Here are this week updated NFL Power Rankings with some fresh, Opening Line Week 5 picks and two value-heavy Super Bowl 50 Futures for your consumption.
All hail the NFC South. For now at least. The laughingstock of the league last year now has two teams—the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers—off the perfect 4-0 starts, and in this week’s Top 10 here thanks to easy wins (and Point Spread covers) over the Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, respectively, on Sunday, both at Home. The Buccaneers plummeted quickly to #32 in this week’s Power Rankings, thanks in great part to the extremely poor decision-making of starting QB and top pick in the NFL Draft, Florida State Rookie Jameis Winston (26/43, 243 yards). The former Heisman Trophy winner gifted Panthers DB Josh Norman with one of the worst and softest Pick-6’s in the First Half you will ever see on Sunday when he lazily lofted the ball in the area of his intended receiver, only to have the Carolina DB snag the football and return it for an easy Panthers TD. Winston threw 4 Interceptions, leading to 27 points for Carolina as he took a huge step backward and probably made the Tennessee Titans glad Tampa Bay chose Winston ahead of them and let them draft talented Oregon QB and also Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota in the #2 spot. Simply throwing the football up in desperation; throwing to spots where there are two Defenders and just one Receiver; and, throwing when you should tuck and run, throw the ball away or even just take the sack are all things this 21-year-old Rookie still needs to learn. Right now, Winston has 4 total TD passes and 7 Interceptions, and it looks like the (Interception) numbers he put up last year for the Seminoles on NCAAF may have been a red flag. Poor decision-making on the road, in the grocery store, at home, with friends and on the gridiron all usually catch up with you in the end.
And maybe a surprising jump, but justified to me was the Baltimore Ravens, who virtually saved their season, with an 0-3 record and losing 20-14 late in the 4th Quarter to the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Thursday night with less than 3 minutes to go at Heinz Field. Somehow, Baltimore forced OT, and ended up beating inept Pittsburgh—who had Michael Vick starting his first game at QB in his stead of the injured Ben Roethlisberger—23-20 as Steelers K Josh Scobee had nightmare scenarios both in the Steel City and on Twitter. Twitter fires many Kickers quickly, and this was no fluke as Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Tomlin—who along with Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley was a big part of the Steelers problem late—played not to lose and ended up doing just that, sending its feared divisional rival to 0-4. The Steelers ended up cutting Scobee and signed Josh Boswell to try to do the job while Pittsburgh’s other K’s—Shaun Suisham (Knee) and Garrett Hartley (Hamstring)—both marinate on the Injured-Reserve List. So, Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be Kickers. Or maybe do. Your call. For me, there’ a huge upside with Baltimore and those 3 minutes will change much in the AFC—especially with the Cincinnati bengals off to a red-hot 4-0 start in the Steelers and Ravens AFC North division. Competition makes teams better, especially when three are seemingly fighting for two (but may still get three, like last season) Playoff spots in the conference. The Ravens lost much via Free Agency, but are as tough as they come and have got 3 of their first 4 Road games out of the way. So Baltimore has 7 Home games, an Open Date (Week 10) and two games with the lowly Cleveland Browns on the schedule, including this Sunday’s meeting at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore (Ravens -6½, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook). Note: The New York Giants, who defeated the Bills, 24-10 on Sunday in Buffalo—went from a high of 66/1 on Oddschecker down to 40/1 (Coral)—during the writing of this story. And the aforementioned Cincinnati Bengals also moved, down from 25/1 to 14/1 (Coral).
NFL Rankings (October 4, 2015)
1—New England Patriots (3-0 SU, 2-0-1 ATS; +400 win Super Bowl, Paddy Power) Why?
The Patriots had their Open Date this weekend, so while other NFL teams were getting beat on, injured and incurring Losses in the Loss Column, the Patriots, Head Coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were all probably watching it on TV like you and me. And no doubt they will still be Mad about Deflategate, as it seems they are trying to send some kind of message on Offense, like New England did in its last game, beating Jacksonville, 51-17 at Foxboro in Week 3. But then again, when you have TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Danny Amendola, WR Julian Edelman, RB LeGarrette Blount and Brady, Offense is going to come easy. Welcome to the Machine. And again, if you plan on backing the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots to repeat as NFL champions this year in Glendale, Arizona, better do it quick as this will be the last of the 4/1 odds. No doubt. The Colts Narrative has been exposed. Last Week: #1
2—Green Bay Packers (4-0 SU, 4-0 ATS; +400 to win Super Bowl, Paddy Power) Why?
