Week 11: Top 5 NFC and AFC Teams

We are well over the halfway point of the NFL season, and what a crazy ride it has been. With the lockout factor shaking up everything and making pretenders look like contenders and mediocre offenses look like elite offenses, the past few weeks has been a lot closer to the NFL like season we all love. With 3 very successful weeks of betting and currently on a 7-1 (damn Jets) run, I am loving it more than anyone, especially after a very mediocre start I was on. We’ll get to a new section where I tell you the bettors who to take. Why I am doing this is well because picking every game just seems pointless when there’s no good play there. But first and foremost, let’s count down the top NFC and AFC teams, starting with the weaker one, and that is the AFC.

AFC Top 5: 

1.Pittsburgh Steelers –

Coming off a well needed bye week that should heal up some key injuries on their team, the Steelers look hungrier than ever right now. Big Ben’s broken finger will in all likelihood had no impact on this team since the guy has been known to play better hurt. The lack of turnovers the defense has caused really waters down this defense, but trust me, they will slowly start getting turnovers, as seen against the Bengals. Baltimore has had their number this year, but that just makes them more due for a win when it comes playoff teams if these two see each other again. They’re an experienced team with little flaws, so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be number one.

2. New England Patriots –

Is it bad offenses or are the Patriots’ defense coming along? I think it’s a little bit of both. Sure they’re playing bad offenses, but they only have given up 17 points in the last two games. Not to mention that they held the Giants to 24, which is a reasonable number, although they gave up a winning drive in closing minutes to lose the game. You can throw out the yardage statistic when ranking a defense, because if the team isn’t scoring, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is making stops when needed and taking the ball away. They’ve been inconsistent in making the stops when needed, hence the Bills, Giants and Steelers game (especially the Steelers one). They have taken the ball away when needed in key situations and one of their biggest problems – getting pressure of the QB – has improved dramatically over the last couple weeks. It’s not this in-your-face type of pressure, but they’re at least getting to the QB and that at least tells a QB in his mind he doesn’t have all day to throw. But enough with the defense, because we all know what makes this team great: their offense. Led by Tom Brady and now all of a sudden a very solid run game, this offense is almost as flawless as it gets. They do need to, however, improve getting Brady enough time to throw the ball and they do need that deep threat down field to open up the intermediate passes the Patriots can just murder a defense on. Clearly Ocho Cinco isn’t that guy and neither is Price, but even if they have to go down in the gutter to search, it would make their already explosive offense even more dynamic.

3.Baltimore Ravens –

They’re very inconsistent, but hey, unless you want to for whatever reason consider the Titans a good team, they haven’t lost to a good team yet. They just have instead laid eggs to poor-to-mediocre teams. Is that just a fluke? Maybe. Does that mean they won’t lay an egg against a good team? Most likely not. But it’s something to consider in the playoffs. And when this team is on, they are hard to stop. The point being is they have to be on. And I still question Joe Flacco’s skills. He has too many weapons on offense to play as bad as he does at times. There is just no excuse. I also question this defense. At times they look like a brick-wall, but other times they look beatable, especially when they face a team who is good at mixing up pass and run. That said, they’re a good football team that has a lot of skilled veterans who ‘been there, done that’.

4. Houston Texans –

They would be a lot higher if Matt Schaub didn’t get hurt. But he did, and now they have to depend on Matt Leinhart, a first round draft pick out of USC who was a major bust. Lucky for them is that they don’t have to depend too much. I mean they have a great running game and their defense has really played lights-out (kudos to Wade Phillips). But yeah, their fate still is in the hands of Leinhart. Maybe he will wake up and smell the coffee. Who knows, but we’ll see.

5. Oakland Raiders –

I could’ve put a lot of teams in the 5 spot, but the Raiders just a tiny bit earned it more than them. With Palmer coming along, the Raiders really look better, may I dare say better than they did with Palmer. Not to mention that their biggest threat on offense, Darren McFadden, has been sidelined due to injury. Once he’s back, watch out for this unsung, sleeper team.

In the hunt for a top 5 spot:

Cincinnati Bengals –

Sure they lost to the Ravens and Steelers, but if they made a few more plays here and there and not shot themselves in the foot a couple times, they could’ve easily won both games. All and all, they’re a good young football team. A team that is most likely going to be better in a few years than now, but still a contender this year nonetheless. Led by Andy Dalton, easily the best rookie this year and also possibly runner up, AJ Green, and not to mention their strong defense, this team is a well-balanced team and a very good possible wildcard team.

Denver Broncos –

Never thought I say this, but hey if they continue to play lights-out defense and Tebow has his magic, this team might be a playoff and dangerous team. It’s a tough call to project where this team is at and whether their magic will eventually run out, but almost by default I think you have to mention them here.

