NFL Week 4 Power Rankings

Entering Week 4 of the NFL season, there are some perennial powers not in their usual place atop the power rankings. The LA Rams and KC Chiefs appear to be the two hottest teams, but what about spots 3-10? Spoiler alert: you won’t find Tom Brady‘s Patriots or Aaron Rodgers‘ Packers. And you still wont see Big Ben’s Steelers, who just got their elusive first win. So who does fill out the best of the NFL after three weeks? You’re going to have to read to find out.

1) The Los Angeles Rams          2018 Record: 3-0          Previous Week: 1 ( – )

The Rams continued their roll in week three, downing the Chargers 35-23. Jared Goff had an impressive showing, tallying over 350 yards in the air, and adding three TDs. He was able to find veteran WR Robert Woods 10 times for 104 yards and a score. Todd Gurley had another 100+ yard game and also added one score. He has been a regular there, as he’s tied for the league lead in rushing TDs with four. The Rams defense added two takeaways vs the cross-city Chargers, bringing their season total to six, which is tied for 6th best in the league. The Rams continue to lead the league in points allowed per game at 12.0. One interesting stat to note, teams aren’t running on the Rams. In three games, teams have rushed 58 times against them (2nd fewest). However, in those 58 rushes, albeit a small sample, the Rams are giving up 5.0 yards per carry (6th worst).

2) The Kansas City Chiefs          2018 Record: 3-0          Previous Week: 5 ( +3 )

What a start to the season for 2nd year QB Patrick Mahomes. Through three games, he has thrown for 896 yards and 13 TDs. That may seem pretty impressive for a 2nd year signal caller, but perhaps even more so, he has yet to throw an INT. That ball security has led Kansas City to a 3-0 record. Thus far, the Chiefs have committed only one turnover, which ranks 1st in the NFL. With elite weapons on offense like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, and Kareem Hunt, it is no wonder Kansas City leads the league in PPG (39.3). As much as their defense has been shredded thus far, the Chiefs defense actually ranks first in a key category. On third down, they’ve only allowed eight successful conversions of 31 attempts (25.8%).

3) The Philadelphia Eagles          2018 Record: 2-1          Previous Week: 4 ( +1 )

The Birds saw the return of their franchise QB, Carson Wentz, in week three. It may be a few weeks before the Eagles’ offense, which has battled injuries other than Wentz’s, will start to click on all cylinders. They should be able to be held afloat by their 1st ranked rushing defense. Overall, they rank T-8th in scoring defense (18.3 PPG) and may have the best front seven in the league. The Eagles also have one of the best offensive lines in the league, bolstered by all-pro left tackle Jason Peters. Dominating the line of scrimmage, the Eagles ran for 152 yards while only yielding 68 rushing yards vs the Indianapolis Colts. Their defense also racked up 5 sacks while nearly doubling up the Colts in total yards. Three games in, the Eagles defense ranks T-3rd in first downs allowed (48) and 9th in total yards allowed (314.67/game).

4) The Jacksonville Jaguars          2018 Record: 2-1          Previous Week: 2 ( -2 )

A tough divisional matchup with the Titans saw the Jags take their first loss of the season. Blake Bortles, who looked like an all-pro in week two, struggled in week three. He barely surpassed 150 yards in the air, as his team failed to score an offensive TD. The Jags should get a pick-me-up when RB Leonard Fournette returns from a hamstring issue. That said, Blake Bortles will need to perform better than he did this week to win games going forward. The Jags have played undisciplined football the first three weeks, and they rank 4th worst in penalties (26) and 3rd worst in penalty yards (265). The Jags defense is ranked T-2nd best in the NFL allowing just 14.7 PPG. Their defense is also tied for the best redzone percetage (16.7%) and fewest attempts allowed inside the 20 (6). The team they are tied with in both categories: the Tennessee Titans.

5) The Miami Dolphins          2018 Record: 3-0          Previous Week: 10 ( +5 )

Say what you want about the Fins’ quality of competition through three games, this team can win games, and it is not just because QB Ryan Tannehill ranks 4th in both completion percentage (73.0%) and QB rating (121.8). But that sure doesn’t hurt. The Dolphins have been stout against the run, allowing only 3.3 YPC, which ranks 2nd in the league. Then, add in the fact the Fins lead the league with 7 INTs, and they rank 3rd in the league in defensive red zone percentage (33.3%), this team can play. They will, no doubt, face their toughest QB matchup this season when they travel to Foxborough this week to face Tom Brady and the Patriots. But if you’re a Dolphins fan, there may be a tad more optimism about this matchup than usual.

