Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014 Week 8 NFL Power Ratings

Before diving into the updated power ratings for Week 8, I wanted to debunk a common fallacy that exists amongst the masses in regards to the sports markets.

There is a common misconception amongst the general public that opening numbers are set by Las Vegas oddsmakers. While that was the case twenty years ago, nowadays this assumption could not be further from the truth. Granted there are some exceptions, for example, Johnny Avello from the Wynn releases the world College Football openers for the upcoming week every Sunday, but that's about it.

Generally speaking, Vegas books will either open their own numbers with extremely low limits and wait for offshore outfits like Pinnacle or CRIS (Costa Rica International Sports) to post their numbers so the Vegas shops can mimic them, or they simply won't release a line until the aforementioned organizations put their opinions on the board. In Lehman's terms, "Vegas" does not set the numbers anymore; virtually every opening line originates offshore.

Although there isn't much viewership on the site, I wanted to outline this important point in hopes of educating the average person who may know a thing or two about sports, but not so much about the markets.

P.S. It's in an oddsmaker's best interest to set accurate point spreads and totals, considering their job security and financial well-being basically depends on it. These guys truly have a vested interest in the outcome of games.

So the next time you turn on ESPN and listen to the 'experts' give their predictions, just remember that those talking heads will still collect their annual salary and continue to appear on television, regardless of how wrong their analysis and/or opinions are.

In hindsight it seems like an absolute no-brainer, but I will admit there was a time when I followed ESPN and other mainstream media outlets as if it were the be-all and end-all gospel without paying any attention to point spreads or oddsmakers' opinions. Talk about being young and naive!

The moment I snapped out of this irrational funk and realized mainstream media 'analysts' have essentially no skin in the game when it comes to making predictions or giving insight, the more knowledgeable I started to become regarding sports.

To be frank, oddsmakers know sports better than any of the talking heads on television, as well as the writers amongst the mainstream media, and it's not even close.

Without further ado, here are the Week 8 NFL power ratings...

99.5 Denver
   97 Dallas, Seattle
   96 Indianapolis
95.5 San Diego
   95 Green Bay, Baltimore, San Francisco
   94 Philadelphia
93.5 Detroit, Kansas City
   93 New England, Arizona, Cincinnati
   92 New Orleans, NYG, Miami
   91 Chicago, Carolina, Pittsburgh
90.5 Houston, Buffalo, St. Louis, Cleveland
   90 Washington, NYJ, Atlanta
   89 Minnesota
   88 Tampa Bay
87.5 Tennessee
86.5 Oakland
   86 Jacksonville  

Here's a few quick-hitters...

Denver is the best team in the NFL until I see otherwise. In a league full of teams with visible flaws from top to bottom, the Broncos appear to be the most complete squad. The defense looks to be much better than it was last year, while the offense hasn't seemed to miss a beat. Additionally, Denver has played a much tougher schedule thus far through seven games compared to 2013, which is another reason why I'm a believer.

Albeit the Packers beat Carolina, Chicago and Minnesota by a wide margin, but I don't view any of those teams as above-average, to say the least. I understand that teams can only beat the opponents on their schedule, but so far I don't think the Packers have beaten any good teams. Green Bay's W/L record looks good on the surface, but after digging a little deeper it appears this team is overrated and the offshore opener of New Orleans -1 supports that notion. Granted the Saints at home in a primetime game has been a profitable proposition for years, but the fact that this game opened up above a PK should tell you something about how oddsmakers feel about this matchup.

Quite frankly, Seattle outgained the Rams by nearly 200 yards, and St. Louis needed a miraculous special teams return touchdown, coupled with the ballsiest fake punt I've ever seen in order to defeat the Seahawks. I'm not ready to write off the defending champs yet (although it appears the mainstream media has done just that). The Seahawks have played a difficult schedule thus far and have marquee wins over Green Bay and Denver. It's amazing how quickly the general public gives up on a team as good as Seattle after just a few poor showings. Granted, the Seahawks haven't looked like a top team during the past two weeks, but they are still the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl as far as I'm concerned.  

