Breaking Down the NFC After Week 11

The NFC playoff picture started to take shape after key results in Week 11. The Vikings slowed down the Rams to maintain their lead the NFC North. The Eagles dominated the Cowboys to pretty much wrap up their division and put Dallas’ playoff hopes on life support. The Falcons scored a huge win in Seattle and the banged-up Seahawks look to have a challenging path to even making the postseason. Just like I did with the AFC yesterday, here is how I would rate 16 NFC teams.

Team Power Rating Record
Eagles 13 9-1
Saints 10 8-2
Rams 10 7-3
Vikings 10 8-2
Panthers 9.5 7-3
Falcons 9.5 6-4
Seahawks 7.5 6-4
Cowboys 7.5 5-5
Redskins 7 4-6
Lions 6.5 6-4
Buccaneers 3.5 4-6
Bears 3 3-7
Cardinals 2.5 4-6
Packers 1.5 5-5
49ers 1 1-9
Giants 0 2-8

As you can see the top half of this conference is far better than the top of the AFC. Out of the top eight teams in the whole league, six of them play in the NFC. A playoffs involving the Eagles, Saints, Rams, Vikings, Panthers are Falcons would be extremely fun. I think all six teams have a case to make the Super Bowl, unlike the AFC where I only see two contenders. We’ll get potential playoff previews in the last six weeks of the regular season as many of the top NFC teams still play each other.

The Cowboys and Seahawks were recently in the top part of my power ratings but multiple losses of star players forces me to downgrade both teams. At this point, I would be shocked if Dallas made the playoffs and the Seahawks look like they need to win the NFC West to be playing in January.

The Redskins have two less losses than the Lions but I think that Washington is a better team. The Redskins are coming off a stretch of games where they played the Eagles, Cowboys, Seahawks, Vikings and Saints. They went 1-4 in that stretch but three of those games were on the road, including the win in Seattle. Washington was also without key offensive lineman and their most consistent receivers for part of this brutal stretch. Their playoff hopes have greatly dwindled but I still would make them a favorite on a neutral field over the Lions.

The Lions are not as good as their record indicates but they could find themselves right back in the division race if they beat the Vikings on Thanksgiving. They would own the tiebreaker over Minnesota so it’s a must-win game for Detroit. They are still a team I will look to fade in the last six weeks of the season.

There’s a pretty big drop off between the Lions and the last six teams in my NFC rankings. The Buccaneers, Bears, Cardinals, Packers, 49ers and Giants are all below average. The Packers are 5-5 but are a completely different team when Aaron Rodgers is out. If Rodgers was healthy then the NFC would’ve been even more loaded.

How Bad Is the AFC?

The AFC is bad in 2017. But how bad is it?

To start the Jacksonville Jaguars are the third best team in the conference.

The 4-6 Los Angeles Chargers would only be underdogs against the Patriots, Steelers and Jaguars on a neutral field based off my numbers.

The New York Jets somehow have four wins.

The Texans and Dolphins are power rated by me in the bottom seven of the entire league but are only one game out of a playoff spot.

The Buffalo Bills are right in the middle of the playoff standings despite getting crushed in three straight games.

Below is a chart of my power ratings for just the 16 AFC teams with their record after Week 11:

Team Power Rating Record
Patriots 13 8-2
Steelers 11.5 8-2
Jaguars 9 7-3
Chiefs 8 6-4
Chargers 8 4-6
Titans 6 6-4
Raiders 6 4-6
Ravens 6 5-5
Bengals 5.5 4-6
Bills 4 5-5
Jets 3 4-6
Broncos 2.5 3-7
Dolphins 2 4-6
Texans 1.5 4-6
Colts 1 3-7
Browns -1 0-10

The Patriots and Steelers are two of the top three teams in the entire league. The Jaguars have an edge over the Chiefs and Chargers for third best in the AFC.

To compare it to the NFC, I would install the Eagles, Saints, Rams, Vikings and Panthers as a favorite over the Jaguars on a neutral field. The Falcons and Seahawks play tonight on Monday but they would be right at a pick ’em price against Jacksonville. The Cowboys would’ve also been above the Jaguars before they lost three of their most important players.

Hopefully this helps breakdown the weakness of this conference especially compared to the NFC, which is loaded this season. Here are some comments about all 16 AFC teams:

Patriots: The offense is rolling and the defense has played much better. I would currently have the Patriots as a five-point favorite against the Steelers in a potential AFC Championship Game in Foxboro.

Steelers: The most talented team in the league for me. Their no-show and almost loss to the Colts is typical under Tomlin. Following it up with a onslaught at home against the Titans was also not a surprise. I think Steelers would be a small favorite if they hosted the Patriots right now. The Week 15 game against New England could be huge for home field.

Jaguars: The defense is legit and they really have committed to the run game. But having this team as third best in the conference with Blake Bortles under center seems absurd but it’s perfectly fair.

Chiefs: They have lost four of five games after starting 5-0. Losing off a bye to a Giants team that has seemingly quit is a huge concern. Kansas has become predictable on offense and the defense is overmatched against superior teams. Looks like they’ll win one playoff game at best.