San Diego Chargers –

They have the talent, but the execution has been way off. Rivers must play better, but they still are in playoff contention. When the Chargers get hot, we all know they can beat anyone. But sadly for them, they’ve been very cold and that’s when they’re vulnerable.

What Happened?:

Buffalo Bills –

They looked like they finally had something going, then they just fell apart. The Bills have the talent to be a good team, but they’re lacking in the most important department – good coaching. Their gameplans recently have been terrible, and there are no signs of adjustments. They’re obviously exposed and the NFL, a copy and paste league, is a terrible place to get exposed. This team has promise for the future and let’s not get too down on Ryan Fitzpatrick, but they need a better coaching staff; that’s for sure.

New York Jets –

Only about a week and a half ago, the Jets were projected to take control of their division. After all they were facing a Patriots team who lost their previous two games and were facing the Jets on the road, a place where they’ve struggled against Rex Ryan. The Patriots, with their backs against the wall, did what they do best – make the proper adjustments and win. But no need to get discourage, right? The Jets are still clear favorites to make the playoffs, right? Wrong. After dropping a win they should’ve had against the Broncos, it’s tough to see where the Jets fit into the playoffs right now. The Bengals have just a one game lead over them, but then you have to fit a lot of other teams into the equation with the same record. The Titans have shown promise time to time, the Broncos are 4-1 with Tebow, playing good defense and beat the Jets, Buffalo is still in the race even though they’re playing bad football, and then you have Chargers sitting at 4-6 who always could get hot. This team has battled with their backs against the wall, so I’m not counting them out yet. But they have a long road ahead of them, sitting at a very underachieving 5-5. Like I said before, this team is one good QB away from being a Superbowl contender; until they realize that Mark Sanchez is not the guy, they are going to be in these situations for a long time. I mean, we’ve gave him 3 years, he has all the talent that you need on offense, and for heaven’s sake, rookies like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton are playing way better with much less. Time to make the change.

Kansas City Chiefs –

Your starter got hurt. I know. But what happened prior to that… you go 0-3 and then do more than a 180 but then you lose the next 2, one by a team that’s coming to your place, which is a very hard place to play, and makes you look foolish? C’MON MAN!

Top 5 NFC Teams:

1. Greenbay Packers

They’re elite, mostly because their excellent QB, Aaron Rodgers. I mean I’m not a big stat guy, but their record speaks volumes. If it couldn’t get any more unfair that they have Rodgers, they also have one, if not the best WR/TE core in the game today. Sure their defense isn’t playing up to speed, but guess what? They have the best defensive coach in the league as well. Including their defense, they have another flaw right now and that’s their offensive line. But oh yeah, they have a mobile QB who throws just as good on the run. This team is beatable, and I think they will lose at least one game this season, but in all honesty, every team in the NFL is beatable….a team just has to execute, something they haven’t done against the Packers.

2. San Francisco 49ers –

They’re playing good on both sides of the ball, they’re good all around on special teams, and they’re beating good teams…yet they’re not getting the love they deserve. Let’s face it, they have a great coach that put the pieces together of a team that was already talented to begin with.

3. New Orleans Saints –

They’ve laid some eggs, but they’re a very well balanced team led by a great QB. When on, they’re almost unstoppable. And what an addition Darren Sproles has been to this team.

4. Chicago Bears –

They were two, but Cutler is out until at least the playoffs. The good news: they’re not facing hard to beat teams. It’s hard to rank this team, especially since Cutler was the bread and butter of this team this year, but we’ll see what they have up their sleeve. I must say, aside from the fake punt call that I’ll never understand, after that terribly coached first Lions game, this coaching staff has really come along.

5. New York Giants –

Good thing I remembered something about this Giants team that I didn’t mention in my last power ranking – they choke. Yep, that’s right, I took the Eagles last week. Granted it was with the 6.5 points, but I really truly thought the Eagles would pull that game out. After all their season depended on it. But all and all, this Giants team is very talent. They need more production from the running game and their coaching staff needs to improve, but for right now, they’re good enough to get on the top 5 list.

In the hunt for a top 5 spot:

Atlanta Falcons –

They went toe-to-toe with the Saints, they’re tough to play at home, and they have a talented football team. Despite a bad start, they are still well in the hunt for a top 5 spot.

Detriot Lions –

Sitting at 7-3, one might say that they should be in it already. But I really believe this team is a pretender rather than a contender, although I expect them to play Packers tough at home because its one of those rivalry games where you throw the records out of the window. But hey, I’ve been wrong before, and I’m willing to admit I’m wrong again if the Lions start playing as good as their record says.