Projected Week 8 Point Spreads
San Diego @ Denver (-7.5)
Detroit (-4) @ Atlanta*
Minnesota @ Tampa Bay (-2)
Chicago @ New England (-5.5)
St. Louis @ Kansas City (-6.5)
Seattle (-4) @ Carolina
Buffalo @ NYJ (-2.5)
Miami (-6) @ Jacksonville
Houston (-2.5) @ Tennessee
Baltimore @ Cincinnati (PK)
Philadelphia @ Arizona (-2)
Indianapolis (-3) @ Pittsburgh
Oakland @ Cleveland (-6.5)
Green Bay @ New Orleans (-1)
Washington @ Dallas (-9.5)

*game played in London

Thursday, October 16, 2014

2014 Week 7 NFL Power Ratings (October 16, 2014)

Here are the updated power ratings for Week 7:

   99 Seattle, Denver
   96 San Diego, San Francisco
   95 Dallas, Cincinnati
94.5 Indianapolis, Green Bay
   94 Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit
93.5 New England
92.5 NYG, Arizona
   92 Carolina, Kansas City, Chicago, New Orleans
   91 Cleveland, Miami, Houston
90.5 Buffalo, Washington, Atlanta, Pittsburgh
   90 NYJ
89.5 St. Louis, Minnesota
88.5 Tennessee
   88 Tampa Bay
86.5 Oakland
   86 Jacksonville

Week 7 Projected Point Spreads
NYJ @ New England (-7)
Cincinnati @ Indianapolis (-3)
Tennessee @ Washington (-5)
Miami @ Chicago (-3)
Cleveland (-5.5) @ Jacksonville
Seattle (-7) @ St. Louis
Carolina @ Green Bay (-6)
Atlanta @ Baltimore (-7)
Minnesota @ Buffalo (-5)
New Orleans @ Detroit (-3.5)
Kansas City @ San Diego (-4.5)
NYG @ Dallas (-5)
Arizona (-3.5) @ Oakland
San Francisco @ Denver (-6.5)
Houston @ Pittsburgh (-3)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

2014 Week 6 NFL Power Ratings

Here are the updated power ratings for Week 6:

 100 Seattle
   99 Denver
   96 San Diego, San Francisco
95.5 Cincinnati, Green Bay
94.5 Indianapolis
   94 New England
93.5 Detroit, Arizona (w/ Palmer)
   93 NYG, Baltimore, Philadelphia
92.5 Dallas, New Orleans,
   92 Atlanta, Chicago, Carolina, Pittsburgh
91.5 Kansas City
   91 Buffalo, Miami, Houston
90.5 NYJ, Washington, Cleveland
   90 Minnesota
89.5 St. Louis, Tampa Bay
   89 Tennessee
86.5 Jacksonville
   85 Oakland

Projected Week 6 Point Spreads
Indianapolis (-2.5) @ Houston
Denver (-8.5) @ NYJ
Pittsburgh @ Cleveland (-1.5)
Jacksonville @ Tennessee (-5)
Chicago @ Atlanta (-3.5)
Green Bay (-3.5) @ Miami
Detroit (-2) @ Minnesota
Carolina @ Cincinnati (-6.5)
New England (-2) @ Buffalo
Baltimore (-3) @ Tampa Bay
San Diego (-8.5) @ Oakland
Dallas @ Seattle (-10)
Washington @ Arizona (-3)* w/ Thomas
Washington @ Arizona (-7)* w/ Palmer
NYG @ Philadelphia (-1.5)
San Francisco (-4) @ St. Louis

Thursday, October 2, 2014

2014 Week 5 NFL Power Ratings (October 2, 2014)

Here are the updated power ratings for Week 5:

 100 Seattle
   99 Denver
   96 Cincinnati
   95 San Francisco, San Diego, Arizona
94.5 Green Bay, Detroit
   94 Indianapolis
93.5 New Orleans, Philadelphia, Baltimore
92.5 Chicago, Dallas
   92 Atlanta, Carolina, New England, Pittsburgh
91.5 Kansas City, NYG
   91 Miami, NYJ
90.5 Houston, Washington, Buffalo
   90 Cleveland, Minnesota
   89 Tennessee
88.5 St. Louis, Tampa Bay
   86 Jacksonville
   85 Oakland

Last week, I mentioned that I didn't want to write off San Francisco after just a few weeks of football. It turns out that was probably a good idea.