Chargers: So many painful losses but this team is starting to show how talented I thought they would be. Really good pass rush and cornerbacks. The offense is full of weapons but they can’t win close games. The timing of playing the Cowboys this week is optimal so the over 7.5 wins pick is still alive with six games to play. If they could only have the Dolphins and Jaguars games back.

Titans: Thought this team would take the next step this season but it’s hard to see them threatening any of the top teams in the AFC. They were overmatched on Thursday in Pittsburgh. They’re still in a good spot to make the playoffs but I have no interest in betting on them as favorites.

Raiders: Under 9.5 wins looks like the season win total bet of the season as they are 4-6. Still have a shot at the playoffs but this season has proved how lucky they were in 2016.

Ravens: I will make them the favorites to get a playoff spot after the improved to 5-5. The quarterbacks they have beat in their five wins are Andy Dalton, DeShone Kizer, EJ Manuel, Matt Moore and Brett Hundley. They also lost by 37 to the Jaguars and were defeated by Mitch Trubisky in his first career road start. It’s still a below average team but they will likely be favorites in four or five of their last six games.

Bengals: Really disappointing season but they have some life after winning in Denver. Crazy to think they closed as a four-point underdog in Pittsburgh four weeks ago.

Bills: Have to think they go back to Tyrod Taylor. If not you can lower them more in the power ratings. The defense has been horrible too.

Jets: As long as Josh McCown keeps playing, they will have a shot to win some games.

Broncos: I was down on the Broncos going into the season and looked totally wrong after four weeks. Since then they have lost six straight and their offense is unwatchable. Maybe Paxton Lynch will start soon and provide hope for the future.

Dolphins: Still don’t know how this team has won four games, including a huge comeback in Atlanta. America got to see how bad they are when they got three straight national tv games. Everyone knew their 2016 playoff season was fraudulent and I’m not sure they’ll win another game this season.

Texans: If Deshaun Watson is healthy then they might be AFC South favorites and the third best team in the conference. Instead they are the third worst team in the AFC with Tom Savage under center and cluster injuries on the defense.

Colts: Jacoby Brissett has been a pleasant surprise but they need a few good drafts.

Browns: The best 0-10 team ever?

NFL Picks: Saints vs Packers

This is probably the most intriguing NFL game of the season when it comes to the point spread. The betting market has spoken and downgraded Green Bay substantially after Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone. In comes Brett Hundley who has been a preseason star the last few months of August. I personally downgrade the Packers seven points, which would still only make the Saints a one-point favorite based off my numbers.

I explained in the beginning of this voice recording about why I like the Packers for the game so give it a listen: 

The spread has dropped to +4.5 so I will make this pick official before it goes any lower.

In the voice recording I mentioned a few other games I liked with my favorite being Redskins plus the points on Monday night. I’m still waiting to see where the point spread goes but will tweet as soon as I think I’m getting the best number on Washington.

Podcast: Week 8 College Football, Keeneland and Week 7 NFL

Andy and Nate review the recents upsets in college football along with the big games in Week 8 (1:30-24:30). They take a break from the football talk to discuss their recent trip to Lexington, Kentucky and Keeneland (24:30-28:00). Then Nate finishes the show with discussion about Aaron Rodgers’ injury and other key Week 7 games in the NFL (28:00-end).

NFL Picks: Week 7 Power Ratings and Cheat Sheet

Recorded a podcast this week. Below is the NFL only portion of the show breaking down Saints-Packers, Jets-Dolphins, Broncos-Chargers, Redskins-Eagles and a few more marquee games.

 

Team After Week 5 After Week 6
Patriots 11.5 11
Chiefs 11.5 11
Steelers 10.5 11
Eagles 10 10.5
Seahawks 10 10
Falcons 10.5 9.5
Panthers 10.5 9
Cowboys 9 9
Redskins 9 8.5
Vikings 8.5 8.5
Saints 8 8.5
Broncos 9 8
Titans 8.5 8
Bengals 8 8
Texans 7 7.5
Raiders 7.5 7
Bills 7 7
Rams 6.5 7
Chargers 6.5 7
Buccaneers 7 6
Lions 7 6
Ravens 7 6
Jaguars 6.5 6
Cardinals 4 5.5
Dolphins 4.5 5
Giants 3 5
Packers 11 4
Bears 3 3.5
49ers 3 3.5
Jets 2 2.5
Colts 1 1
Browns -1 -2
Game Lookahead Line Thursday Line My Line
Chiefs at Raiders Chiefs -2.5 Chiefs -3 Chiefs -1.5
Titans at Browns No line Titans -5.5 Titans -7
Jaguars at Colts Jaguars -3 Jaguars -3 Jaguars -2.5
Bengals at Steelers Steelers -7 Steelers -5 Steelers -5.5
Ravens at Vikings Vikings -3 Vikings -6 Vikings -5.5
Jets at Dolphins Dolphins -4.5 Dolphins -3 Dolphins -4
Buccaneers at Bills Bills -2 No line Bills -3.5
Panthers at Bears Panthers -4.5 Panthers -3 Panthers -3.5
Saints at Packers Packers -6.5 Saints -5.5 Saints -1
Cardinals vs Rams (London) Rams -3 Rams -3.5 Rams -1.5
Cowboys at 49ers Cowboys -4.5 Cowboys -6 Cowboys -4
Seahawks at Giants Seahawks -7.5 Seahawks -5 Seahawks -3
Broncos at Chargers Broncos -2.5 Chargers -1.5 Pick ’em
Falcons at Patriots Patriots -4 Patriots -3 Patriots -5
Redskins at Eagles Eagles -6.5 Eagles -4.5 Eagles -5

