BOSTON (CBS) — I’m really not a fan of power rankings. Every week, millions upon millions of football fans flock to websites to see where their teams rank and who’s No. 1, but really, ranking teams numerically from one to 32 is a rather fruitless endeavor.
This year, even more than other years, I find such lists extraordinarily meaningless. There’s a case against every team in the top 10.
The Texans may very well be the best team in the NFL, but Matt Schaub inspires no fear in any opponent on any given week. Ditto for Alex Smith in San Francisco. The Falcons have the best record, but they have exactly one win that would fall in the “impressive” category and they just lost by the New Orleans Saints and their horrific defense.
Then there are the rest. The Broncos? Sure, but their six wins are against teams with a combined 23-31 record, while their three losses came against teams with a combined 22-5 record. That’s one misleading 6-3 record.
Last year’s AFC representative in the Super Bowl looks to be very much the same team, that is one that relies on Tom Brady to be perfect or close to perfect just about every week, which is a scary way to live. Losses to the Cardinals and Seahawks will likely be enough to keep them out of the top of the power rankings for the rest of the season.
The Bears are 7-2, but if the season were to end today, their record against playoff teams would be 1-2.
And on and on and on. There’s really an argument against every team, as there’s no clear-cut favorite to tear through a conference and roll to a Super Bowl title.
Some people call it parity. Others, who struggle to understand homonyms, call it parody. Those people are funny. As someone who tries to forecast the goings-on of every single NFL game every single week, I call it maddening.
Nevertheless, I shall carry on, braving this unpredictable NFL storm so you don’t have to.
(Thursday lines; home team in caps.)
Miami (+1.5) over BUFFALO
The NFL is just so hideously magnificent that even though the last thing in the world I’d ever want to watch this Thursday night is a Dolphins-Bills game, I will watch exactly that. And if it’s 38-7 midway through the fourth quarter, I will watch every last second of it.
When it comes to what I’m really watching for in this game: Buffalo women’s response to Reggie Bush’s insults.
Ridiculous Quote From Last Week’s Picks: “The 24th-ranked Tennessee offense is in for another tough week.”
Note: You know, the Titans did beat the Dolphins by 34 points, but they did only gain 293 total yards, so it’s not as if this quote is completely ridiculous. OK, fine, it is.
DALLAS (-8) over Cleveland
Is there anything more “Tony Romo” than Tony Romo being 20-3 as a starter in November? Nobody is better than Tony Romo in November. Nobody!
Jacksonville (+15.5) over HOUSTON
I’m not opposed to taking 15.5-point favorites when that team may be the best in the NFL and it’s playing maybe the worst team in the NFL. But generally, that 16-point favorite has to have a quarterback who didn’t throw zero touchdowns in his previous meeting with that maybe-worst team in the NFL, you know?
This is a brilliant spread, though. The Texans did manage to win that last Jaguars meeting by 20 points, and the Jaguars have lost by 17 or more points five times, while they’ve somehow won one game, lost two games by a field goal and lost another by nine.
There’s a case both ways, so when in doubt, take the 16 points … even if they’re being given to the Jaguars.
ST. LOUIS (-3.5) over New York Jets
I’ve foolishly stuck with the Jets far too long this season, refusing to believe they could be that bad. I was wrong. They are that bad. They are this bad. A week spent anonymously bashing the backup quarterback/starting personal protector on punts won’t fix it.
Tampa Bay (-1) over CAROLINA
The Bucs are far from a lock, but this is sort of disrespectful here. Tampa’s on a three-game winning streak with an average margin of victory of 13. They’re 4-1 since their bye, and the Panthers are … the Panthers. Definitely a mind-boggling line, but I’ll take Tampa and sneak away quietly before anyone notices something’s not quite right.
Arizona (+9.5) over ATLANTA
Statistics can make these mid-to-late season picks more difficult, particularly with teams like the Cardinals. They’re still technically fifth in the NFL in points allowed per game, but they’re also the team that’s lost five straight games by an average of 12 points. It’s tough. And the offense … it would be impossible to watch that offensive effort against San Francisco and not come away scarred for the rest of the season.
But in this case, Arizona’s biggest strength (pass defense) should help neutralize Atlanta’s biggest strength, Matt Ryan and the passing attack, at least enough to keep this game within 10 points, like six of Atlanta’s nine games this year have been.
Green Bay (-3.5) over DETROIT
I don’t do a “lock of the week,” but this is my lock of the week.
WASHINGTON (-3.5) over Philadelphia
Sorry, but I’m going to have to see more from The Nick Foles Show before I go trusting him on the road.
KANSAS CITY (+3.5) over Cincinnati
The Kansas City Chiefs put on an impressive show on Monday night to prove they could and would do whatever it takes to not win a football game. The apex of this effort was clearly celebrating a touchdown that ended up being taken away by replay, meaning the Chiefs were penalized 15 yards for celebrating nothing.
It made for good jokes and all that, but the Chiefs aren’t the worst team in the world. They may even be the best 1-8 team there is!
RQFLWP: “The Bengals are very bad. They’re going to lose badly. No need to think about this one any further.”
Note: Bengals 31, Defending-Super-Bowl-Champion Giants 13.
New Orleans (-4.5) over OAKLAND
At some point soon, a team is going to slow down the New Orleans Saints. That team is not the Raiders, and that time is not now.
NEW ENGLAND (-9.5) over Indianapolis
Even after the Patriots pull off less-than-impressive victories against teams like the Bills, I’ll feel stupid for selling them short the next week, when they’ll invariably win by 25 points.
In fact, it happened just a few short weeks ago, when the Patriots needed overtime to beat the Jets in a game they really should have lost, only to fly to London and beat the Rams by 38 the next week. It’s not a team that lets one bad performance leak into the next. Couple that with the Colts’ four-game winning streak coming against the Jaguars, Dolphins, Titans and Browns, and the spread doesn’t scare me.
Also, Darius Butler will start at cornerback. Watching him go up against a quarterback not named Blaine should be interesting.
RQFLWP: “Add in the fact that Bill Belichick’s teams are historically tremendous (9-3) coming out of a bye week, and you just know this one’s going to be a romp. I might have been willing to take the Patriots by 20.”
Note: This is normally where I express my regret or crack wise at myself, but really, I’d take the Patriots by 20 over the Bills every week, and I’d win more than I lose.
DENVER (-7.5) over San Diego
Bet against Norv and move on.
(Fine, if you want more, know that the Chargers are 2-3 on the road this season, including a loss in Cleveland, which should count as five losses. So the chargers are 2-7 on the road this season.)
Baltimore (-3.5) over PITTSBURGH
Byron Leftwich on national TV for the second straight week?! Sign me up!
SAN FRANCISCO (-5) over Chicago
Does the NFL have a concussion problem? Pffffft. What concussion problem? Nothing to see here, folks, just move along. Sure, Tim Dobbins may have launched the cheap shot to end all cheap shots to knock out Jay Cutler last week, but hey, he was fined $30,000 for it! See? There’s no concussion problem here. Just sit back and enjoy the game, folks. Yes, enjoy the game that may feature backup quarterbacks on both sides thanks to concussions last week.
Last week: 6-8