While the offensive unit as a whole looked relatively sloppy, the 49ers' defense stepped up and held Philadelphia to zero offensive points. Granted some of that defensive production may be attributed to the Eagles' porous offensive line, but nonetheless, San Francisco deserves credit for their defensive performance on Sunday. Overall, the 49ers surrendered a pick-six, as well as two special teams touchdowns, yet still managed to win the game outright, which is pretty impressive if you ask me.

I don't think there was ever any real animosity between Harbaugh and the players. I'm not exactly sure where those reports came from, but it looks like the media got that one wrong. If there's something to be concerned about in San Francisco, it's the relationship between Harbaugh and general manager, Trent Baalke, as well as Harbaugh's future prospects with the organization.

Admittedly, I came into the season too high on both New England and New Orleans. Through the first three weeks of the season, these teams clearly didn't look as good as I thought they were, but I continued to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don't like to overreact to a couple games of football, but it seems pretty evident to me that the Patriots and Saints aren't as good as I thought coming into the season.

With that said, I still have faith that the Saints will get their act together once they start playing some home games, and ultimately win the NFC South, but nonetheless, this is not the juggernaut that many of us envisioned prior to the start of the season.

New England still has a decent shot at winning the AFC East by default, considering how bad their divisional counterparts are. However, there are serious concerns with the Patriots' roster (specifically on the offensive line) that cannot be ignored.  

Week 5 Projected Point Spreads
Minnesota @ Green Bay (-8)
Chicago @ Carolina (-2)
Cleveland @ Tennessee (PK)
St. Louis @ Philadelphia (-6)
Atlanta @ NYG (-3)
Tampa Bay @ New Orleans (-9)
Houston @ Dallas (-5)
Buffalo @ Detroit (-7)
Baltimore @ Indianapolis (-3)
Pittsburgh (-6.5) @ Jacksonville 
Arizona @ Denver (-7)
Kansas City @ San Francisco (-6.5)
NYJ @ San Diego (-6)
Cincinnati (PK) @ New England
Seattle (-6.5) @ Washington

Thursday, September 25, 2014

2014 Week 4 NFL Power Ratings (September 25, 2014)

With another interesting week of NFL football in the books, it's time to update the power ratings. 

Note: I decided to change up the scale for a couple of reasons, primarily because I was using '85' as an arbitrary number to represent the best team, which can be confusing and doesn't make much sense. As a result, '100' will be used as the benchmark instead of '85' from here on out.

Just to give a refresher, if Seattle played Cincinnati on a neutral field, the Seahawks would be about a 4-point favorite according to my ratings. By no means is this the end all, be all, but the ratings allow us to compare each team, and ultimately estimate how much better one team is than another.

Here are the updated power ratings for Week 4:

100 Seattle
  99 Denver
  97 New Orleans
  96 Cincinnati, New England
  95 San Francisco, San Diego, Arizona
  94 Philadelphia, Detroit, Indianapolis, Green Bay
  93 Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago
92.5 Pittsburgh, Carolina
91.5 Washington
  91 NYJ, Kansas City
90.5 Dallas, Houston, Buffalo
  90 NYG, Cleveland, Miami
  89 Minnesota, Tennessee
88.5 St. Louis
87.5 Tampa Bay
  86 Oakland
  85 Jacksonville

To give another example, if New Orleans played Dallas on a neutral field, the Saints would be favored by about 6 points according to the ratings.

Just a few quick hitters on some of the upper-echelon teams...

There wasn't really anything I saw from Seattle that concerned me, aside from maybe falling asleep at the wheel with a 17-3 fourth quarter lead. However, that type of stuff tends to happen in the NFL, and it's not always clear how to interpret these instances. To me, Seattle outplayed Denver for most of the afternoon, but went through the motions with a fairly large lead in the fourth quarter and allowed the Broncos to get back in the game, thanks to a textbook Peyton Manning drive. With that said, Denver showed us they can compete with the Seahawks, which a positive sign moving forward, and I didn't see a reason to upgrade or downgrade either team.

