One of the reasons being cited for the decline in football viewership this year is fans’ exasperation over how convoluted the NFL’s games have become. No one seems to know what a catch is, no one seems to understand how the games are officiated (or why officiating is so inconsistent), and on the whole there are a lot of average fans out there that just don’t seem to be able to follow what is going on in the game.
That is understandable on some level. But what isn’t understandable on any level is the incompetence and lack of understanding that is coming from guys who absolutely should know what is going on: NFL coaches.
Last weekend we saw a shocking level of ineptitude and questionable game management across a large swatch of the NFL coaching fraternity. Here are some of the lowlights:
– For the second straight week Bob McAdoo mismanaged his timeouts at the end of a half. Last week it cost him points. This recent week it might have cost him the game when he didn’t challenge what was a clear incomplete pass with less than two minutes left.
– Ron Rivera actually calling a timeout to aid Tampa Bay on its eventual game-winning drive. I can understand when coaches call timeouts to ensure that their teams get the ball back. But you don’t do that before a 3rd-and-4!
– Todd Bowles actually decided to punt on 4th-and-2 from near midfield with his team down 11 points and under eight minutes left in the game.
– John Harbaugh had a number of baffling decisions, including his bizarre fake field goal (yes, I understand how windy it was but it was a 35-yarder).
Then there was the coup de grace: Jeff Fisher. Fisher’s game management at the end of the Rams-Bills game was mind-blowing. First was his decision, down seven points, to kick a field goal instead of going for it on 4th-and-goal from the four yard line. As if that wasn’t bad enough, his decision to go for a fake punt (if he wanted to go for it, fine, but leave your offense on the field) inside his own 25-yard-line after his next possession was flat-out comical.
Fisher, Harbaugh and Rivera have coached in Super Bowls! If these guys don’t know what the hell they are doing then who does?
Here is Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings for Week 6:
1. New England Patriots (4-1) – Well, no rust. Tom Brady basically got a scrimmage for his first game back, facing a hapless Cleveland team in a game that was never in doubt. ( And was also my 7-Unit top game winner Sunday.) Brady and the Patriots will be facing a much stiffer test this week against the Bengals. New England has dominated this series, winning five of the last six meetings over the last 12 years and eight of the last 10 over the last 23 seasons. The Patriots lit the Bengals up 43-17 in the last meeting back in October 2014.
2. Denver Broncos (4-1) – I didn’t see it coming with Denver naming Joe DeCamillis as the interim coach with Gary Kubiak out this week. But it really is a stroke of genius by John Elway. Rather than inundate the two coordinators, he’s keeping things simple and not rocking the boat. Denver has rocked San Diego, though, winning nine of the last 10 meetings against Phil Rivers. They really haven’t been all that close, either, with just one of those wins – back in 2011 – decided by less than a touchdown. The Broncos are 12-4 ATS after a loss and 8-1 ATS in their last nine Thursday games.
3. Green Bay Packers (3-1) – I’ve heard a lot of discussions about what is wrong with this Packers team this year. Are people serious? Yes, the Packers offense has not performed up to its expectations yet this season. Yet. But if you kick out the Vikings game they are averaging 28 points per game in their other three contests. The offensive struggles have also overshadowed an excellent defensive effort to this point. Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez haven’t been great at inside linebacker. But they have been good enough so the Pack can keep Clay Matthews on the outside.
4. Minnesota Vikings (5-0) – Adam Thielen is like two more big games from reaching total cult status. The local boy made good (he graduated from Minnesota State) has been supremely reliable so far this season, catching 20 of his 25 targets this season and giving Sam Bradford a solid underneath option while the Vikings wait for Stafon Diggs’ groin to heal. The Vikings have a bye week and extra time to prepare for Bradford’s return to Philadelphia next week.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) – It is important for the Steelers that they don’t get caught looking ahead to their big game with the Patriots next week. Pittsburgh is on the road off a blowout win and they could be a letdown/look ahead situation. Regardless, the Steelers’ average margin of victory is around 20 points per game this year, including a 38-16 road blowout of the Redskins. All four of the teams that they have beaten are better than the Miami team that they will take on this week. The Steelers are just 6-22 ATS on the road against a team with a losing home record, which shows me a tendency to play down to the level of their competition.
