Week 8 NFL Power Rankings
by Robert Ferringo - 10/25/2007
The Giants and Dolphins are ready to tussle in England, the Texans and Chargers have no idea where they're going to play, the Browns are road favorites, the Patriots are 17-point favorites against one of the top teams in the NFC, and the Lions have been fielding playoff questions from the media all week. What the hell is going on here?
I'm not a big fan of how everything in sports has become an "Instant Classic" or is immediately "The Greatest Ever" or "One of the Biggest Ever". It's all hype from the Noise Machine and is generally a bunch of BS. However, and I had an inkling about this coming into the season, that this year the NFL is as unpredictable as it has been in the last decade. I say that the single biggest reason for all of the insecurity and randomness is that we're in the middle of a seismic quarterback and coaching Renaissance. Over 60 percent of the coaches in the league (20 of 32) have less than four years of experience. Also, nearly half of the teams (15) in the league have had to use their backup quarterback for at least 33 percent of their offensive snaps. So unproven coaches and unstable quarterback positions have hijacked our beloved game and turned it into a cesspool of shoddy play. I can only hope that I'm not saying the same thing five years from now.
Keep that in mind as you rummage through the top half of Doc's Sports Week 8 NFL Power Rankings and you tell me if you notice any correlation between quarterback-coaching stability and overall success both straight up and against the spread:
1) New England Patriots (7-0) - How can this team possibly get better? Try adding Richard Seymour, their best defensive player, back into the mix. Good God. I really hope that the Pats don't cover the spread this week so they can come back with a 20-point win over Indianapolis next week. But there's no way I'll be betting against the Pats this week. I will never bet against Tom Brady as long as I live. Ever.
2) Indianapolis Colts (6-0) - This is a tricky spot for the Colts to cover. They are road favorites by more than a touchdown, and they're playing their second road game after a MNF road win. That's a lot of travel in less than a week. Also, you can't tell me that they aren't looking ahead to next week's Armageddon game with the Patriots. Teams playing an away game on Monday, followed by a road game the next Sunday, are 3-7 SU lately.
3) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) - It's Bengals Week around the Steel City and Pittsburgh has owned this series lately. They are 6-3 SU and 7-4 SU against the Bungles lately. Pittsburgh brings in the league's No. 1 defense and an offense that's trending upwards. Pittsburgh is 12-6 ATS following a straight-up loss.
4) Tennessee Titans (4-2) - Vince Young is back under center for the Titans, which gives me infinitely more confidence in this team. The Titans need to make a statement this week against an Oakland team that they should physically dominate. Tennessee is just 1-4 ATS as a favorite dating back to 2005.
5) Dallas Cowboys (6-1) - Marion Barber has 32 carries for 236 yards with four touchdowns in the fourth quarter this year. That's an unreal 7.4 yards per carry average! I, personally, still have some questions about this team mainly because I don't think they can stop teams that can throw the ball. With three straight divisional games, two on the road, waiting on the other side of the bye week we're going to find out a lot about this team in November.
6) New York Giants (5-2) - This is our big mover of the week. Granted, they have played a bunch of cupcakes, but this team is absolutely nasty right now. However, this is a game where the Giants have to show maturity and focus, and prove to us that they are for real. New York is 3-1 ATS against Miami and 12-3 ATS on the road with the total set at 42 or above.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars (4-2) - What an egg these guys laid on Monday Night. There's no way that there isn't a letdown this weekend in Tampa Bay and Jags backers couldn't have felt confident watching Quinn Gray air-mailing passes against the Colts. Jacksonville is 11-4-1 ATS in their last 16 games as an underdog, but just 1-5 ATS after facing Indianapolis.
8) Green Bay Packers (5-1) - Four of Brett Favre's six interceptions have come in his past two games. Also, according to Stats, Inc., Favre has completed just 11.1 percent of his passes from 31-40 yards, which is down from his 19.9 percent career average. NFL QB's average around 25 percent. The Pack is 0-4 ATS on MNF recently.
