NFL Power Rankings Week 8
There is no stopping progress. As I’ve gotten older, I expected to get more cynical. Instead, I think I’ve become more optimistic. That’s been due in part to seeing that history bends toward what is right and what should be. There are always fits and starts. But eventually things find their level and inch closer to What Should Be.
Last weekend in Las Vegas I couldn’t help but be amazed at the progress the gambling community has made over the last 20 years. Sure, it’s a weird subculture of people and it provides no known benefit to the greater society at large. But when you’ve spent the majority of your professional career among these people, as I have, you can’t help but develop an affinity and a protective posture when it comes to dealing with them.
No one would’ve guessed 20 years ago that sports gambling would be, for all intents and purposes, legal in this country. No one would’ve guessed that there would be a professional football team in Las Vegas. No one was confidently predicting the rise of fantasy football gambling and the rise of readily available sports wagering on your phones. And no one was confidently predicting that the NFL and mainstream media outlets would not only be outwardly promoting gambling but in fact have lucrative partnerships with gambling specific properties.
I will say one thing about the increased access to sports gambling: Last weekend in Las Vegas I could feel the difference in the sportsbook. Once a trusted, insulated safe space for sports bettors to congregate and unleash their base gaming instincts, now sportsbooks in Vegas feel like nothing more than airport restaurants; they are sedate weigh stations. The vibe simply wasn’t there. The urgency, the electricity, the frantic and manic energy that typified these zones of perverse desperation and irrational confidence for decades had seemingly evaporated.
It was disappointing. But not surprising. Isolation through increased connectivity has been an ironic undercurrent of the past two decades of technological ‘improvement’ in this country. So it goes. I’m glad we’ve made progress on the issue of sports gambling on this country. But I’m also glad I got to live in the Before, when a Las Vegas sportsbook on an NFL Sunday was a hallowed place. I’ll never forget what those days were like, even if it’s never like that again.
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Here is Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-1) – I know everyone thinks that Byron Kennedy, the guy who ended up with Tom Brady’s 600th touchdown pass, should’ve just given the ball back. Well, I think that’s easy to say when it’s not your money. And you better believe that had it been me I would’ve negotiated for cold, hard cash.
2. Arizona Cardinals (7-0) – There are only so many hits that Kyler Murray can take. It’s a bad sign when Arizona had to use nine of them – four sacks and five other hits – against the lowly Texans. Arizona is 9-20 ATS as a home favorite and just 2-5 ATS against teams with a winning record.
3. Buffalo Bills (4-2) – The Bills had to sit on that MNF heartbreaker in Tennessee for two full weeks. If they are legit championship contenders, they will have held on to that anger and will unleash it at home this week against an overmatched divisional rival. Buffalo is 7-2 ATS at home against Miami.
4. Green Bay Packers (6-1) – I have to say that I think that the monster line movement in Green Bay’s Thursday tilt at Arizona is a bit of an overreaction. No, Green Bay won’t have Devante Adams. But to move the line from 3.5 to 6.0 because of injury (and obviously big money on the Birds) seems a little suspect. Green Bay is 6-1 ATS in its last seven Thursday games.
5. Los Angeles Rams (6-1) – I think it is kind of a red flag that the Rams were outgained by the Lions last week. Los Angeles also benefitted from the Lions going 0-for-5 in the red zone last week. This Rams defense has some serious issues, and I still think that this team is overvalued by the public.
6. Dallas Cowboys (5-1) – Mike McCarthy-coached teams have gone 11-3 ATS after a bye week. I attribute absolutely none of that to McCarthy, but it is worth noting.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (4-2) – I think that the bye week is particularly difficult for young coaches who don’t have a set routine or a predictable path to fall back on. I’m interested to see how Brandon Staley’s squad responds to the extra week off. I have to be honest: I’m not optimistic about it.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) – The Bengals continue to prove that the best way to help your defense out is by putting pressure on opponents with your offense. The Bengals are No. 20 in offensive third down efficiency and No. 20 in time of possession. But they are No. 7 in scoring (27.0 PPG), so their defense has been able to play with a lead. That, as much as anything, has helped them develop into a Top 10 unit.
9. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) – This is another team that I think is grossly overvalued. If not for a few fourth quarter miracles, this team easily could be 3-4 or even 2-5 right now.
10. Cleveland Browns (4-3) – I absolutely 100 percent think that the Browns should be starting Case Keenum. And it has nothing to do with one underwhelming start against lowly Denver. Keenum doesn’t turn the ball over. Mayfield is a turnover machine. Period. End of sentence. Give me the guy that moves the chains without making back-breaking mistakes. Cleveland is just 10-26 ATS in divisional games.
11. Tennessee Titans (5-2) – The Titans just went on a seven-day heater, beating the Bills and the Chiefs at home. However, now they must hit the road and avoid a hangover against a divisional rival that is playing with revenge. These Titans-Colts games are usually not close, either; only two of the last 10 meetings have been decided by four points or less.
12. Las Vegas Raiders (5-2) – Everything you read and hear out of the Raiders camp is about how much chilled out everything is on the sideline and in the locker room without Jon Gruden. Gruden was an overrated loser who liked to act the big tough guy without actually, you know, being a tough guy. This team is a lot more dangerous without him.
13. New Orleans Saints (4-2) – Jameis Winston still stinks. His receivers, admittedly, suck pretty badly too right now. But Winston’s field vision is horrendous. I would never play anything but two deep safeties against the Saints, and I would force Winston to be the efficient quarterback that we all know he just can’t be.
