NFL Power Rankings Week 16
Betting on sports really can be masochistic sometimes. And last week, after watching a rash of come-from-behind wins like the NFL has never seen, I feel like anyone getting ready to bet again on pro football this week must secretly love the pain.
By now you know all about the biggest comeback in NFL history, with Minnesota overcoming a 33-0 deficit to beat Indianapolis 39-36 in overtime. Fortunately for Colts backers, Indy still covered the spread. But that wasn’t the only major comeback last weekend, and a lot of other bettors weren’t quite so lucky.
Jacksonville (down 27-10 with four minutes left in the third quarter) and Cincinnati (down 17-0 with five seconds left in the first half) both erased 17-point deficits to win their games. Dallas and Tampa Bay bettors had to have felt pretty good about themselves, only to suffer a savage gut punch in a pair of losses.
And we haven’t even gotten to the Las Vegas-New England game! The Raiders are still basking in the warm and fuzzy glow of their jaw-dropping, how-the-hell-did-that-happen win over the Patriots last week. But that win just papers over the fact that Las Vegas blew its fifth double-digit lead of the season. They had lost four games in which they led by at least 13 points and were 35 seconds away from losing a fifth before New England imploded, delivering one of the most unlikely victories of the season.
And all of these incidents happened just one week after Kansas City nearly blew a 27-0 lead to Denver, failing to cover the spread in a 34-28 win.
I’ve got one little phrase that all football bettors need to adopt: in-game betting.
Scoring is down. Margin of victory is the lowest it has been in 40 years. Any two-score victory, even if it is just a 10-point win, has to be considered a blowout now. So now the smart thing to do is jump online, wait for some team to get a two-touchdown lead, and then pound the in-game betting options on the underdog. Even if you’ve bet the favorite, you can still hedge your wagers or open a nice, fat middle.
You know the deal: adapt or die. And don’t start spending that money until the final whistle.
Doc’s Sports offers NFL picks for every game on our NFL predictions page.
Here is Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-1) – Time for a little Minshew Magic. I think the sportsbooks have way overreacted to Jalen Hurts’ injured shoulder. Gardner Minshew is better than at least one-third of the guys starting in the NFL right now. Not only is he accurate (63% career completions) and a good decision maker (41 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions), but he also plays with passion and leadership that makes his team rally around him.
2. Buffalo Bills (11-3) – Josh Allen’s touchdown pass to James Cook to end the first half was one of the worst plays of the weekend, and I feel like people are glossing over it. Buffalo had seven seconds left in the half and were at Miami’s four-yard line. That’s time for one shot to the end zone and then a field goal. You’re guaranteed three points. Instead, Allen made a rookie-level mistake, scrambling around and wasting all seven seconds, and was bailed out when Cook made the catch. If that pass had been incomplete, the Bills would’ve come away with nothing. And it is another example of Allen’s reckless decision making.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) – Should we consider it a red flag that Patrick Mahomes played nearly a perfect game (36-for-41, 336 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) and the Chiefs still needed overtime to beat the Texans? It was disconcerting to see them let Denver back into the game two weeks ago after staking a 27-0 lead. So, watching K.C. struggle last week against the worst team in the league was enough to make me move them behind the Bills.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (10-4) – It is long past time to just blindly bet the Bengals every week. They are 35-17 ATS in their last 52 games, they have covered six straight, and they are 9-1 ATS in their last 10. The Bengals are 35-17 ATS in their last 52 road games and 20-7 ATS in their last 27 conference games. The public needs to get over their Bungles-phobia and jump on the bandwagon.
5. San Francisco 49ers (10-4) – Brock Purdy is 9-for-11 for 243 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions on passes that have traveled more than 10 yards in the air. He is averaging 22 yards per pass on these deep throws and has a perfect passing rating. He is taking big chances and is making big throws. We’ll see how long his luck lasts.
6. Dallas Cowboys (10-4) – The Cowboys have actually owned the Eagles for the last five or six years. They have won seven of 10 meetings, and four of those wins have been by 20 points or more. In 2017 and 2018, these two played a bunch of close games. Yet none of the seven meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less, and the average margin in Dallas-Philly games has been 17 points.