6) The Chicago Bears          2018 Record: 2-1          Previous Week: NR

Last week I debated back and forth whether to put the Bears or Dolphins at #10. The Bears had a tough loss in week one to the Packers, a game in which they led for most of the way. But after three games, it is more than obvious: the Bears are back. They rank 2nd in the NFL to the Eagles in rushing yards allowed (196) and they also rank 2nd in first downs allowed. Through three games, they rank T-2nd in the league with eight total takeaways, thanks in large part to the addition of DPOY Khalil Mack. If it wasn’t for the heroics of Aaron Rodgers and Vicodin, the Bears would be 3-0 at this point. Jordan Howard hasn’t gotten fully going yet, and neither has Tarik Cohen. Mitchell Trubisky has a very respectable completion percentage (69.2), but it hasn’t translated to a ton of yards. With a superb playmaking WR like Allen Robinson, the Bears will look to find an offensive rhythm against a Buccaneers team ranked 31st in yards allowed and 29th in points allowed.

7) The Minnesota Vikings         2018 Record: 1-1-1         Previous Week: 3 ( -4 )

The Vikings were ambushed by the Bills in week three. Josh Allen led Buffalo into Minneapolis and it seemed they were up 17-0 before the game started. It wont get easier this week either, the Vikings have to travel to LA on a short week to play the Rams Thursday night. The Vikings rank 9th in passing defense going into their prime time matchup with the Rams. They also are 8th best in the league in rushing YPC (3.6), and they also have been stingy in the red zone, allowing only four scores on 12 attempts (33.3%), which ranks T-3rd. It very well could be a lopsided Rams victory, but if the Vikings are up to the arduous task of slowing down Todd Gurley, they will have a chance.

8) The Cincinnati Bengals          2018 Record: 2-1          Previous Week: 7 ( -1 )

The Bengals fell in week three to Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Coming into the matchup they had been the 3rd ranked rushing defense. Christian McCaffrey changed that, single handedly, by racking up 184 yards on the ground. Newton added 36 yards of his own, and two scores. This week, the Bengals have to travel to Atlanta to face a team hungry to stay in their own divisional hunt. The Bengals will need to score more points than they have been scoring, especially with a defense that after three games is ranked dead last in third down percentage allowed (52.2%) and T-6th worst in red zone scoring percentage (77.8%). The good news, for Cincy, is the Falcons just allowed 43 points to the Saints. Andy Dalton and company will need to make use of the fact that, on offense, they are T-3rd in the league in red zone scoring percent (87.5%).

9) The Baltimore Ravens          2018 Record: 2-1           Previous Week: NR

The Ravens, through three games, have yet to not convert a red zone trip into a score. The lopsided win vs Buffalo in week one aside, the Ravens lost a close game to Cincy and just handed Denver its first loss. They also have one of the better RB tandems, in Alex Collins and Javorius ‘Buck’ Allen, who lead the NFL with a combined six rushing TDs. Thus far, the Ravens have allowed the 2nd fewest passing yards (169.3/game) and are a respectable 13th in rushing yards allowed (103.67/game). Their defense has tallied nine sacks (T-7th) and recorded three INTs (T-9th).

10) The Washington Redskins and the Carolina Panthers          2018 Records: 2-1    Previous Week: NR/NR

As we’ve already seen this season, there are sometimes ties in the NFL. Both the Redskins and Panthers enter a week 4 bye with a 2-1 record. Neither Cam Newton nor Alex Smith have been a true gunslinger this year. But both veteran QBs are taking care of the ball (1 INT each) and avoiding negative yardage (6 sacks each). The Redskins are tied with the Jaguars for the 2nd best scoring defense in the NFL (14.7 PPG). The Panthers, meanwhile, lead the league in rushing yards. Fourth on the list of rushing yards, the Washington Redskins. The Panthers are T-2nd in the NFL with only two turnovers lost, and directly behind them with three is the Redskins (T-5th). The Panthers and Redskins have both gotten off to good starts, and with no matchups this week, we’ll have to wait a bit to see more of each.

Fantasy Football Notes: Lions, Eagles, Bills, Bengals

Kerryon Johnson became the first Lions players to rush for 100 yards in a game last week since Reggie Bush did it in 2013. The rookie carried the rock 16 times for 101 yards, making a bevy of explosive plays.