Cincinnati has been impressive this year, there's no doubt about it, but I'm not as high on them as most analysts, writers and math modelers. I believe that too much stock is being put into Cincinnati's home win against Atlanta in Week 2. Despite the Cincy beat down, it cannot be forgotten that Atlanta is a 'dome team,' meaning they are much better when playing at home as opposed to on the road. As a result, we can't confuse the Atlanta team that beat New Orleans and Tampa Bay at home with the Atlanta team that went on the road and got blown out by Cincinnati.

Additionally, Andy Dalton is still the quarterback of this team. Last time I checked, the quarterback is the most important player on the field and usually has the largest impact on the outcome of a football game. In the NFL, you're only as good as your quarterback, and I truly believe that. Hue Jackson appears to be doing a solid job with the offense, which should continue to benefit Dalton, but I'm still not sold on the erratic, fourth-year quarterback. However, I digress. If Cincinnati can win at New England next week, perhaps I will buy in and change my tune on this team.

There's no doubt that San Francisco hasn't looked like an elite team through the first three weeks, but I'm not writing them off yet. While I may be behind the curve with this one, the 49ers are currently installed as 4.5-point favorites in their matchup with the Eagles, which gives me some confidence that San Fran is still an above-average team. The 49ers are having problems specifically with the offensive line and defensive secondary, but with their backs against the wall versus Philadelphia, we should see an improved San Francisco team this week.

Philadelphia may be 3-0, but they are missing three of their five starters on the offensive line, which is a major problem that hasn't been talked about much by the mainstream media. Another concern is that the defense has looked pretty soft thus far, particularly in pass coverage. Kirk Cousins had all day to throw in the pocket, and as a result he lit up the defense for over 400 passing yards. Don't be fooled by the 3-0 record, as Philadelphia is very fortunate to be undefeated and has major issues on the offensive line that cannot be understated.

To their credit, Green Bay's defense didn't play poorly against Detroit last week, but overall I view the unit as soft. Dom Capers has overstayed his welcome in Green Bay as far as I'm concerned. They have trouble getting stops, as well as creating turnovers, which is a recipe for disaster on defense. Additionally, the Packers have a relatively weak offensive line, which has been a problem in both of their losses. It really makes you wonder what this team would look like if Aaron Rodgers wasn't running the show. Rodgers has held that roster together during the last couple of seasons and I would argue that he's the most valuable player to his team, as well as to the point spread.

The Vikings aren't an upper-echelon team, but I wanted to touch on their quarterback situation. It might take a few games to show in Minnesota, but Teddy Bridgewater is an upgrade over Cassel as far as I'm concerned. I wouldn't expect Adrian Peterson to return this season, and as a result, one would think offensive coordinator Norv Turner will start airing the ball out. Handing the ball off to Matt Asiata for three yards isn't going to win games in the NFL. Minnesota needs to become a high-variance team if they want a shot at the playoffs this year and I think Bridgewater will emerge as a competent NFL quarterback as he becomes acclimated to the league.

Week 4 Projected Point Spreads
NYG @ Washington (-4)
Buffalo @ Houston (-3)
Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh (-8 )
Detroit (-1) @ NYJ
Tennessee @ Indianapolis (-7.5)
Carolina @ Baltimore (-3.5)
Green Bay (PK) @ Chicago
Miami (-4) vs. Oakland*
Jacksonville @ San Diego (-12.5)
Atlanta (-2.5) @ Minnesota
Philadelphia @ San Francisco (-4)
New Orleans (-3.5) @ Dallas
New England  (-3) @ Kansas City
*Game being played in London

Thursday, September 18, 2014

2014 Week 3 NFL Power Ratings (September 18, 2014)

Here are the updated power ratings for Week 3:

