro football games. What your record is can be a function of who you play, when you play them and where you play them. It can be a function of flukes – like 66-yard field goals – and statistical anomalies.
In fact, that’s a big part of an NFL handicapper’s job; it is figuring out what is fact and what is fiction when you look at performance versus expectations in the NFL season.
October is the month of the season when NFL point spreads are set based more on what a team’s record is (and what they did last week) than it is any sort of objective, macro-analytical reasoning. If you are a 4-1 team, you must be good. If you are a 1-4 team, you must be bad. Bettors want to wager on 4-1 teams, because the assumption is that they will continue winning. And they want to bet against 1-4 teams because they will obviously continue losing. But that’s not at all how the results generally play themselves out.
It's time to start expecting the unexpected.
Doc’s Sports offers NFL picks for every game on our NFL predictions page.
Here is Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. Buffalo Bills (4-1) – Last week’s test in Kansas City was obviously not “just another game” for this squad. It will be interesting to see if they have a letdown this week on the road in Tennessee. Playing in prime time on MNF should help limit any deflation. The Bills had revenge against the Chiefs for two losses, including the AFC title game, last season. But their worst loss of the year was a 42-16 bloodbath in Tennessee, so the Bills have another revenge angle this week.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-1) – I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: the Bucs are a completely different team when Antonio Brown is in the lineup. They didn’t hit the jets for their title run last year until they threw Brown into the mix. And the difference in their offensive execution with and without Brown in the lineup this season is clear.
3. Arizona Cardinals (5-0) – This is a third trip to the Eastern Time Zone for the Cards this season. They played great in their Week 1 blowout of Tennessee and then slept through the first 2.5 quarters in an eventual win over the Jaguars. Arizona’s pass defense has been sneaky good this year, currently in the Top 7 in the league in opponents quarterback rating, completion percentage and yards per attempt.
4. Green Bay Packers (4-1) – Aaron Rodgers is 20-5 straight up in his career against the Bears with a 55-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The Packers are 20-7 ATS in their last 27 games against the Bears, and they are 17-5 ATS in their last 22 games in Chicago. I was kind of stunned that this week’s line wasn’t closer to 6.5 given Green Bay’s domination in this series.
5. Los Angeles Rams (4-1) – If Russell Wilson hadn’t gotten hurt, the Rams were absolutely going to lose that game in Seattle on Thursday night. They get an easy game against the banged-up Giants this week, and they should be able to lay the wood. If this is a Top 5 team, they should be able to bury New York this week and leave no doubt. The Rams are 24-10 ATS in their last 34 conference games.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (4-1) – The Chargers No. 32 ranked rushing defense will definitely be put to the test this Sunday in Baltimore. They do get to play the Ravens off an emotional MNF win. But the Chargers’ situational edge is mitigated by the long flight and early kickoff. The Chargers are 8-1 SU and ATS in their last nine games.
7. Dallas Cowboys (4-1) – Despite being one of the most public teams in the NFL, Dallas is 5-0 ATS on the season. This is their second longest ATS winning streak over the last 20 years. They covered nine in a row during the middle of the 2016 season. At a certain point, the value pendulum is going to swing back the other way against this team. I don’t know that we are there yet.
8. Cleveland Browns (3-2) – This week’s home tilt with Arizona really is a monster game for the Browns. If they lose, that will drop them to .500 and then we really might start to hear calls for Case Keenum to replace Baker Mayfield. After finishing No. 4 in the NFL in red zone efficiency last year, scoring a touchdown on 73.3 percent of their attempts, the Browns have dropped to No. 25 and are scoring on just 57.9 percent of their red zone trips this year. That number has plummeted to 41.7 in their last three games.
9. Baltimore Ravens (4-1) – Mark Andrews and Hollywood Brown are two extraordinarily underrated and undervalued players. Those guys are both big-time playmakers and the clear go-to guys for Lamar Jackson. I know Brown is known for his big plays down the field, but the Ravens need to find a way to start getting him more short and intermediate targets. He is a guy that can do a lot of good things once he gets the ball in his hands.
10. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) – The Chiefs just faced Buffalo’s Cover-2 defense last week. They are facing the same scheme, but run much more poorly, this week in Washington. The Chiefs aren’t going to be able to go over the top against Washington the same way they couldn’t get deep against the Bills. They will need to feature Travis Kelce and find a way to work Tyreek Hill underneath. I expect a more efficient attack from them this week.
11. New Orleans Saints (3-2) – Early season bye for the Saints this week before a trip to Seattle. They should be getting Michael Thomas back next week, but it remains to be seen whether or not he intends to help out this team at all this season.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) – The public is going to pile onto the Bengals this week in Detroit. However, I have already heard some buzz from some sharp bettors that they are looking hard at the Lions this week. The Bengals are in completely unfamiliar territory here as a road favorite, and they are just 1-4 ATS over the last three years when they have been laying points.
13. San Francisco 49ers (2-3) – Trey Lance suffered a sprained knee last week after his first start. San Francisco let him run 16 times last week – more than the rest of the team combined – and proved once again why it is the height of stupidity to throw rookie quarterbacks into the fray and hope for the best.
14. Tennessee Titans (3-2) – The Titans have been a solid underdog in the Mike Vrabel era, going 7-3 ATS in their last 10 regular season games when catching points and winning six of those games outright. The Titans are also 7-2 ATS in their last nine Monday Night Football games and should be ready to go this week against Buffalo.
