NFL Power Rankings Week 9
The trade deadline in any given sport can be one of the most impactful moments of the season for sports bettors.
But not for the reasons most people think.
The big news this week has been deadline deals in the NFL (and, to a lesser extent, the trade of James Harden in the NBA). The public loves trades in professional sports. It’s fun! It’s exciting! It’s different! And these maneuvers have a very direct impact on sports betting lines and odds.
Spreads are based on public perception as much as any level of statistical reference points or analytics. When it comes to trades, the general betting public has a pretty remedial understanding of what actually happens. The belief is that Team A just traded for Player X, so Team A is now going to be better. The sportsbooks know that expectation exists, so the odds for Team A now start to become inflated.
Here is the problem: in-season trades very, very rarely have the impact in on-field production that people expect. In baseball, trades can pay immediate and significant dividends. That is because baseball is very much a one-on-one sport. It isn’t nearly as complicated as football and doesn’t rely on chemistry as much as sports like basketball, hockey or soccer.
Football trades aren’t nearly as impactful in the short term as people expect. Sure, there are exceptions, like Christian McCafferty to the 49ers last season. But overall, NFL deals are usually just shuffling furniture not building a new addition to the house.
NFL offensive and defensive schemes are incredibly complicated. The nomenclature. The underlying philosophies and concepts. Even the difference between something like a 4-3 and a 3-4 defense is a massive shift for a player. As a result, player movement within the NFL season usually won’t yield immediate results. It takes time for guys to figure out what they are doing, especially on offense.
Now, I have found that in-season trades do have a clear betting impact – on the teams that are trading players.
The reason for this is decidedly uncomplicated. When teams start dumping players, usually starters and star players, around the deadline, it sends a very clear message to the locker room that this season is essentially over, and the front office is starting to look ahead to next season.
One of the most important, yet most difficult, factors for handicappers to assess in any given wager is the motivation level of the players involved. In a perfect world, athletes would give 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time. That’s not reality, though. And being able to see or gauge or anticipate which teams aren’t as focused or motivated or hungry or compelled to perform as another is a useful (and profitable) skill for bettors to have.
NFL teams that made trades for players this week aren’t instantly going to be improved. The betting market will adjust that way. But it isn’t a certainty.
NFL teams that traded away players this week aren’t instantly going to start mailing it in. However, the betting market is usually slower to adjust on that back end. And while teams that are starting to rebuild or starting to look ahead to next season may still play hard in November, usually right around the holidays is when you see these groups start to mail it in. That is especially true for teams with weak, or lame duck coaching staffs (cough, cough, Washington).
So don’t buy into the NFL trade deadline hype. Instead, keep your eye on the teams that may already have their eyes on the offseason.
Doc’s Sports offers NFL expert picks for every game on our NFL predictions page.
Here is Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. Philadelphia Eagles (7-1) – The Eagles have had all kinds of problems against the Cowboys. Philadelphia is just 1-4 SU and ATS in the last five meetings and 3-7 SU and ATS against Dallas dating back to 2018. Philly has been very good at home against the Cowboys, winning three of their last four meetings, and the home team is 8-1 SU and ATS in the last nine games between these teams.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) – Usually when teams turn the ball over five times and go 0-for-3 in the red zone, they lose by 30 points. Kansas City was completely pathetic in the first half in Denver. Yet I still feel like if they had gone for it on 4th-and-5 from the Denver 42 late in the third quarter they would’ve picked up the first down, scored, and re-taken control of the game. I thought that punting in that situation was too conservative of a move by Andy Reid and his staff.
3. Baltimore Ravens (6-2) – What an absolutely brutal backdoor bad beat for Ravens backers last week. Baltimore (-8.5) led 31-15 at the two-minute warning before allowing a touchdown, an onsides kick, and a field goal in the span of 90 seconds. The Ravens are just 3-9 ATS in their last 12 home games and 4-13 ATS as a favorite of 4.0 or more points.
4. Miami Dolphins (6-2) – Another week, another win over a bottom feeder. If Miami wants to prove it is a true AFC threat, then they need to prove it this week on a neutral site against the Chiefs. One of the problems of betting on the European games is that it is tough to tell how the teams are going to respond to the travel, the distractions, and the uniqueness of those games. Kansas City, by virtue of its playoff and Super Bowl success, has a lot more experience in this realm than Miami does.
5. San Francisco 49ers (5-3) – On Monday Kyle Shanahan said that he felt that the San Francisco defense looked, “slow and tired”. On Tuesday, General Manager John Lynch went out and got Chase Young. That’s what good teams do: identify problems and then solve them. I think the bye week is coming at the perfect time for the 49ers, who will play three of their next four on the road against the Jaguars, Seahawks and Eagles.
6. Detroit Lions (6-2) – The Lions should’ve won by 30 on Monday night. That game wasn’t close. And the fact that Detroit really made some back-breaking mistakes in the red zone but didn’t let it snowball and still took care of business shows a maturity in this team. They are legit contenders to win the NFC. Oh, and everyone (me included) that dragged the Lions for their draft in April really should be bathed in shame. Detroit’s rookies have been a major reason why this team looks ready to go to the next level.