85.0 Seattle
84.0 Denver
82.0 New England, New Orleans, San Francisco
80.5 Green Bay
80.0 Cincinnati
79.5 Philadelphia
78.5 Indianapolis, San Diego
78.0 Carolina, Detroit, Baltimore, Arizona (w/ Palmer)
77.5 Chicago, Pittsburgh
77.0 Atlanta
76.5 Miami, Houston, Buffalo
76.0 Dallas, NYJ
75.5 Kansas City, Arizona (w/ Stanton)
75.0 Cleveland, Tennessee, Washington
74.5 Minnesota, Tampa Bay, St. Louis
73.5 NYG
71.5 Jacksonville
71.0 Oakland
Week 3 Projected Point Spreads
Tampa Bay @ Atlanta (-6.5)
Green Bay @ Detroit (-1.5)
Tennessee @ Cincinnati (-7.5)
Dallas @ St. Louis (PK -120)
Washington @ Philadelphia (-6)
Oakland @ New England (-13.5)
Houston (-1) @ NYG
San Diego @ Buffalo (-1.5)
Indianapolis (-6.5) @ Jacksonville
Minnesota @ New Orleans (-10.5)
Baltimore (-1.5) @ Cleveland
San Francisco (-3) @ Arizona (w/ Stanton)
Kansas City @ Miami (-3.5)
Denver @ Seattle (-5)
Pittsburgh @ Carolina (-3 -120)
Chicago @ NYJ (-1.5)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

2014 Week 2 NFL Power Ratings (September 11, 2014)

With the first week of NFL football in the books, it's time to go back to the drawing board and make some adjustments to the power ratings.

Most of the teams remain unchanged after the first week of games. However, there were a couple of squads that jumped out and got my attention, for better or for worse. While it may be dangerous to overreact to 60 minutes of football, it can also be detrimental to underestimate what occurred during Week 1. It's difficult to strike a balance between the two, and as a result I don't like moving any team too far up or down the spectrum based on one game of football. 

Here are my updated power ratings for Week 2...

85.0 Seattle
84.0 Denver
83.0 San Francisco
82.5 New Orleans
82.0 New England
81.5 Green Bay
78.5 Cincinnati, Philadelphia
78.0 Pittsburgh, Indianapolis
77.5 Detroit, Arizona, San Diego, Atlanta, Chicago
77.0 Carolina, Miami, Baltimore
76.5 Tampa Bay
76.0 Minnesota, Houston, Kansas City
75.5 NYJ, Tennessee
75.0 Buffalo, Washington, Dallas
74.5 NYG, Cleveland, St. Louis
73.5 Jacksonville
73.0 Oakland

Note: St. Louis has a * because they are down to their third-string quarterback. If Shaun Hill is available to start Sunday's game, then St. Louis would be more like a 76. 

Detroit (77 to 77.5)
Atlanta (77 to 77.5)
Miami (76 to 77)
Minnesota (75.5 to 76)
Tennessee (75 to 75.5)
Buffalo (74.5 to 75)

Atlanta showed some resiliency in their comeback win against New Orleans, which definitely warrants some respect. In case we had forgotten, Matt Ryan reminded us that he is one of the upper echelon quarterbacks in the league (I'd take him over Foles any day of the week) after his 2013 campaign was sort of swept under the rug due to a poor performance by the team as a whole. I'm not sold on the defense, but boy did that Atlanta offense look impressive on Sunday. This team is nowhere near the 4-12 mark they put up last year, and it cannot be forgotten that the Falcons went 13-3 just two short years ago.

Minnesota looked impressive against St. Louis, although the final score may not give a true indication of how good each team is. Not only were the Rams forced to turn to third-string quarterback Austin Davis after Shaun Hill left the game due to injury, but St. Louis also committed 13 penalties resulting in 121 yards, as well as two turnovers. It was a sloppy performance overall to say the least. However, the Vikings averaged 6.1 yards per play and 6.0 yards per rush attempt against what is thought to be a stout, above-average defense, so you've got to give them some credit there. Overall, I was impressed with Mike Zimmer's debut and it's safe to say Minnesota proved to be the better team in this one.