7. Minnesota Vikings (11-3) – Honest question: will the No. 2 seeded Vikings be home underdogs in their divisional playoff game this year? This week is their home finale and their fifth home game in the last six weeks. They have been outscored in those home games by a combined score of 132-102. And if you eliminate the fourth quarter and OT of their amazing Indy comeback, they had been outscored 132-77 in their previous 15 home quarters.
8. Baltimore Ravens (9-5) – If Lamar Jackson thinks that he has somehow increased his bargaining position this year by showing the Ravens how inept their attack is without him, he is missing the point. The point is that the Ravens can’t pay Jackson like a Top 5 quarterback because he is so susceptible to injury. They have scored just 26 points over the last three games and have gone ‘under’ nine of their last 11.
9. Miami Dolphins (8-6) – I loved the way that the Dolphins ran the ball against the Bills (25 rushes for 188 yards). It looked like they took Buffalo completely by surprise, and they averaged 7.5 yards per attempt. Frankly, they should’ve stuck with the run a lot more than they did. They only ran the ball 27 times (for a solid 124 yards and 4.6 average) in the two previous games combined. They are a better team if they stick to the run.
10. Tennessee Titans (7-7) – Malik Willis looked like a completely different guy in his brief relief stint last week than he did when he started against Houston and Kansas City. If he has to start this week for an injured Ryan Tannehill, I feel like he might be able to give this pathetic offense – which has scored below 20 points in seven of its last nine and is averaging 17.5 per game since Halloween – a jolt.
11. Detroit Lions (7-7) – The Lions defense has made serious strides over the last two months. They have held four of their last seven opponents below 20 points. That is a huge for a group that couldn’t even accidentally stop anyone the first two months of the season. They are allowing only 20 points per game over their last five. And if they can find a way to generate some more turnovers, these guys will become a force.
12. Seattle Seahawks (7-7) – Seattle’s offensive and defensive lines have been exposed. Over their five-game ATS losing streak, they have rushed for just 310 yards while giving up 1,009 yards on the ground. It is amazing that they have been as competitive in those games as they have been with those numbers.
13. New York Jets (7-7) – Robert Saleh deserves plenty of blame and criticism for his comically bad clock management at the end of the Detroit game. But he’s not the only one. Why wasn’t anyone on the sideline yelling? Doesn’t Zach Wilson know enough to use his timeouts? How about OC Mike LaFleur? The buck stops with Saleh, but there are enough guys on that sideline that should’ve known better than to sit on those timeouts and waste all that time.
14. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) – The Chargers defense has been a train wreck for most of the last two seasons. They deserve a lot of credit for the level of toughness they have shown the last two weeks, holding the Dolphins and Titans to a combined 31 points. They get to face another pop gun offense this week in the Colts, so we will see if they can keep it going.
15. Washington Commanders (7-6-1) – The Commanders absolutely got screwed by the officials last week in their loss to the Giants. It will be tough for that one not to linger into this week’s trip to San Francisco. Washington is now 0-2 ATS (both losses coming against the Giants) since their seven-game ATS winning streak.
16. New England Patriots (7-7) – Chandler Jones stiff-arming Mac Jones into the depths of hell on that bizarre game-ending touchdown was an all-time humiliation. It also overshadowed the fact that Jones was awful again, going just 13-for-31 for 112 yards. I don’t know how these guys rebound this week against one of the hottest teams in the league.
17. New York Giants (8-5-1) – What a game for Kayvon Thibodeaux. He only has 38 tackles and three sacks this season. But last week was the tip of the iceberg for what he can do. Very quietly, the Giants are now 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games and 5-1 ATS on the road. They are also playing up to competition, going 6-2 ATS against teams that are over .500.
18. Cleveland Browns (6-8) – The forecast for this Sunday’s game against the Saints is 11 degrees, rain and fog, and 26-miles-per-hour wind. The total for this game has dropped from 36.0 to 31.5, and I think it could go even lower. The passing games will both obviously be limited. But how are either of these teams going to punt or kickoff in that wind?
19. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8) – I remember watching Michigan State’s 22-play drive against Iowa in the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game. But Pittsburgh’s 21-play drive on Sunday against Carolina was the longest drive I think I’ve ever seen in an NFL game. They converted six third downs on the drive and crushed any will that Carolina may have had. Much like Detroit in the NFC, Pittsburgh is the team that no one in the AFC wants to play right now.
20. Las Vegas Raiders (6-8) – Las Vegas won in Pittsburgh last September, and they have won four of the last five meetings with the Steelers. The Raiders are on a 4-1 ATS run and are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games overall. However, they are a dreadful 3-12 ATS against teams that are below .500 and are just 3-14 ATS away from home against teams with a losing record. They play down to their level of competition far too often.
21. Green Bay Packers (6-8) – That win on Monday night accomplished exactly what I hoped it would. The line in the Green Bay-Miami game dropped a full point after the Packers’ win over the helpless Rams. This is not a good team. And Monday’s game was just the third time in 10 tries that Green Bay has outgained an opponent.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8) – I’m still not completely on the Trevor Lawrence bandwagon. I will admit that he’s been playing significantly better. But that interception that he threw was horrendous, and his fumble, which should’ve cost him the game, was inexcusable. He still just makes too many egregious mistakes. The Jaguars are just 2-9 ATS in their last 11 road games.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8) – I don’t understand the backlash against the reporters that people have accused of “harassing” Giovani Bernard after his costly fumbled fake punt. Bernard was acting like a baby. He screwed up. Be a man, step up and answer some questions about it.
24. Carolina Panthers (5-9) – Sam Darnold hasn’t turned the ball over in three straight games. He’s due. Last week’s loss to the Steelers was their first under interim head coach Steve Wilks. However, the Panthers are just 4-10 ATS in their last 14 home games.
25. Atlanta Falcons (5-9) – What did I tell you about Desmond Ridder? He was completely overwhelmed last week against the Saints, and there is no way he should be starting right now. Atlanta managed to scum their way to a backdoor cover basically because the Saints quit playing in the fourth quarter.
26. New Orleans Saints (5-9) – The Saints defensive players are probably still feeling the Falcons this week. New Orleans allowed 231 rushing yards on 39 attempts last week, and Cordarelle Patterson and Tyler Allgeier delivered as many hits as they took. We will see if New Orleans has the willpower to hold up against Cleveland’s potent running attack. The Saints have lost four straight road games and have been outscored 50-26 in their last three away games.
27. Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1) – Matt Ryan has now been on the losing end of four of the biggest, most embarrassing comebacks in NFL history. He holds the record as the loser of the biggest comeback in regular season history, the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, the biggest comeback in NFC Championship Game history and the biggest comeback loss in any of the international games. As basically the anti-Eli Manning, Ryan’s Hall of Fame case is going to be incredibly interesting.
28. Chicago Bears (3-11) – Even though the Bears lost again (cashing my 8-Unit futures ticket in the process), I still love what I see from the coaching staff. It is such a seemingly small thing, but head coach Matt Eberflus knew to use his timeouts with about four minutes left in the game rather than holding on to them. Mark my words: this team is going to finish over .500 next year and be in the playoff mix. Get on the bandwagon now.
29. Arizona Cardinals (4-10) – I cannot even explain how hilariously predictable it was that Colt McCoy left Sunday’s game with an injury. He’s like the third Bosa brother! McCoy is always getting hurt! He is a goddamn backup quarterback, and I swear to God throughout his career he has been injured more than any current starter in the NFL.
30. Los Angeles Rams (4-10) – I know the Rams are trying to talk him up, but Tutu Atwell is a huge bust and is one of the worst receivers in the NFL. That guy is worthless.
31. Denver Broncos (4-10) – I have no idea why Nate Hackett would go right back to Russell Wilson after the team obviously responded better to Brett Rypien last week. The Broncos have somehow covered the spread in three straight, and this week marks the third time in four games they are facing a team’s backup or third-string quarterback.
32. Houston Texans (1-12-1) – The Texans have been oddly competitive the last two weeks against Dallas and Kansas City. They are also 4-1 ATS in their last five divisional games. The Texans are 16-7 ATS in their last 23 games against Tennessee.
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