Week 9 NFL Power Rankings
by Robert Ferringo - 11/01/2007
Here it is: the Super Bowl in November. The New England-Indianapolis game this weekend has already received more individual bets than any other two games this weekend combined. It's clearly going to be the biggest handle of any game this season, and I think that it's interesting that with a majority of the action - nearly 72 percent - coming in on the Patriots the line has still managed a reverse line movement Indy's way.
That being said, there are numerous systems and trends that suggest that the value is all on the side of the defending Super Bowl Champions. However, this is no normal New England team. You really need to throw all of the typical rules out the window because we haven't seen anything like this Pats team in at least 20 years. Now, I'm not suggesting New England is the Best Team Ever. Hardly. But I am letting you know that any team that routinely covers 17-point spreads as a road favorite, averages nearly 40 points per game for half the season, remains unbeaten against the spread into Week 9, and can sail a 50-plus total by the end of the third quarter is capable of anything.
I'm not going to insult your intelligence by trying to preview this game. You know the teams. You know the players. You know the history and the significance. There are a dozen stats, systems and trends that tell you New England is the play. And then there are a dozen more stats, systems and trends pointing to a clear Indianapolis edge. But the bottom line is that this one is all about going with your gut. Pick a side: Manning or Brady? Dungy or Belichick? Midwest or Northeast? Colts or Patriots?
Either way, it's going to be one hell of a game.
Here is Doc's Sports Week 9 NFL Power Rankings:
1) New England Patriots (8-0) - The Patriots are 8-2-1 ATS, including 4-1 on the road, in their last 11 meetings with the Colts. Tom Brady has been a wizard in domes throughout his career and New England has managed to ring up 37 points per game in their last three trips to the RCA dome. But this one will be determined by which team can come up with a stop or a turnover, and this is the first time that the Patriots bring the inferior running game into this matchup.
2) Indianapolis Colts (7-0) - Indianapolis has won and covered three straight against the Patriots. And they do have the best defense of the Peyton Manning Era. And they have been equally impressive while winning its last three games by 22 points. If they are going to make a stand as one of the league's All-Time Great Teams, a title they are on the cusp of considering their remarkable 68-19 regular season record (75-23 overall) over the past six seasons, they are set up perfectly to do so on Sunday. Manning is 10-12-1 ATS as an underdog in his career.
3) Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) - Monday will be Pittsburgh's first home game in nearly a month. After hammering Seattle on Oct. 7 they had a bye and two straight road games. The Steelers are 11-2 ATS at home on Monday Night Football, including 5-0 ATS with revenge. Pittsburgh has some banged up bodies, but I don't think it will catch up with them this week.
4) Tennessee Titans (5-2) - Jeff Fisher's boys have won three out of four straight-up but have dropped three out of four against the number. Troubling. This team simply can't cover touchdown spreads as a favorite because they don't move the ball well enough in the passing game (29th in the league).
5) Dallas Cowboys (6-1) - I think it was wise for the Cowboys to lock up Tony Romo during their bye week as opposed to waiting for the end of the season when he cold have hit the free agent market. But the timing of the announcement has to be a distraction heading into a key game with Philly. The Cowboys are 1-14-1 ATS as a road favorite, off a double-digit win, against a team off a SU and ATS win.
6) New York Giants (6-2) - The score was closer than it needed to be, but the Giants dominated Miami last week. Over the last four weeks, Brandon Jacobs leads the league in total yards with 446. I was worried he wouldn't hold up for a whole year - and I was right. But the Giants were lucky enough to have him injured early in the season.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars (5-2) - The Jags signed Grady Jackson not a moment too soon. Losing Marcus Stroud for an extended period is really going to hurt their defense, but it won't cripple it. However, the game it will hurt the most to not have Stroud in is next week when the Jags have a rematch with a Titans team that trampled them earlier in the year. Jacksonville is 3-6 ATS on turf over the past three years.
8) Green Bay Packers (6-1) - Last week it was Indianapolis that had to play on the road again following a road MNF win. Now it's Green Bay's turn. The Packers are 6-0-1 ATS on the road lately as the Brett Favre Retirement Parade rampages through the league.