Status Quo:
Seattle (85)
Denver (84)
San Francisco (83)
New Orleans (82)
Cincinnati (78.5)
Philadelphia (78.5)
Pittsburgh (78)
Indianapolis (78)
San Diego (77.5)
Baltimore (77.5)
Arizona (77.5)
Carolina (77)
Tampa Bay (76.5)
Houston (76)
NYJ (75.5)
Dallas (75)
Cleveland (74.5)
Jacksonville (73.5)
Oakland (73)

San Diego and Arizona are two teams to keep a close eye on during the next few weeks. Both teams looked fairly even on Monday night, but neither of them impressed me. San Diego had trouble moving the ball various times throughout the night and they could never really get into a rhythm. Similarly, Arizona's offense was mostly held in check, aside from a few big plays. Arizona's run defense was stellar, despite the absence of Darnell Dockett which was a positive sign. I was tempted to lower each team down to a 77, but decided to take the wait-and-see approach. It's tough to judge these two teams (compared to the rest of the league) based on that head-to-head matchup, and thus will keep my eyes peeled. 

Cincinnati's offense moved the ball with relative ease on Baltimore, but struggled mightily to convert in the red zone. The Ravens offense looked horrible in the first half, but nonetheless they still managed to spark a comeback and almost steal a game they had no business winning. Flacco threw the ball 62 times, which is absolutely ludicrous to me. The Bengals kicked five field goals (three of which occurred inside the red zone), which is obviously not a recipe for success. However, Cincinnati managed to scrap out a tight one, but the jury is still out on both of these teams as far as I'm concerned.

Philadelphia made survivor pool entrants like myself extremely weary after mailing in a first half clunker and finding themselves down 17-0 at halftime to a team that has been an NFL bottom dweller for years. Chip Kelly made some adjustments at the break and the Eagles ended up outscoring the Jags 34-0 in the second half. Despite the impressive comeback, Philadelphia's offensive line is decimated, and that 17-0 halftime deficit is nothing to gloss over. The division they play in might be terrible, but the Eagles are far from world beaters and I still have my reservations about this team.

New England (82.5 to 82)
Green Bay (82 to 81.5)
Chicago (78 to 77.5)
Kansas City (76.5 to 76)
St. Louis (76.5 to 74.5)
Washington (75.5 to 75)
NYG (75 to 74.5)

New England may have just come out flat in Week 1 and gone through the motions, but in the same token, Miami committed three turnovers so it's not like the Dolphins were sharp in this one either. Miami ended up blowing the game open in the second half, outscoring the Patriots 23-0. I was only able to see bits and pieces of this game, but I thought Bill Lazor's offense looked light-years ahead of the one we were accustom to seeing down in Miami.

Green Bay's defense couldn't have looked softer on Thursday night. Granted they had to face the Seahawks in Seattle, but the defense simply couldn't get stops and struggled to make tackles. We will find out more about the Packers as the season progresses, but the offensive line and defensive unit are two question marks that I would keep an eye on. After Brian Bulaga left the game with a knee injury, the offensive line fell apart once Derek Sharrod took over at right tackle. Aaron Rodgers was under all sorts of pressure, and as a result Green Bay couldn't move the chains on offense. I'm not a fan of Dom Capers and his defensive scheme and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Packers continue to struggle against above-average offenses.

Tampa Bay's offense couldn't have looked worse against Carolina. The Bucs were shutout for the first three quarters until they strung a few scoring drives together in the fourth. Some of Tampa Bay's struggles on offense could be attributed to the inexperience of their play-caller (offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford was unavailable to call plays), but nonetheless, it's tough to feel good about this offense. The offensive line did not look good to say the least, and to make matters worse Logan Mankins was injured during the game. However, I will take the wait-and-see approach with this team for now because I have respect for the defense and head coach Lovie Smith.

Week 2 Projected Point Spreads
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (-2.5)
Detroit @ Carolina (-2)
Miami @ Buffalo (PK -120)
Jacksonville @ Washington (-4
Dallas @ Tennessee (-3)
Arizona (-2) @ NYG
New England (-3 -120) @ Minnesota
New Orleans (-5.5) @ Cleveland
Atlanta @ Cincinnati (-3 -120)
St. Louis @ Tampa Bay (-6)
Seattle (-5) @ San Diego
Houston (-1.5) @ Oakland
NYJ @ Green Bay (-8)
Kansas City @ Denver (-10.5)
Chicago @ San Francisco (-6.5)
Philadelphia @ Indianapolis (-2.5 -120)