6. Seattle Seahawks (3-1) – Pete Carroll is just 2-2 ATS his last four games coming out of a bye week. And the public doesn’t have a ton of faith in the Seahawks this week, with three-quarters of the action in their game against the Falcons coming in on the road underdogs from Atlanta. Seattle’s offense will be as healthy as it has been all season with Rusty Wilson and Tyler Lockett both taking advantage of the extra week of rest. Seattle is just 3-8 ATS in its last 11 games against a team with a winning record and they are just 1-5 ATS in their last six games after a win. But with all the hype surrounding Atlanta and the Falcons No. 1 offense, I feel like the Seahawks get to embrace the mental role of underdog this week, even if they are laying points at the book.
7. Dallas Cowboys (4-1) – I don’t think there is any doubt that the correct decision is to bench Tony Romo and ride Dak Prescott as long and as far as you can. The Cowboys are winning. Period. It doesn’t matter if they have simplified their playbook to accommodate Prescott; it is working and they are winning. That is the end of the discussion. Romo is a good player. But he has always made a lot of crippling mistakes and turnovers. Prescott is not doing that. So ride the hot hand, and if Prescott falters you have a Plan B. But if the Cowboys pull Prescott, then something happens with Romo, I think Prescott’s confidence will be shaken and he will be out of his rhythm if they are forced to go back to hm.
8. Atlanta Falcons (4-1) – How about Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman? They were unstoppable on Sunday, accounting for nearly 300 total yards between them. Coleman wasn’t even going to play because of a sickle cell trait that could have severely impacted his health in Denver’s high altitude. He did play and busted out for 132 receiving yards on four catches. Atlanta targeted their running backs in the passing game 11 times against Denver. But one of the most effective weapons in Atlanta’s ample arsenal this year has been their deep passing game. Matt Ryan is No. 2 in the NFL in passing yardage on throws that travel over 20 yards, and he is No. 3 in accuracy on those deep passes.
9. Arizona Cardinals (2-3) – Carson Palmer will be playing on Monday night against the Jets. He is clearly an upgrade over pathetic Drew Stanton, and it was just painful to watch Arizona’s offense last week in San Francisco. But just because Palmer is the better option doesn’t mean that I expect him to revert back to last year’s Pro Bowl player. Palmer has happy feet. He always has. And throughout his career that has been exacerbated by injuries. I think he will be tentative, and that could lead to even more turnovers from a guy that already has five interceptions. Arizona is 2-8 ATS at home and they are 0-6 ATS in their last six Monday Night Football games.
10. Carolina Panthers (1-4) – The public can’t jump off the Carolina bandwagon fast enough. A stunning 81 percent of the bets in this week’s Panthers-Saints game are going against the defending NFC Champions. I have no idea how this team plans to slow down or stop Drew Brees and Co. But at least Carolina will have the benefit of Cam Newton back under center. According to Darin Gantt over at PFT, Ron Rivera is now 18-19 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Carolina’s defensive yards per point differential from last season (16.3) to this season (12.6) has been dramatic.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) – I honestly think I am still overvaluing this team. I just have a hard time justifying moving anyone else up. Cincinnati’s defense is starting to look its age, and guys like Michael Johnson and Rey Maualuga have been almost nonexistent. Offensively they just have a lack of options outside of A.J. Green. That said, the Bengals are still a healthy 9-2 ATS in their last 11 road games and 14-6 ATS in their last 20 games overall. Cincinnati is 14-5 ATS in its last 19 games after a loss. But I think their confidence is a bit rattled after getting wrecked in Dallas last week.
12. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) – Andy Reid has been an absolute hero out of a bye week. Reid’s teams are 18-3 straight up and 15-6 against the spread playing with a week of rest. That includes an excellent 9-1 SU and ATS mark when his team has a losing record and is coming out of a bye. The Chiefs have won five of six against the Raiders, and the road team is 20-6 ATS in the last 26 meetings. That includes Kansas City’s fantastic 10-3 ATS mark in their last 13 trips to the Black Hole.
13. Washington Redskins (3-2) – I was surprised to see the Redskins installed as a home underdog this week against the Eagles. Especially after Washington won its third straight game. The Redskins swept the Eagles last year and have actually beaten them three straight times. Washington is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings and the home team has won four of five. Like most division rivalry games, these two teams have been playing close games, with three of the last four decided by a field goal or less.
14. Oakland Raiders (4-1) – Look, you gotta love what the Raiders have been able to accomplish in their first five games of the season. You can’t knock a 4-1 record. But having the worst defense in football, in terms of total yards, is absolutely going to catch up with this team. They are being overrated by the public and overvalued by the books. The Raiders opened as a short two-point favorite this week. And the number has moved to a ‘pick’ despite getting the majority of the action at most books. Oakland is 0-6 ATS in its last six home games, 7-17 ATS after a win, and 3-11 ATS at home in divisional games.