15. Minnesota Vikings (2-3) – Minnesota did not deserve to win that game last week. Had they decided to throw the ball and open up the game, instead of being content allowing the Lions to shorten it, the Vikings could have demolished Detroit’s feeble secondary. That was a terrible game plan by the Vikings unproven, nepotistic offensive coordinator Clint Kubiak. The Vikings are 2-10 ATS in their last 12 games overall.
16. Las Vegas Raiders (3-2) – What a difference a week makes. Last Monday the Raiders were undefeated and lining up for a big divisional game with the Chargers. Flash forward to this Monday, and they have lost two in a row by double-digits and their head coach resigned. The Raiders are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games against the Broncos but just 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games overall.
17. Denver Broncos (3-2) – It’s kind of difficult to get a delay of game penalty on the first snap of the game, but Denver pulled that one off last week. Honestly, I don’t know if I can ever remember seeing that before. The home team in the Raiders series is 8-2 ATS in the last 10. The Broncos are just 7-15 ATS in their last 22 divisional games, and they are just 3-10 ATS as a home favorite.
18. Carolina Panthers (3-2) – I’m telling you: this team is not as good as people think it is. They got off to a nice start against a cupcake schedule, but Sam Darnold is slowly revealing himself. Darnold will forever be the type of quarterback that keeps both teams in the game at all times. I am surprised by the line movement in this week’s game, though, with Carolina opening as a small -1 favorite but now, despite likely getting Christian McCaffrey back, falling to a +1 dog.
19. Chicago Bears (3-2) – Justin Fields played most of Sunday’s game against Oakland with a hyperextended knee. Fields is purported to be Chicago’s starting quarterback for the next 10 years. So, it still makes zero sense that Chicago would risk that for a few games behind a sieve offensive line. Nick Foles should absolutely be starting right now.
20. Seattle Seahawks (2-3) – In 2017, Aaron Rodgers went down for the year for Green Bay. The Packers went 3-8 after Rodgers got hurt, which proved just how important he was to that franchise while also exposing just how pathetic the roster around him actually was. I think the same thing is about to happen to Seattle now that Russell Wilson is set to miss an extended period.
21. New England Patriots (2-3) – Anyone that says that they don’t believe in letdowns or look ahead situations in pro sports is A) an idiot and B) someone who would’ve lost a ton of money on that Patriots-Texans game. New England is 0-3 SU At home to start the season. They are 10-2 ATS in their last 12 as a home underdog, though.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) – Nick Sirianni is a disaster. Not only are the Eagles one of the sloppiest, most penalized, least disciplined teams in the NFL, but Sirianni is proving to be an incompetent game manager as well. Philadelphia is 5-1 ATS in their last six Thursday games, but something tells me they are not going to be prepared to play this week when they take on the Bucs.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3) – The Steelers absolutely must find a way to get Chase Claypool more involved in the offense. That guy is an absolute beast and can make the kind of plays that none of the other receivers on Pittsburgh’s roster are capable of. I know most people have already written this team off for the season. But it is not a fluke that Mike Tomlin has never had a losing record in his career.
24. Indianapolis Colts (1-4) – That was a soul-crushing MNF loss for the Colts. A win there would’ve left them at 2-3 and decidedly in the hunt in the horrendous AFC South. I still think that the Colts are a team that will have a lot of betting value the rest of the season, though, and they have beat the number in three of their last four.
25. Washington Football Team (2-3) – I’ve been a vocal proponent of Taylor Heinicke, and I think Washington should start him for the rest of the year. We have to call a spade a spade, though, and Heinicke was trash last week against the Saints. He was late on throws, he kept missing high, he missed open receivers, and both of his interceptions were ugly. He needs some more seasoning and can only get that by playing.
26. Atlanta Falcons (2-3) – The Falcons have to be excited about the Kyle Pitts coming out party last week in London. The rookie was the focal point of Atlanta’s offense last week in Jacksonville and answered the call, turning 10 targets into nine catches and a touchdown. Pitts has been targeted 19 times in the last two games, and his involvement should only increase.
27. New York Giants (1-4) – All of the excitement from last week’s win over New Orleans lingered for about 15 seconds. Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Andrew Thomas, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Kadarius Toney could all miss this week’s game. An underrated collection of skill players
28. Detroit Lions (0-5) – I know that last week I was sticking up for Jared Goff. He’s really doing the best he can with the worst roster in the NFL. But Jesus Christ man; he has absolutely got to stop turning the ball over in opponents’ territory. He has three touchdowns and four lost fumbles in the last five weeks alone and is costing his team points every game with this nonsense.
29. Miami Dolphins (1-4) – Does anyone believe that Tua is the answer for this team? There are reports that he may be back under center this week. Is that really supposed to make a difference for this putrid squad? Miami is being outgained by more than 160 yards per game and currently outscored by 15 points per week. If the teams behind them weren’t so pathetic as well, Miami would be No. 32 on this list.
30. Houston Texans (1-4) – It doesn’t look like Tyrod Taylor is going to be back under center this week after he comes off IR. I think that Taylor is still at least two weeks away from returning from his hamstring injury. I don’t think Houston is a viable betting option with Davis Mills at quarterback, regardless of the spread.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) – What the hell is going on with the Jaguars’ goal line offense? How are they the only ones on the planet that don’t realize that James Robinson is their best player, and why do they refuse to give him the ball inside the 5-yard-line? The Jaguars are averaging 5.3 yards per carry, No. 2 in the NFL. Yet they are just No. 22 in rushing attempts this season.
32. New York Jets (1-4) – Is Zach Wilson really learning anything by playing right now? On this garbage team with these garbage skill players? Are these reps actually good for his development? He’s on pace to throw 27 interceptions and to take 61 sacks. Would it be better to have him sit, watch and learn while some veteran punching bag takes these licks?
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