7. Dallas Cowboys (5-2) – That is now 11 straight home wins for the Cowboys, and this team is clearly a completely different animal in its own stadium. Dallas has a monster game with the Eagles this week before it gets four home games in a five-week stretch. The Cowboys are currently +160 to win the NFC East. And, win or lose this week, this division race is far from over.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-2) – The Jaguars have allowed a total of 81 points in their last five games. Forty-two of those points have come in the fourth quarter, usually when the Jaguars have the game comfortably in hand. That means the Jags defense, which is only ranked No. 24 in total yards and No. 31 against the pass, is yielding an average of just 7.8 points in the first three quarters of their last five games. That’s some dominating stuff.
9. Buffalo Bills (5-3) – Meh. I mean, what more can be said about Buffalo’s home win over Tampa Bay last Thursday? The Bills are currently No. 16 in the NFL in rushing attempts per game (and that includes all of Josh Allen’s attempts that are actually pass plays where he scrambles). Buffalo was No. 16 in attempts last year as well. James Cook is averaging 4.8 yards per rush but is only getting 12 runs per game. Let’s try using this guy 20-25 times per game and see what happens.
10. Seattle Seahawks (5-2) – Two big-time moves by Seattle in the last week have really bolstered their defense. First, they snagged Frank Clark off the street last week. Then they made a trade to bring in Leonard Williams on Monday. Seattle has to make the long trek to Baltimore for the dreaded 10 a.m. PST kickoff. This team did win at Detroit already this year and nearly won at Cincinnati as well, so they won’t be a pushover for the streaking Ravens.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (4-3) – Were it not for a missed field goal and a horrible fumble on 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard line in the first half, then last week’s game at San Francisco would’ve been an even bigger blowout for the Bengals. They’re back. I don’t mean to jump on the bandwagon and fall in with the public. But you could see it in the body language of this team last week that the Bengals have overcome their early season struggles and are ready to be a force in the AFC in the second half of the year.
12. Cleveland Browns (4-3) – That was a ridiculous interception by 295-pound defensive lineman Maurice Hurst in the third quarter last week in Seattle. This Browns defense is stacked with talent. But cracks have been showing, with the Browns getting torched for 62 points on the road the last two weeks. By comparison, Cleveland has only allowed 51 points in four home games this season (13 per game) compared to 88 points in three road games (29 per game).
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) – Kenny Pickett says that he is “for sure” playing on Thursday night after leaving Sunday’s game with a rib injury. Honestly, does it even matter? Matt Canada is a joke, and this Steelers offense has mustered just nine offensive touchdowns this entire season. The Steelers are 7-2 SU in their last nine games against the Titans, including four straight wins.
14. New Orleans Saints (4-4) – The Saints offense has now scored 24 or more points in three of their last four games. And the one dud scoring game (13 points in Houston) saw them ring up 440 total yards. New Orleans put up 510 yards (including 161 on the ground) against the Colts, getting everyone involved in the running and the passing game, and this week they will face the league’s No. 28 scoring defense. Things could be looking up for this underachieving crew.
15. Minnesota Vikings (4-4) – Interesting maneuver for the Vikings to grab Josh Dobbs at the trade deadline. I think that even if he digests only a quarter of the playbook, he will still be a better option than rookie Jaren Hall on the road in Atlanta this week. The Vikings defense has allowed just 40 points over the last three games, and Minnesota, still playing without Justin Jefferson, will have to lean on its running game in Atlanta this weekend.
16. Atlanta Falcons (4-4) – Arthur Smith said that he will announce this week’s starting quarterback on Wednesday. For those of you – like me – invested in the Falcons, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for Smith to turn the page on the failed Desmond Ridder experiment and go with Taylor Heinicke. Smith said that Ridder wasn’t benched because of performance on Sunday – even though the Falcons had just 89 total yards and 3 points in the first half – and Smith seems content to waste this entire season in the name of “growth” and “experience” for Ridder.
17. Los Angeles Chargers (3-4) – I will give the Chargers credit for not screwing around with the Bears on Sunday night. Los Angeles seized a 17-0 lead, and that game was over by the middle of the third quarter. I have seen too many Chargers teams hump the dog and let teams like Chicago hang around in games like that in the past.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) – I absolutely, 100 percent do not want to see the NFL start calling pass interferences on Hail Mary throws. I know Bucs fans got their knickers in a twist about the end of the Bills game. Tampa Bay had no business winning that game. They got outplayed for three quarters and were not the better team. It does nothing for the NFL if refs start bailing teams out with PI calls on 62-yard desperation throws. (Especially if PI is not reviewable.) If you want a win (or a spread cover) then play better; don’t cry to the refs to bail you out on the last play of the game.
19. New York Jets (4-3) – What an absolute fluke of a win by this team. I know some people want to applaud New York’s “toughness” and “grit” and “perseverance”. I’m not buying any of that. Their MVP on Sunday was their 37-year-old punter, Thomas Morstead, who punted 11 times and dropped three of them inside the Giants’ five-yard line. Morstead was crucial in the Jets wining the field position game.