NFL Picks: Week 5 Power Ratings and Cheat Sheet

Here are the two charts for this week. I made a few aggressive changes to my numbers since it’s the quarter mark of the season. Here are my early handicapping notes from Tuesday.

Note: My numbers and point spread involving the Titans, Raiders and Vikings is based on Mariota, Carr and Bradford starting. Mariota and Bradford are questionable for this week. Carr has been already ruled out for the Raiders but still don’t know how much of a downgrade he is to EJ Manuel.

After Week 3 After Week 4
Patriots 13 11.5
Steelers 11 11.5
Chiefs 11.5 11
Falcons 11.5 10.5
Packers 10.5 10.5
Seahawks 9.5 10
Cowboys 10.5 9.5
Eagles 9 9.5
Redskins 8.5 9
Broncos 8 9
Panthers 7.5 9
Vikings 10 8.5
Titans 9.5 8.5
Raiders 8.5 8
Bengals 7.5 8
Saints 7.5 8
Texans 6.5 8
Lions 7.5 7.5
Giants 7.5 7.5
Buccaneers 7 7
Bills 5.5 7
Ravens 8 6.5
Rams 5 6.5
Chargers 6.5 6
Jaguars 6 5.5
Cardinals 5.5 5
Dolphins 5.5 4.5
Bears 4.5 3.5
49ers 2.5 3
Jets 0 1
Colts 1 0.5
Browns 1 -1
Game Lookahead Line Wednesday Line My Line
Patriots at Buccaneers Patriots -4.5 Patriots -5 Patriots -2.5
Chargers at Giants Giants -3 Giants -3 Giants -4
Bills at Bengals Bengals -3 Bengals -3 Bengals -3.5
Jets at Browns Browns -4 Jets -1 Browns -0.5
Jaguars at Steelers Steelers -7.5 Steelers -8 Steelers -8.5
Titans at Dolphins Titans -2.5 No Line Titans -2.5
49ers at Colts Colts -2.5 Colts -1 Pick ’em
Cardinals at Eagles Eagles -5.5 Eagles -6.5 Eagles -7
Panthers at Lions Lions -3 Lions -2.5 Lions -1
Seahawks at Rams Seahawks -3 Rams -1 Seahawks -2
Ravens at Raiders Raiders -5 Raiders -2.5 Raiders -4
Packers at Cowboys Cowboys -3 Cowboys -2 Cowboys -1
Chiefs at Texans Chiefs -3 Pick ’em Chiefs -0.5
Vikings at Bears No Line No Line Vikings -3

Here are a few more notes about teams I reassessed the most:

Vikings- The mindset nowadays is running backs are easily replaceable and shouldn’t impact the point spreads but I think the Dalvin Cook injury could really hamper the Vikings offense until Sam Bradford is fully healthy. Cook was the type of back that opened up the passing game for Minnesota. For now I’m downgrading the Vikings an extra point with the loss of Cook for the season.

Broncos- In my season win total article, I mentioned that the Broncos defense would miss Wade Phillips. The Denver defense took a step back in 2016 when it came to their run defense. However, the unit appears to be back to their 2015 form:

I had the Broncos too low in my power ratings because I assumed the defense would be just above average and the offense would struggle. I still think there are some questions with the offense but they aren’t worse than the 2015 version of Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. Another point with the Broncos and Wade Phillips is the Rams defense is really struggling statistically this season so maybe the Broncos players deserve more credit for their success than their former assistant coach.

Texans– I was feeling good about my Texans under 8.5 wins pick after their Week 1 disaster against the Jaguars. I downgraded them after that performance but have to reconsider the team totally with Deshaun Watson under center. His mobility can hide the deficiencies in their offense line and it’s looks bad on the head coach that he wasn’t starting at the beginning of the season. The Patriots and Titans are bad defenses so I’m not going to upgrade Houston too much but I gave them more of a bump than I give most teams after a big win.

Chargers– I’ve slowly downgraded the Chargers after every loss this season. I truly thought they were an above average team that could compete in the AFC West. I trust the talent they have but the conservative coaching decisions and lack of a home field advantage has me totally off the Chargers for their last 12 games of the season.

Rams– I talked about the Rams before the season and to cover in Week 4 but don’t think I had them adjusted high enough in my ratings before last week. I had them just about the same level as the Bears and only slightly higher than the 49ers. I made a more drastic adjustment this week.