Green Bay handily defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 17-3 on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara as QB Aaron Rodgers (22/32, 224 yards, TD) and the Cheeseheads again stay put in the #2 spot here. WR James Jones (5 receptions, 98 yards) again had a solid performance for Green Bay—and the former Packer-now-Packer continued to fill in very nicely for the injured Jordy Nelson—as did TE Richard Rodgers, (9 receptions, 45 yards, TD), WR Randall Cobb (9 receptions, 45 yards, TD) and RB Eddie Lacy (16 rushes, 90 yards). The Packer Defense was also superb on Sunday, holding San Francisco to 196 Total Yards and just 8 First Downs. Green Bay and Head Coach Mike McCarthy (93-63-4 ATS) are still in the velvety midst of a fairly easy patch of games in its schedule from Week 3-7, and the Packers next face the the St. Louis Rams (Week 5; Odds: Packers -9½, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) and San Diego Chargers (Week 6) the next two weeks followed by an Open Date. With its Home win in Week 2 over the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay has inside track for the Home-field in the NFC although the NFC South’s Atlanta Falcons (4-0) and Carolina Panthers (4-0) are sparkly and perfect still as we voyage on into Week 5. But they have Matt Ryan and Cam Newton at QB respectively. And Green Bay has this cat named Aaron Rodgers. ‘Nuf said. Last Week: #2
3—Seattle Seahawks (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS; +700 to win Super Bowl, Coral) Why?
They still won’t have played by the time this is published, but if there were an NFL Elite Club and a Moat needed to be built around the castle, the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks are in the castle with the #1 Patriots and #2 Packers. Elite QBs matter. As always. SS Kam Chancellor has ended his Holdout and the defending NFC champions have finally returned home to the Pacific Northwest, where they blanked the Chicago Bears, 26-0, in Week 3 as QB Russell Wilson (20/23, 235 yards, TD, 101.4 QBR), RB Thomas Rawls (16 rushes, 104 yards) and new TE Jimmy Graham (7 receptions, 83 yards, TD, 11.9 ypc). Tonight? The Seahawks host the Detroit Lions at CenturyLink Field on Monday Night Football (Seahawks -9½, 43, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook). The Seahawks are an impressive 4-1 ATS the L5 at Home in Seattle against the Lions and after pounding Detroit’s NFC North division rival, the Bears, look for LB Bobby Wagner and the Seattle D to try to register a second straight shutout and move to 2-2. Note: Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch left the game with an a Hamstring injury but after the game, Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll (55-36-2 ATS) didn’t seem to be too worried about it, but heading into this game, Seattle has officially ruled Lynch out (Sunday afternoon), so expect Rawls to continue to get his chance to shine trying to run the football here on Monday. Full Game Preview Link Last Week: #3
4 (Tie)—Cincinnati Bengals (4-0 SU, 4-0 ATS; 14/1 to win Super Bowl, Coral) Why?
The Bengals again crept up another spot, knocking out usual Fab Four entrant Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, even though Denver won at Home over a tough team, the Vikings. Why? It’s all about covering (or not covering) the Point Spread, and the Bengals are 4-0 ATS, while Denver slipped to 3-1 ATS, though just barely. The difference? Ease of scoring. Even with suspect starting QB Andy Dalton (20-13-2), the Bengals are loaded with talented Skill Position players on Offense, including WR AJ Green (7 receptions, 82 yards, 11.7 ypc in win vs. Chiefs on Sunday), WR Mohamed Sanu (4 receptions, 84 yards), RM Giovani Bernard (13 rushes, 62 yards) and TE Tyler Eifert (3 receptions, 69 yards, 23.0 ypc). After last week’s impressive 28-24 victory over their AFC North division rivals, the Baltimore Ravens (0-3 SU)—a very underrated team, as always—and Sunday’s 36-21 win in Cincinnati against the Kansas City Chiefs at Paul Brown Stadium in Week 4, the Bengals and 13-year Head Coach Marvin Lewis (98-95-9 ATS) crack the top 4, even if only tied with the Falcons. But this week will be where the proverbial rubber meets the road, or at least a good proving ground and possibly the most entertaining game of the week when the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks pay a visit to the Queen City in Week 5 (Bengals -1, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook; Advanced Line was Seahawks -2½) to be followed by a trip up to Buffalo in Week 6. Last Week: #5
4 (Tie)—Atlanta Falcons (4-0 SU, 4-0 ATS; 20/1 to win Super Bowl, Coral) Why?