20. Houston Texans (3-4) – The Texans defense has quietly become one of the better units in the AFC. No, they haven’t faced many elite offenses lately. But the Texans have allowed an average of just 13.8 points per game in their four October games, going ‘under’ the total in all four.
21. Los Angeles Rams (3-4) – Just shocking that Matt Stafford is hurt – again. The Rams have been exposed for their lack of overall talent and depth. They played hard and smart in September, surprising people with their competitiveness. However, this is still one of the weakest rosters in football and it is catching up to them. Without Stafford, things could spin off the rails.
22. Tennessee Titans (3-4) – The Titans and Steelers are very similar teams in terms of their style, their ability to win ugly, and their performance as an underdog. It makes sense that the underdog is 7-3 ATS in the last 10 meetings between these two teams. The Titans are 6-2 ATS as a road underdog, 8-3 ATS on the road and 6-3 ATS in their last nine overall as an underdog.
23. Indianapolis Colts (3-5) – The moveable object (Indy’s defense) is going up against the stoppable force (Carolina’s offense) this weekend. How will Indianapolis respond? The Colts have allowed 37 or more points in three straight games and they have surrendered an average of 30 points per game over their last 10, holding just two teams – Baltimore and Tennessee – below 20 points in that period. They are 8-2 against the total over that stretch.
24. Washington Commanders (3-5) – Fire sale! Trading Montez Sweat and Chase Young from an already struggling defense (No. 29 in total defense, No. 31 in points allowed) will have a clear impact on this side of the ball. More importantly, the two trades are an obvious signal to the locker room that the front office and decision makers are looking ahead to next year. It will be interesting how the players respond to that and whether or not this team quits on this season.
25. Denver Broncos (3-5) – No. Don’t even ask it. Don’t even think it. No, the Broncos are not ‘turning a corner’. This team still stinks. Credit where credit is due: Denver played Kansas City tough twice in a three-week span, earning a win last Sunday to snap a 16-game losing streak to their rivals. However, I feel like that win was more about what Kansas City didn’t do (take care of the ball, execute in the red zone, etc.) than anything magical that the Broncos have done.
26. New England Patriots (2-6) – Over the last year (16 games), the Patriots have exactly one win over a nondivisional opponent. That came on Dec. 12 of last year against Arizona. The Patriots are 2-10 ATS in their last 12 games and 1-6 ATS in their last seven home games, yet they are favored this week against a Washington team that can’t do much right.
27. Green Bay Packers (2-6) – I seriously cannot believe that the Packers are favored against the Rams this week. Even if Green Bay has to start Brett Rypien, what has Jordan Love or the Packers offense done to make anyone think they are any better? The Packers are on an 0-4 SU and ATS dive, and the only thing keeping that from being an 0-6 slide is a comeback from 17-0 down against the Saints. There is no way this team should be favored over anyone, and they are 2-7 ATS against teams with a losing record.
28. Chicago Bears (2-6) – The Bears have shown that they can fluke their way to some W’s against other NFL bottom feeders (their two wins this year have come against the Commanders and Raiders by a combined score of 70-33, and they should’ve beaten the Broncos after holding a 28-7 lead). However, when facing even baseline competence, Chicago is completely overmatched. Over its last 10 games, Chicago has taken eight losses, six of which have come by 10 points or more and five of which have come by at least 16 points.
29. Las Vegas Raiders (3-5) – Memo to NFL offensive coordinators: stop calling running plays in which Maxx Crosby is not blocked. I don’t think I have ever once seen Crosby fooled in those situations, and 100 times out of 100 I have seen him light up the opposing running back. Jimmy G. is a stiff, Josh McDaniels is a clown, and everything is just as it should be for this pathetic sewer of an organization. Frankly, it is amazing that there are still teams worse than this!
30. New York Giants (2-6) – You can’t rake Brian Daboll for not going for it on fourth-and-1 from the Jets 17-yard-line with 28 seconds left. Anyone complaining about that decision is just Monday morning quarterbacking. It was a 35-yard field goal! And the weather wasn’t THAT bad where he shouldn’t have tried it. Beyond that, even after the field goal attempt, there were only 24 seconds left and the Jets hadn’t shown any competence on offense. Sure, you can go for it on 4th-and-1 and end the game. But making that FG would have essentially done the same thing. It’s not Daboll’s fault that Graham Gano is a loser.
31. Arizona Cardinals (1-7) – At first I thought it was odd and kind of low-rent for the Cardinals to announce that Josh Dobbs was being benched after Arizona’s Week 8 loss to Baltimore. Dobbs has played well, all things considered, and I thought he deserved a shot against his former team this week. Of course, it was all moot on Tuesday when the Cardinals traded Dobbs to Minnesota. But still, kind of a weird move to think that Clayton Tune is somehow going to do something that Dobbs wasn’t for this team.
32. Carolina Panthers (1-6) – According to the Associated Press, Carolina’s win on Sunday ensured that for the first time in the 21st century every team in the NFL has won at least one game and lost at least one game in the first half of the season. There are no undefeated teams and no winless teams heading into Week 9 for the first time since 1999.
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