While Johnson’s national televised coming out party may make it harder to obtain him in a trade, a favorable matchup with the Cowboys awaits, meaning it won’t get any easier to trade for him next Monday. Dallas star linebacker Sean Lee won’t play this week. The Cowboys allowed 1.7 more yards per carry with him on the sideline, compared to when he played last season. Jerry’s team spent a first-round pick on Leighton Vander Esch to prepare for Lee-less battles, having gone just 1-8 over the past three seasons when the former Penn Stater sits. Vander Esch should help to mitigate the loss, but it’s still a plus matchup for Lions rushers.

LeGarrette Blount could be a sneaky, low-cost play in daily fantasy. He saw 18 touches last week, producing 65 yards.

Player Snaps Percent Touches
Kerryon Johnson 33 44.60% 18
LeGarrette Blount 26 35.10% 18
Theo Riddick 21 28.40% 3

Johnson will eat into his volume after the big game, though Blount should still have a nice on role in week 4. Here’s more from around the league:

  • Alshon Jeffery was cleared for contact on Wednesday, though he was not on the field for practice on Thursday. For fantasy purposes, Jeffrey is a stay-away even if he suits up. With only two teams (Panthers and Redskins) on bye, there should be plenty of other WR options available to start this week.
  • Josh Allen may be a viable fill-in this week for those that lost Jimmy Garoppolo. He was the sixth-ranked QB on ESPN during week 3 and he faces a Green Bay squad that ranks 27th in defensive DVOA this season.
  • The Tyler Boyd breakout is for real. He was on the field for 38 of the team’s 47 pass plays and saw seven targets. He’s a WR3 with upside if A.J. Green suits up (he’s expected to as of this writing) and if Green can’t make it onto the field, Boyd becomes a must-start WR2.

Where Will Jimmy Butler Land?

Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau is doing his best to keep Jimmy Butler in Minnesota, though it doesn’t appear to be enough, as the 4-time All-Star refuses to show up to camp. It was originally reported that Butler had the Nets, Knicks, and Clippers on his shortlist, but Marc Stein of The New York Times reports that Miami is now his preferred destination.

Where will Butler play on opening night? Bovada has the Heat as the favorite. Here are the remainder of the odds:

Team Odds
Heat -175
Wolves +225
Clippers +550
Knicks +750
Nets +1000
Raptors +1200
Sixers +2500
Lakers +3000
Celtics +3000

 

NFL Top Ten Power Rankings Post Week 2

With an eighth of the NFL season in the books, some teams have looked ready to compete for a championship. Others have looked shaky to put it lightly. It’s a small sample size, relatively speaking, but some trends have started to emerge. Entering Week 3, here are power rankings of the best and brightest teams early on in 2018.

 

1) The Los Angeles Rams          2018 Record: 2-0

The LA Rams have begun their 2018 season red hot. They look to secure a coveted first-round bye this year, as opposed to playing in the wild card weekend where they lost to the Atlanta Falcons a season ago. Through two games, the Rams lead the league in points against, allowing an impressive 6.5 PA to the Raiders and Cardinals. Equally impressive, the Rams have only allowed two drives to reach the red zone, allowing just one red-zone score, both NFL bests. With perhaps the most valuable defensive player in football, in Aaron Donald, and arguably the best active RB, in Todd Gurley, it is shaping up that the NFC may run through LA in 2018.

2) The Jacksonville Jaguars          2018 Record: 2-0

The Jags just took care of business at home, without the help of talented RB Leonard Fournette, to down the reigning AFC Champion Patriots and move to 2-0. Through two games, the Jags have allowed the third-fewest 1st downs on defense (33). Additionally, Jacksonville has allowed just one red zone score out of four attempts (25%), which ranks 3rd in the NFL. Most importantly, albeit against a non-exceptional Pats defensive unit, Blake Bortles looked locked into midseason form this past Sunday. Bortles was great in Week 2, lighting up the Pats for 376 yards and four touchdown passes. In two games, Bortles has also rushed 10 times for 77 yards (7.7 YPC), which ranks 2nd among QB’s to the speedy Tyrod Taylor.