14. Minnesota Vikings (3-3) – This is actually the third straight season in which the Vikings took on the Cowboys. Minnesota actually lost to Andy Dalton and The Boys at home last year while getting run over for 180 rushing yards on 31 carries. The road team has won three straight in the series, and the underdog is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings between these two teams.
15. Kansas City Chiefs (3-4) – I love how people are just now saying it is time to panic about the Chiefs. It was time to panic over a month ago! This team cannot stop anyone, the offensive line is still shaky as hell. And as a result of the weakness around him, Patrick Mahomes is trying to do way, way too much. The result is a -10 turnover differential, tied with Jacksonville for worst in the league.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) – Mike Tomlin is just 7-7 ATS coming out of a bye week. The Steelers are 26-10 ATS as an underdog and 11-4 ATS as a road underdog lately.
17. Indianapolis Colts (3-4) – This is a monster home game for the Colts this week. If they lose this game, they will be 3.5 games back of the Titans and 0-2 against Tennessee on the season. If the Colts win, though, then the AFC South will be a horse race in the second half of the season.
18. New England Patriots (3-4) – I still can’t believe that I had any hesitation last week laying a touchdown with the Patriots over the Jets. I eventually pulled the trigger with it as my No. 2 biggest side play. But I don’t know how that game wasn’t everyone’s NFL Game of the Year. The Patriots are 2-5 ATS on the road and 0-4 ATS in their last four games after a win.
19. San Francisco 49ers (2-4) – I still think it is insane that people are calling for Trey Lance to become San Francisco’s starting quarterback. Lance has shown me absolutely nothing in his limited appearances. And whatever San Francisco’s issues are right now, I feel they have very little to do with Jimmy Garoppollo.
20. Chicago Bears (3-4) – I still have no earthly idea why Justin Fields is starting for this team with Andy Dalton and Nick Foles on the roster. Fields never should’ve seen the field this season. He has already been sacked 22 times in five games, and the Bears are being forced to run a high school-level offense with him under center behind that atrocious line.
21. Denver Broncos (3-4) – The Broncos became just the sixth team since 2000 to lose four straight games after starting the season 3-0. They have seven linebackers on injured reserve right now, and the secondary has been a gross underachiever. It’s not a surprise that the defense has underachieved this season, especially when the offense is converting just 31 percent on third down.
21. Carolina Panthers (3-4) – Wait, so Sam Darnold isn’t the answer at quarterback? A lot of people were crowing about Darnold after the first month of the season. Then he got benched. Against the Giants. It is time to face the facts that Sam Darnold stinks, he has always stunk, that he never should’ve been a first round pick, and that the Panthers were fools for moving on from Ted Bridgewater for him.
23. Seattle Seahawks (2-5) – It is unconscionable that the Seahawks got Gerald Everett as many touches (four) than they did Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf combined (four). I don’t care how they do it, but Seattle has to get their two best players involved in the offense however they can.
24. Philadelphia Eagles (2-5) – Could Nick Sirianni be a one-and-down coach? It looks and sounds like he is about to lose the locker room, and the Eagles just look lost and disorganized. They have had 58 penalties in seven games (most in the NFL) and they have had 18 pre-snap penalties (fifth-most).
25. Atlanta Falcons (3-3) – I feel like people are starting to make the same mistake about the Falcons that they did about the Panthers and Broncos. Yes, Atlanta is 3-1 in its last four games. But they have beaten the Dolphins, Jets and Giants and lost at home to the Redskins. Look at these power rankings! They’ve played against the other retreads in the league, so nothing about Atlanta’s .500 mark is particularly impressive to me -- and it shouldn’t be to you either.
26. New York Giants (2-5) – The Giants have been outscored by nearly a touchdown per game. And last week’s “offensive eruption” (it was just the second time this year they topped 24 points in regulation) came on a day when they gained just 302 yards. Having some healthy receivers was a boon, but this offense is still garbage.
27. Washington Football Team (2-5) – It is mildly ironic that the Cover-2 – or at least playing two deep, high safeties – has come back vogue in the NFL this year, but one of the best Cover-2 coaches of the last two decades (Ron Rivera) has a stop unit that is terrible at it.
28. Detroit Lions (0-7) – I think that Detroit will get its first win this week. The Eagles are the first objectively weak team that Detroit has played this year. And if the Lions had faced Atlanta’s schedule this season, they would already have at least two wins, while Atlanta would be no better than 1-6. The Lions are 5-1 ATS in their last six games against Philly, and the home team is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings.
29. Miami Dolphins (1-6) – What has happened to the Miami defense? They are ranked No. 32 in football this season and No. 30 against the pass. Last year they were No. 6 in points allowed but No. 20 in total defense, so last year was a bit fluky, though I don’t think anyone expected this big of a collapse. Miami is 5-1 ATS as a road underdog, but I don’t know anyone that’s going to be taking the points with them this week in Buffalo.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) – Does anyone think for one second that Urban Meyer and the Jaguars coaching staff took advantage of that extra week of preparation to uncover an edge for Jacksonville to use this week in Seattle? Me neither. The Jaguars are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games and 3-8 ATS after a win.
31. Houston Texans (1-6) – Tyrod Taylor will return to practice this week and is getting close to reclaiming his role as starting quarterback. There is no doubt that the Texans will be more competitive with him under center. Yet I do think he’s going to be rusty in his first game action since getting injured in Week 2.
32. New York Jets (1-5) – The Jets are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games as a home underdog, and the home team is 7-2 ATS in the Cincinnati series. Despite that, I have to wonder if it is not long past time that we simply bet against the Jets, Giants and WFT every single week and then sit back and collect on the utter incompetence at the bottom of this league.
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