9) Washington Redskins (4-2) - This is a tremendous game for Jason Campbell. I think he is capable of reaching the level of the Big Bens and the Tony Romos. But he has to keep his cool this weekend in New England because if he can convert some third downs and not turn the ball over (one or less TO's) then I think that the Redskins can play with the Patriots. The Skins get Casey Rabach and Marcus Washington back this week as well, which are two key cogs.
10) San Diego Chargers (3-3) - Houston runs a modified version of the Denver offense, so the Chargers should be well prepped for the misdirection and play-action passing that they're going to see this week. They just don't know where they're going to see it. The Chargers are 0-6 ATS against teams with a losing record but they are 16-5 ATS in their last 21 October games.
11) Seattle Seahawks (4-3) - People are just now catching on that Shaun Alexander is a paycheck player? It's not just that he's not running effectively it's that he's taking dives and avoiding contacts. Basically, he is soft. As is this team. But they are in the driver's seat for yet another division title so they are in the mix as much as anyone in the NFC.
12) Chicago Bears (3-4) - I'm not willing to say that the win over Philadelphia was a "season saver". There are still loads of issues on this team and I think they will be a better team coming out of the bye than they are now. Chicago is 1-4-1 ATS as a divisional favorite and the favorite in this series is just 4-11-1 ATS recently.
13) Kansas City Chiefs (4-3) - Take a look at the only division leader to give up more points than it has scored. That being said, Kansas City is on a 4-1 SU and a 4-1-1 ATS run. The Chiefs have to get better on third down. They are converting just 35 percent, which leaves them 26th in the league.
14) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3) - Tampa's No. 5 passing defense should cause Quinn Gray fits this weekend. The trouble is that the Bucs are already banged up and now have to mash with the berserkers on Jacksonville. If this game becomes the head-banger that everyone is expecting then I'm looking for a cumulative effect next week against a rested Arizona club.
15) Baltimore Ravens (3-3) - Steve McNair's QB rating in Baltimore's wins over the past two years is 89.7 and in their losses over that span it's just 72.5. Also, the defense is ranked No. 2 in the league but since facing Carson Palmer in Week 1 the Ravens have seen backup quarterbacks in every game. No worries. Some guys named Brady, Manning and Roethlisberger are on deck.
16) Carolina Panthers (4-2) - Talk about a shaky 4-2. Carolina's Achilles heel has been its pass defense this season. It's improving, but they will have to deal with Peyton Manning this week. The Panthers have been outscored 118-44 in their last four home games and their four wins have come against teams with a combined 6-20 record.
17) Philadelphia Eagles (2-4) - The Eagles are just 3-8 SU in Donovan McNabb's last 11 starts. The Eagles are running up against their former offensive coordinator, Brad Childress, this week in Minnesota. Also, if you discount their 56-point eruption against the Lions the Eagles are averaging just 12.0 points per game.
18) Houston Texans (3-4) - Injuries have really hijacked what began as a very promising season. Their top three offensive players - Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, and Ahman Green - all either won't play or will be severely limited this week. This is also one of the few teams left that hasn't posted a 100-yard rusher.
19) Arizona Cardinals (3-4) - Ken Whisenhunt took aside two of his key defensive players - Adrian Wilson and Darnell Dockett - and scolded them for costly and unnecessary penalties. Do you think Dennis Green would have done that? And that right there is why it's a new day in the desert.
20) Detroit Lions (4-2) - The Lions have been outscored 90-24 in their past two road games and they are 7-44 SU on the road since the start of 2001. They are also 1-3 ATS in their last four trips to Soldier Field and 2-5 ATS on grass recently. They didn't deserve to win last week against Tampa Bay and this could be a perfect fade spot.
21) Denver Broncos (3-3) - I've been kicking myself all week for not being all over the Broncos last week as Mike Shanahan is an automatic play following a bye week. I'm not ready to say that Denver's rush defense is fixed since they're still giving up an atrocious 5.1 yards per carry.