9) San Diego Chargers (4-3) - Let's not get back to thinking that the Chargers are "back". In my mind, Philip Rivers still has a long way to go before he proves himself as a quarterback worth backing. If Minnesota can stuff LT this weekend, is he good enough to lead a double-digit road victory? I also have noticed that nearly 80 percent of the action is on San Diego this weekend but the line hasn't moved. Road favorites of seven or more have covered just 37.7 percent (40-66) since the start of 1997.
10) Washington Redskins (4-3) - How do the Redskins bounce back from that blowout loss at the hands of the Patriots last week? I say very well. They should be able to push around a weak Jets front seven and I think that the Skins are much better than their 4-3 mark indicates. Washington is now 12-5 SU when they score 21 or more points and 13-25 when they don't.
11) Seattle Seahawks (4-3) - As good as a coach as Mike Holmgren is, his teams are just 1-8 ATS following a bye week. Seattle is 2-6 SU with Holmgren, with the two wins coming the past two years when he's given the team the whole week off. Throw in the fact that Seattle has been pathetic in road games, on grass, in the Eastern Time Zone and this has to be a troubling spot for Seahawks backers.
12) Kansas City Chiefs (4-3) - If anyone has any idea how good this Chiefs team is, I'm all ears. Kansas City kicker Dave Rayner was cut by Green Bay in training camp so I'm looking for him to nail the game-winning kick. The Chiefs are a stellar 21-4 SU when they face an NFC opponent at Arrowhead.
13) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4) - In the four games that Tampa Bay has won the turnover battle they are 4-0. In the four games that they've lost the turnover battle they are 0-4. This week's opponent, Arizona, has forced just nine turnovers in seven games. Injuries have been an issue all year, but it just continues to get worse as two more starters may be down this week. Nothing serious, but enough to make the Bucs ready for next week's bye.
14) Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) - It's Dallas Week, and you can bet that the Eagles will be ready and waiting for their hated rival. Six of the past seven meetings in Philly have gone 'over'. The Eagles will get Brian Dawkins back, which should be a boost to a D that hasn't given up more than 21 points in any game this year. Philly is a putrid 5-11-1 ATS in their last 17 divisional games, but are 9-3 ATS as a home dog.
15) Detroit Lions (5-2) - Well, Lions fans, here's your respect. I don't know how they're doing it, but Detroit has put itself in a fantastic position for its first postseason appearance since 1999. However, three divisional games and three tilts with the upper echelon of the AFC West still stand in the way. In their first five games, Detroit was passing on 72 percent of its offensive plays. Over the last two games they are throwing on just 51 percent of their snaps.
16) Cleveland Browns (4-3) - Leading tackler D'Qwell Jackson may miss this weekend's game and they dumped nose tackle Ted Washington. Mt. Washington hadn't played in a couple of weeks but his loss still makes a soft defense even softer. Cleveland is a solid 5-1 ATS as a small favorite (-0.5 to -3.0).
17) Baltimore Ravens (4-3) - Brian Billick is going to have the Ravens practice on Saturday night in an attempt to get them ready for a MNF meeting with Pittsburgh. The Ravens have covered four straight against their divisional rivals and are 3-1 ATS on the road after a bye.
18) Carolina Panthers (4-3) - Who would have thought that Vinny Testaverde's Achilles tendon would be a key to Carolina's season? This weekend's trip to Tennessee seems like a mismatch but the Panthers are 37-18-2 ATS as a road underdog and have covered 20 of their last 26 road games. Further, Carolina is 9-2 after a double-digit home loss. The Panthers averaged 42.4 sacks per season over the past five years but have just four - FOUR - through seven games this year.
19) Arizona Cardinals (3-4) - Rookie tackle Levi Brown is being switched from the right to the left side this week as Arizona continues to shuffle its injury-plagued O-line. The Cardinals are leading the league in penalties and penalty yards this year. We'll find out something about Ken Whisenhunt by how his team plays out of the bye week.
20) Chicago Bears (3-5) - My No. 1 futures play this offseason was 'under' 11.5 for Chicago's win total and boy am I glad I have that ticket! Chicago's schedule has been brutal, but that doesn't excuse that egg that they laid against Detroit. Just a dreadful performance in a must-win game. Also, Daniel Manning is not an NFL-caliber player. That was one of Lovie's picks two years ago and the guy is absolutely awful. That right there - piss-poor safety play - is really what's destroying this defense.