From 17 to 7 to 5, the Atlanta Falcons are climbing Power Rankings faster than Spiderman climbs skyscrapers. On Sunday, the Dirty Birds once again decided it was a pretty good idea to both hand and throw the old pigskin to RB Devonta Freeman. And the 2nd-year man out of Florida State did not disappoint, rushing for 68 yards and 3 TDs and catching 5 passes for 81 yards and a TD as Atlanta defeated the Houston Texans, 48-21 in the Georgia Dome. Falcons Overs anyone? Besides the emerging star Freeman—who actually makes a Super Bowl bet on this team not so crazy—Atlanta had good games from QB Matt Ryan (19/27, 256 yards, TD) and WR Leonard Hankerson, Jr. (6 receptions, 103 yards, TD, 17.2 ypc), although Julio Jones (4 receptions, 38 yards) was somewhat held in check by the Texans fading Defense. Next up for new Head Coach Mike Quinn and the Falcons this week in Week 5 action? A date with the Washington Redskins (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS) at the Georgia Dome on Sunday afternoon (Falcons -9, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook). Atlanta is 3-1 ATS the L4 overall vs. Washington and the Falcons are 4-1 ATS the L5 here at Home in the Peach State against the Redskins (0-1 ATS Road). Last Week: #7
6—Denver Broncos (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS; 11/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #4
7—Arizona Cardinals (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS; 14/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #6
8—Carolina Panthers (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS; 33/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #11
9—Baltimore Ravens (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS; 50/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #17
10—Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2 SU, 2-1-1 ATS; 33/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #8
11—New York Jets (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS; 50/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #15
12—St. Louis Rams (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS; 80/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #19
13—Minnesota Vikings (2-2 SU, 3-1 ATS; 33/1, Coral, Paddy Power) Last Week: #16
14—Buffalo Bills (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS; 28/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #9
15—Kansas City Chiefs (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS; 50/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #12
16—Indianapolis Colts (2-2 SU, 0-4 ATS; 20/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #8
17—Dallas Cowboys (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS; 28/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #9
18—San Diego Chargers (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS; 66/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #20
19—Oakland Raiders (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS; 100/1, Coral, Paddy Power) Last Week: #21
20—New York Giants (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS; 40/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #23
21—Philadelphia Eagles (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS; 33/1 to win SB, Paddy Power) Last Week: #18
22—Houston Texans (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS; 150/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #14
23—Detroit Lions (0-3 SU, 0-3 ATS; 150/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #22
24—San Francisco 49ers (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS; 250/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #25
25—Washington Redskins (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS; 125/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #29
26—Tennessee Titans (1-2 SU, 2-1 ATS; 150/1 to win SB, Paddy Power) Last Week: #26
27—Chicago Bears (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS; 500/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #31
28—Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3 SU, 2-2 ATS; 200/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #28
29—New Orleans Saints (1-3 SU, 2-2 ATS; 200/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #30
30—Cleveland Browns (1-3 SU, 2-2 ATS; 250/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #32
31—Miami Dolphins (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS; 100/1 to win SB, Paddy Power) Last Week: #24
32—Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS; 250/1 to win SB, Coral) Last Week: #26
NFL WEEK 5 POWER RANKINGS PICKS: Ravens (-6½) over Browns; Falcons (-9) over Redskins; Bears (+10) over Chiefs; Packers (-9½) over Rams; Steelers (+3½) over Chargers (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
SUPER BOWL FUTURES CURRENT PERCEIVED VALUE PLAYS: Atlanta Falcons 20/1, Baltimore Ravens 50/1 (Coral)