22) Cleveland Browns (3-3) - It's really tough to back a road favorite that boasts one of the worst defenses in the league. The Browns are in the bottom five of just about every major defensive statistical category but have been able to outscore foes. They are 7-0 ATS after giving up 30 or more points and are 7-3-1 ATS against teams with a losing record.
23) San Francisco 49ers (2-4) - Wait, so does this mean that the 49ers aren't everyone's Sleeper Pick anymore? Alex Smith will start this week, but you have to wonder about his effectiveness throwing the ball downfield. That is the real weakness of this N.O. defense. But can the Niners exploit it?
24) Oakland Raiders (2-4) - Apparently last year's Top 5 defense was a fluke. The Raiders are now No. 23 in the NFL and are No. 32 in yards per carry (5.2) and No. 26 in yards per pass attempt. The Raiders are also 2-9 ATS in their last 11 games on grass.
25) Minnesota Vikings (2-4) - The shame of this season is that this Vikings team is actually very good, 1-50. The problem is that their three quarterbacks are pathetic and this team made a HUGE mistake by not signing a veteran to start. Windows close quickly in the NFL and they couldn't afford to burn a whole season on a project like Tarv Jackson - a guy who didn't even play Div.-IA football. The Vikes are 4-10-2 ATS recently.
26) Buffalo Bills (2-4) - Buffalo is now 6-2 ATS against the Jets in their past eight meetings and have clearly been playing better football with a near-miss against Dallas and an upset over Baltimore. Kenny Watson tore up the Jets rush defense last week, so what do you think the hard-charging Marshawn Lynch will do?
27) New Orleans Saints (2-4) - The Saints are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games against the 49ers, including a 24-point blowout last year, and 4-0 ATS in their last four trips to San Fran. I still think that even though these teams are going in opposite directions this game will be one of the tightest of the weekend.
28) Atlanta Falcons (1-6) - This ship has sunk. DeAngelo Hall and Bobby Petrino clearly hate each other and I think Hall is trying to force his way out of town. No one should be surprised at Atlanta cutting Grady Jackson - the guy SUED THE TEAM during the offseason and wasn't exactly a happy employee. However, the move came just a week after Alge Crumpler called out the coaching staff for mailing this season in. That just looks like the team is mailing it in.
29) Cincinnati Bengals (2-4) - Marvin Lewis is 0-5 against the Steelers at home. Rudi Johnson is going to miss this weekend's game, as is LT Willie Anderson. Also, the Bengals' two wins were a fluke win against Baltimore (six turnovers) and a comeback win against the Jets, at home, last week. Make no mistake: this is still one of the worst teams in the league.
30) New York Jets (1-6) - There has been a lot of rumbling out of the Jets camp about players really disliking Year 2 in the Mangini System. It started in the preseason with the whole Pete Kendall Situation and has carried over. Stuff like that just infects a team. I know Mangini is going for the whole Belichick-Prick Thing, but that only works if you're winning. The home team is 7-3 ATS in this series.
31) Miami Dolphins (0-7) - Most teams at least wait until Week 14 or 15 to mail it in and start planning early vacations. Miami has actually mailed it in and are taking a vacation in the middle of the season! This team is pathetic from top to bottom, and they really, REALLY have to be questioning that Ted Ginn Jr. pick in the draft when there are 20 guys playing on Florida, Miami, or Florida State that are just as quick as he is.
32) St. Louis Rams (0-7) - Steven Jackson is set to return this week. That's the good news. The bad news is that he can't play offensive tackle. St. Louis is 9-2 ATS in its last 11 as a home underdog. Scott Linehan admitted this week that the St. Louis offense - which has just three field goals in two games and a league-low QB rating of 58.7 - has lost confidence in him. If you remember, he had to give up play-calling duties at the end of last year. Not so good.
For more info on Robert's members picks, check out his Insider Page here.