3) The Minnesota Vikings         2018 Record: 1-0-1

The Vikings have an incredibly talented roster from top to bottom. Two games in, new addition Kirk Cousins has made use of his offensive weapons throwing for 669 yards and six TDs. The WR duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, along with electric RB Dalvin Cook, are as scary as it gets to defend at their respective positions. The Vikings defense has also been the stingiest inside the red zone, allowing just two scores on nine defensive attempts (22%), which is 2nd in the NFL percent wise. On top of that, the Vikings have yet to allow a rushing TD, one of seven teams capable of saying that.

4) The Philadelphia Eagles          2018 Record: 1-1

The most talented team of last year has again been impressive to start 2018, and they played without MVP candidate Carson Wentz for the first 2 games. He is expected to be back this week, giving their team a huge boost at the position. The Eagles, 2 games in, have the 1st ranked rushing defense (58.5) and YPC allowed (2.9). As much as the Eagles have fallen victim to some big plays early on, they have stiffened in the red zone allowing 3 scores on 7 attempts (42.9%), which is tied for 8th best in the league.

5) The Kansas City Chiefs          2018 Record: 2-0

Andy Reid‘s Chiefs are fresh off a shootout win against the dysfunctional Pittsburgh Steelers. Veteran QB Alex Smith headed to Washington, paving the way for the younger Patrick Mahomes to step in. And that he has. In the small two-game sample size, he leads the NFL in TDs (10) and ranks 2nd in the NFL in YPA (10.6). Speedfreak Tyreek Hill is off to a blazing start to the year, with 259 yards and three TDs through the air. He also took a punt return 91 yards to the house. They’re going to need that offense to keep rolling, though, to counteract the fact that they are dead last in passing yards against and defensive red zone percentage.

6) The New England Patriots          2018 Record: 1-1

The defending 2018 AFC Champions have begun 2018 with more questions than answers. Two very important constants remain as fact: they have the best QB and the best coach. Following a gut-check loss to the Jags on the road, the Patriots, who are without WR Julian Edelman for the first four games (SSPD), responded by trading for talented, yet troubled, WR Josh Gordon. Gordon, if healthy and active (two big ifs), may be the best WR Tom Brady has had since Randy Moss. Incorporating Gordon in, alongside Rob Gronkowski, they should have no problem putting up points. MLB Dont’a Hightower, a defensive captain, is back from injury this year. So far, they have four takeaways, ranking 11th in drives ending in a turnover (15.4%). The four turnovers in two games is promising as they only had 18 all of 2017. They still have issues getting off the field on 3rd down, however, ranked 4th worst so far this year (48%). Additionally, they have given up 271 yards on the ground through two games.

7) The Cincinnati Bengals           2018 Record: 2-0

The Bengals are off to a very good start, especially offensively. Through 2 games, they have the NFL’s 2nd leading rusher, in 2nd year RB Joe Mixon. Veteran QB Andy Dalton has already thrown 6 TDs, 4 to the explosive WR AJ Green. The issue with the Bengals seems to lie on the defensive side. They rank 3rd in rushing defense and 2nd in YPA, however, they are giving up 332 YPG through the air. They are also the least efficient team in getting off the field on 3rd down, allowing 54.5% of conversions on 3rd down. Additionally, they have given up the 3rd most first downs (52) in 2 games. Helping to ease those woes, however, the Bengals have 5 takeaways already and are 4th best in percent of drives ending in a turnover (20.8%).

8) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers          2018 Record: 2-0

The Bucs are on an offensive pace that seems impossible to maintain. Ryan Fitzpatrick is leading the NFL in passing yards (819) and ranks 2nd in TDs (8). ‘Fitzmagic’, as many are calling him, isn’t casting spells, but rather using his elite cast of offensive weapons. The veteran speedster DeSean Jackson, who is leading the league in receiving yards (275), has been excellent opposite the tall, more physical WR Mike Evans. Add in two more young, talented players in WR Chris Godwin and TE O.J. Howard, this Bucs offense is for real. The Bucs, however, have been exposed defensively. They rank 2nd last in passing yards allowed and are giving up 30.5 PPG (27th). Teams have also gone for it 6 times on 4th down against the Bucs, four of which were converted, both league worsts. As a small sample it isn’t the worst stat, but does seem to indicate teams are not too scared to test this Bucs defense early on.