15. Baltimore Ravens (3-2) – If it could go wrong for the Ravens it did go wrong. Their botched field goal, the bizarre C.J. Mosley interception-touchback, and several more injuries to a team that has been the most banged up in football the last two seasons. The Ravens cut ties with Marc Trestman this week, and that is definitely for the best. They were tired of his pass-wacky ways. Baltimore is a team that has always made its money on defense and running the ball, and I expect them to try to force it down New York’s throat this week. The total has only adjusted by one point (down to 43.5 from 44.5) and the Ravens have actually gone just 2-5 against the total in their last seven games overall.
16. New York Jets (1-4) – Head coach Todd Bowles was the defensive coordinator in Arizona for two seasons and has firsthand knowledge of what the Cardinals like to do on both sides of the ball. However, the loss of Eric Decker for the season (he is having season-ending shoulder surgery) is an absolute crippler for this team. The strength of the offense was having two Pro Bowl-caliber receivers. Brandon Marshall is simply not good enough to carry the passing game by himself. The Jets are on a 1-5 ATS slide and a 1-4 ATS stumble in their last five road games. I see things getting worse before they get better.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) – All we’ve heard is the hype about the greatness of Carson Wentz. Well here is how much the Eagles trust him: on their biggest down of the game – 3 rd-and-2, near midfield, when a first down would ice the game – Philadelphia pitched the ball to Ryan Matthews (who did what Ryan Matthews does and fumbled) instead of putting the game in Wentz’s hands. Also, if anything happens to Darren Sproles, this offense will be in trouble. Doug Pederson is using him judiciously, though, which is a good sign. Outside of the Steelers game – which I still regard as a bizarre fluke – the Eagles have not played, nor beaten, anyone noteworthy.
18. Houston Texans (3-2) – The Texans split with Indianapolis last year with the road team (and underdog) winning both meetings. However, Houston outgained the Colts 749-513 in those games. Houston’s win in Indy last December snapped a six-game losing streak to the Colts, and Houston is just 1-6 ATS in the last seven meetings.
19. Buffalo Bills (3-2) – This week is exactly the type of game that has vexed Rex Ryan-led teams in the past. They have won three straight, all by double-digits, and this team has had a pair of emotional games the last two weeks. Now they have to be careful about not taking the 1-4 49ers too lightly. Buffalo has been outgained in four of its five games this year, including wins over the Rams and Cardinals. Things like that have a way of catching up to teams in the NFL. The Bills do have a situational advantage over San Francisco, which has to deal with the 10 a.m. PST kickoff, and Buffalo is 5-1 ATS in its last six home games.
20. New York Giants (2-3) – There is absolutely no creativity with the Giants offense. There’s minimal play-action, minimal misdirection, minimal roll outs and minimal quick hitters. Everything in the passing game is vertical, and what you see is what you get. The Giants are No. 30 in pass plays of 20 or more yards and 25th in third down conversions. So they are neither explosive nor efficient.
21. San Diego Chargers (1-4) – Phil Rivers is a backdoor magician. He has covered the spread in two outright losses already this year and has covered the spread in seven losses over the last two seasons, by far the No. 1 mark in the league. At this point the Chargers’ late-game fiascos have definitely infected the locker room, and you can see the sense of impending doom that this team has in the fourth quarter. The Chargers might want to leave San Diego, actually. They are just 3-12 ATS in their last 15 home games. However, San Diego is 5-2 ATS on Thursday night games, 7-1 ATS after a loss, and 5-0 ATS in divisional games.
22. Los Angeles Rams (3-2) – Look for a heavy dose of Todd Gurley this week against the Lions. The Rams beat Detroit 21-14 last season thanks to 140 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries from Gurley last December. Ironically, the Rams finally outgained an opponent in their game with the Bills last week but actually lost. They had been outgained by 442 total yards in their previous four games. Fisher’s teams have been solid bounce back options. They are 8-0 ATS in their last eight games after a double-digit home loss.
23. New Orleans Saints (1-3) – The Saints have lost three straight and four of five meetings with the Panthers. However, they have gone 3-1 ATS in the last four meetings, they are 4-2 ATS in the last six, and the underdog has covered six of the last 10 matchups between these two division rivals. New Orleans blew second-half leads in both of their games against Carolina last year, so they will certainly be looking to avenge those losses this week.