Dallas Cowboys –

I really thought this team was talented. It just needed to stop doing stupid things. They are now doing just that. The Eagles game was a huge set-back, one that I was very shocked of, but they’ve done a good job in rebounding after that loss.

What Happened?:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers –

Sure, you played the Packers close, but that doesn’t mean anything after you’ve laid an egg this entire season. You looked like a team that was young and needed a few years to blossom, but this year you’ve took 2 steps backwards. Something’s wrong in Tampa. Is it Freeman not playing up to par? The defense not playing as good? The coaching not being versatile? Or maybe all 3?

Washington Redskins –

For 3 weeks, if not a little longer, you had a lot going in your direction – a good defense, a good running game, and a QB who looked like he was finally coming along. Then after starting 3-0, somehow, someway, you managed to lose 7 straight. It basically all started because after one poor game you lost faith in Rex Grossman and thought no-named John Beck was better. Injuries have hurt your team a lot. I get that, but so has a one time legendary coach whose name begins with a M and last name ends with a S.

Carolina Panthers –

Sure everyone knew you had no chance of making the playoffs, but you became something even better for gamblers – a covering machine! Now you are getting blown out, Cam Newton is looking more rookieish every day, and your defense is possibly the worst defense ever. C’mon Man!

 

Finally, I’ve finished that piece. It took much longer than expected. Hopefully this goes by much faster.

Alright, the first play you should make this week starts on Thursday. Packers-6.5 on the road doesn’t sound good, Dolphins+7 sounds eh but you wish for more points and San Fran+3 seems solid but more would be nice. So my suggestion  is a 6 point teaser. That makes the Packers-.5 in a game they should win – even if its close. The Dolphins+13 in what should be a close game. And the Niners+9 with a great defense against a shaky offense.

Once you win that teaser *crosses fingers*, take Falcons-9.5 at home over the Vikings. With virtually no running threat, Christian Ponder will have to carry to many weights for a rookie QB in a dome that’s always rocking, and the Vikings terrible secondary will have to face Falcons offense that has speedy WRS, a match up problem tight end, and a poised at home QB. Falcons-9.5 is a gift, should be higher. In another 4:00 game, take the Patriots-2.5 over Eagles. Betting against a team whose backs are up against the wall and betting on a team with a shaky defense isn’t something I love to do, but this game is the exception. I recently talked about how Vince Young is like the black Tim Tebow – puts up bad numbers but knows how to win games, but in this game he has to put up good numbers in order to compete with New England’s high power offense. And although the Eagles run stopping abilities have improved, its merely because of the teams they’ve been facing. New England can easily exposed and take advantage of the Eagles’ weakness on defense, with them being the lack of run stoppage and their linebackers matching up with Rob Gronkowski. At the end of the day, if it comes to it, I’ll take Tom Brady over Vince Young in a shoot out. The last game I like is Giants+7.5 over Saints. Giants have had their woes because they haven’t overcome their tough traveling. But this spread is too high as both teams are pretty evenly matched up every aspect of the game. Overall, it’s not a great week to make money. A lot of bad games and spreads you don’t want to touch. A wise man once said the best bet sometimes is the bet you don’t make at all, so I’ll list a few games you shouldn’t bet. 1. Steelers-10.5 at KC. It looks good on paper, but Steelers have been known this year of playing down to their opponent at home. KC are in a must win situation, and their welcomed by one of the loudest placed to play. Plus, Big Ben is hurt. Usually he plays better when hurt, but he’s still hurt. Don’t touch it. 2 and 3. Bears+4.5 at Raiders and Texans-3.5 at Jacksonville. The most important position is the QB position. The Bears and Texans lost their QB this week, and their backups are shaky to say in the least. Don’t touch it, too risky. Browns+7.5 at Bengals. Bengals are legit, no doubt; but this Browns team loves to fight tooth and nail with teams, even if they lose the game. The match up isn’t in the Bengals favor and it’s a divisional game. It’s not the worst trap looking game, but I still believe its a trap. Lastly, the most trappy looking game is the Packers-6.5 at Lions. I’ve been a gambler for a long time, and these +6.5 usually end up in a cover for the home team. Packers ought to win the game, but the Lions play them close almost always. Plus, from a situational perspective, the Packers aren’t favored in that department either. This ought to be the closest Packers game of the season; in my opinion, ending with a game winning FG, even if its cliche. Like I said, though, it’s not the best looking week, but you cannot lose chips if you don’t push them into the pile.

Finally, I am out. This took long enough. But I enjoyed doing it, and I hope you did too and I hope you take my advice and I hope it pays off and I also hope I never have to use the word ‘and’ again.

 

 

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