9) The Green Bay Packers          2018 Record: 1-0-1

The Packers were close to being 0-2. If Aaron Rodgers‘ knee had been more severely damaged, that would probably be the case. But as long as Rodgers is on the field, the Pack have a chance. He has some familiar weapons, including Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. But the Packers are ranked 25th in the league in rushing yards, and haven’t got the ground game going. They get RB Aaron Jones back from a two-game suspension this week. That could help the run game, he averaged 5.5 YPA last year in limited work, and he may be the most talented RB on their roster. Defensively, it has been tough sledding for Green Bay. They rank 7th worst in passing yards allowed and have only 1 takeaway. They have also given up the 2nd most 3rd down conversions (14) with the 6th worst conversion percentage on that down (45.2%).

10) The Miami Dolphins          2018 Record: 2-0

I am certainly sure there aren’t more than a handful of people who predicted the Dolphins would be undefeated two weeks in to the season. But that’s where they find themselves, and they have looked impressive so far. A powerful RB committee of Kenyan Drake and newly acquired veteran Frank Gore have gotten off to a hot start, as the Fins are 6th in rushing yards after two games. Ryan Tannehill has been a quality QB option early on, and should be helped when WR DeVante Parker returns from injury. The Fins defense has been great early on. They rank 5th best in opposing completion percentage (57%) and already have five interceptions, which has got them ranked 3rd in the NFL in percent of drives ending in a turnover (24%). They have only allowed four drives to enter the red zone and only allowed one score. That 25% red zone rating is currently tied for 3rd in the NFL with their in-state competitors, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Is Miami’s Defense For Real?

The Dolphins’ defense sits atop Football Outsiders’ Defensive DVOA metric after two weeks by a comfortable margin. They have a -40.8% rating (negative is better than positive for defenses) with the Jets coming in at No. 2 with -26.4%. New York is closer to No. 9 Houston than they are to Miami at the top.

Odds To Win The AFC East
Patriots -500
Dolphins +450
Jets +1100
Bills +10000

Sure, the Dolphins “only” played the Titans and Jets and we don’t yet know how good or bad those offenses are. Still, the production is impressive. Aaron Schatz of FO examined how other teams have fared when putting up a defensive DVOA of at least -30% through two weeks. Thirty-Two teams since 2002 have started out with such a mark and on average they finished with a defensive DVOA of -9.5% or ranking 8.5 in the league. Only seven teams finished as worse than average (0%).

Miami, a team that finished 28th in defensive DVOA last season, has a good chance to finish in the top 10. Their upcoming schedule should provide a few tests, though outside of a trip to New England in week 4 and one to Green Bay in week 10, it’s not too daunting.

The match-up against the Raiders is the only thing keeping Miami from being 3-0 heading into that game with New England. The Dolphins offense has been conservative, though if it can rely on the defense to keep them in games, we could be looking at a playoff team. Odds of that before the season? +400.

*Odds per Bovada.

NFL Round-Up: Five Stats And Trends To Know

With week 2 of the NFL season complete, let’s take a look around the league at some stats and trends:

  • Blake Bortles exploded for 377 yards against the Patriots. He’s averaging 323 passing yards per game during the four games he’s played with Leonard Fournette on the sideline. He has nine touchdowns during that span. With the Titans up next, he’s a value play in daily fantasy, especially if his star running back sits out.
  • The Rams have run 68 passing plays through the first two weeks of the season. They’ve had three wide receivers on the all but one of those plays. There’s room for Brandon Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp in the offense and in the fantasy realm.
  • The Raiders and Lions are the only two teams to allow at least 140 yards to each team they’ve faced this season.
  • Tight End Jonnu Smith didn’t receive a target during the Titans‘ win over the Texans, though he did play on all of the team’s 56 snaps. Delanie Walker‘s replacement could be someone to target in fantasy once Marcus Mariota returns.
  • Javorius Allen has played three more snaps than Alex Collins and has eight more targets so far this season. He should be owned in all leagues.

NFL Teams Scoring 8.32 More Points Per Game Than They Did At This Point Last Season

After 31 games of the season, teams are scoring 8.32 more points per game than they did a year ago. Some believe the increase in scoring is a result of the new rules protecting offensive players.

“Look at the rules.” veteran Calais Campbell told NBC Sports’ Peter King. “I know the NFL is trying to make the game safer, but the safer they make it, the easier they make it for the offense. Offense makes good TV. The quarterbacks are the rock stars of the league, and they want to protect them. My job’s harder.”

2017 Season
Games Played: 32
Points Scored: 1,249
Average Per Game: 39.03

2018 Season
Games Played: 31
Points Scored: 1,465
Average Per Game: 47.26

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