21) Buffalo Bills (3-4) - Does anyone else realize that the Bills are two plays - TWO KICKS - away from being 5-2? This is going to be a very, very dangerous team next year when all of the breaks that went against them this season start to go for them. Then again, this is Buffalo; the breaks may never go for them. The Bills are 5-1 ATS against Cincy, 6-0 ATS as a home dog, and 20-8 ATS against a sub-.500 team.
22) New Orleans Saints (3-4) - After a 0-4 start the Saints are now just one game back of the NFC South lead. Welcome to the NFL! This team has appeared to find its mojo, but how much of that can be attributed to beating up on weaklings Atlanta and San Fran? New Orleans is 15-2 ATS off back-to-back wins against a team coming off an underdog win, and 15-2 ATS against an AFC team off an underdog win.
23) Denver Broncos (3-4) - This Denver offense is averaging more yards per play (5.94) than any of John Elway's best Broncos teams from 1996-1998. Jay Cutler, statistically, has outperformed Jake Plummer over the past two years (11 games for Jake to seven for Jay) but the Broncos are actually averaging less points (17.0 to 17.7) under Cutler than Plummer. Which goes back to my knock on Cutler - the guy is not a winner. He just doesn't have that X-Factor and he will never be a top-tier QB in the NFL.
24) Oakland Raiders (2-5) - The Raiders are a pathetic 5-16 ATS as a favorite and have lost seven-straight games outright when posted as the chalk. I know I'm neither trusting this team, nor its 30th-ranked rush defense. Oakland's next three games are against teams with losing records before they run into an absolutely horrifying slate the last six weeks so if there's a time for them to score some wins it better start this weekend.
25) Minnesota Vikings (2-5) - So, how much confidence do you have that an injured T-Jackson can lead the Vikings past the Chargers? In each of the past two games the Vikings have scored on their opening series and then failed to make it back into the red zone more than once for the remainder of the game. The Vikings are 4-11-2 ATS overall and 1-7 ATS at home.
26) Houston Texans (3-5) - Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub are both going to sit out this weekend's game against Oakland. The good news is that after next week's bye the Texans should resemble the team that rolled out to an impressive 2-0 start. The bad news is what's likely going to happen to them this weekend.
27) Atlanta Falcons (1-6) - We're going to learn a lot about what we can expect from Atlanta based on how they perform against the hapless 49ers. Atlanta had two weeks to prep for a team that is awful at home.
28) San Francisco 49ers (2-5) - The 49ers have been outscored 143-53 in the first half of games started at 1 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone. They are 1-16 SU in those games dating back to the start of 2004 and they dropped two of their trips east this year (at NYG, at Pittsburgh) by an average of 19.5 points.
29) Cincinnati Bengals (2-5) - The line on this game has swung from Buffalo -1 to Cincinnati -1. That's some kind of indicator, but I'm not sure of what. See, the Bills are used to playing for nothing but pride in early November. The Bungles should be, but they've managed to convince themselves that they're a contender. Call me crazy, but I don't see Marvin Lewis keeping this team focused once they're eliminated.
30) New York Jets (1-7) - Is Kellen Clemens really the answer? Quick, name the last Oregon quarterback that's performed in the NFL. Still thinking? The big blow to the Jets this week was the loss of beast linebacker Jon Vilma. That's a big hit for a team that is one of only six rush defenses to give up over 1,000 yards already.
31) Miami Dolphins (0-8) - Rumor has it that Cleo Lemon's time may be running out at quarterback. Ms. Cleo, we hardly knew ye. Rookie John Beck should get a look at some point in the second half of the season - which I'm sure will thrill veterans like Jason Taylor.
32) St. Louis Rams (0-8) - The Scott Linehan Era in a nutshell: St. Louis gets stoned on a fourth-and-one from the Cleveland 17 with around three minutes to play. They get a defensive stop due to a Cleveland dropped pass and after the punt they should start their drive from their own 37-yard line with 1:42 to play and a timeout. No sweat. Only, a holding call and an intentional grounding later they are sitting at their own 17 with about 1:30 to go. Four plays later Marc Bulger gets picked off trying to thread a zone instead of taking his check down. Just incompetence from start to finish. Welcome to the NFL!
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