24. Detroit Lions (2-3) – It was surprising to see the box score after last week’s win over the Eagles and see the Lions with just 244 yards of total offense. They looked sensational on their opening drive and ran the ball better than their numbers suggested. But they really didn’t do much of anything in the second half. Detroit’s defense has been much maligned, but credit needs to be given where credit is due. Detroit held the Eagles to two field goals late, including bowing their backs and getting a stop after Matt Stafford’s ridiculous fumble.
25. Indianapolis Colts (2-3) – What did I tell you about the Colts? It’s all about T.Y. Hilton, and he torched the confused and overmatched Bears secondary all day. But the Colts defense is a train wreck. They allowed 8.4 yards per snap to a below average Bears offense and on the season are allowing 6.5. The Colts’ saving grace has been their third down defense, which is only allowing 37 percent conversions (No. 12). The bugaboo, however, is that they have committed a league-high 47 defensive penalties. The Colts are 17-6 ATS in their last 23 divisional games, and the road team has covered four straight in this series.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) – Jacksonville’s defensive yards per point is worst in the league (11.0) and a full yard-and-a-half worse than the No. 31 defense. For all the talk about the young talent they have on this side of the ball – and considering that Gus Bradley is supposed to be a defensive guy – those numbers are atrocious. Teams are on an 8-6 straight-up run after playing in London. The Jaguars, however, are just 6-15 ATS in their last 21 games after a win.
27. Tennessee Titans (2-3) – This week is actually another revenge game for the Titans. They were able to avenge last year’s embarrassing blowout loss to the Dolphins by going down to Miami and getting the ‘W’. Now they will try to revenge a 28-14 loss in Cleveland last year in a game that may have been Johnny Manziel’s only positive moment as a Brown. The Titans actually outgained Cleveland by over 100 yards in that game but they lost three fumbles. Tennessee lost 29-28 to Cleveland in 2014, blowing a 28-3 lead at home and losing when they gave up two touchdowns in the last seven minutes of that game.
28. San Francisco (1-4) – It’s about time. Chip Kelly is finally going to Colin Kaepernick, and it is the right move. Kaepernick is never going to be a reliable NFL starting quarterback. But he is obviously better than Blaine Gabbert, who is now 9-31 straight-up as a starter. The 49ers have gone 0-4 ATS in their last four road games and have failed to cover the spread in their last four games overall. Call me crazy, though, but I think that this team is due.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) – No, Roberto Aguayo is not a hero. And no, he does not deserve praise for hitting the game-winning field goal. This guy is a loser and the Bucs absolutely blew it trading up to get him in the second round. Tampa Bay’s effort near the goal line after Ted Ginn’s muff – they turned a 3rd-and-1 into a 3rd-and-11 thanks to two penalties and a wasted timeout – is kind of the epitome of Bucs football these days.
30. Miami Dolphins (1-4) – I have long felt, and I have written many times, that I think that Matt Moore could be an effective starter. The guy is a player. He has moxie and an infectious likeability. The fact that Adam Gase wouldn’t even consider turning to him instead of proven loser Ryan Tannehill makes me seriously question Gase’s long-term viability as a head coach. The Tannehill Era is dead, dude. And your season is just about over. Why not throw Moore in there and see if he can give the team a spark? Regardless, the real problems on this team are on defense. They are old and slow and look completely disorganized. If Pittsburgh comes to play and is focused they could easily hang 50 on this group. Miami is 4-17 ATS against AFC opponents and 6-20 ATS in its last 26 games overall.
31. Chicago Bears (1-4) – Brian Hoyer has thrown for at least 300 yards in three straight games, something that Jay Cutler has never done. I think anyone suggesting that the Bears go back to Cutler when he is healthy is an idiot. The Bears should attempt to trade him, and if that doesn’t work he should be deactivated for the rest of the season and then dumped next January. The guy is a loser, always has been a loser, and not to keep beating a dead horse here but I predicted all of this as soon as the Bears traded for Cutler back in 2009, despite overwhelming public praise and support that suggested Cutler was just what the Bears needed.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-5) – If the Browns don’t win this week they are going to start the season 0-13, and their next winnable game – barring some bizarre division rivalry upset – isn’t until mid-December. Rumors about trading Joe Haden, by far the best player on that feeble defense, can’t be good for morale. But a trade would be in keeping in Cleveland’s obvious goals of tanking and clearing the decks this season. I expect to see Josh McCown this week. But that’s not really that encouraging considering he is not fully recovered from his collarbone injury. The Browns are 5-11 ATS after a double-digit home loss and 2-6 ATS in their last eight road games.
Throughout the season I will have my NFL Power Rankings every Wednesday. My next ones will be released on Wednesday, Oct. 19.
Written by Doc for 10StarPicks.com