Gleason’s NFL Power Rankings: Week 4

Kevin Gleason’s NFL Power Rankings

(Record, previous week ranking)

1. Arizona Cardinals (3-0, 3): Let me be one of the first to call Arizona the best team in football. Pretty darn impressive what they are doing, and lately with a backup quarterback.

2. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0, 4): Enter bye with wins by a combined 47 points.

3. San Diego Chargers (2-1, 6): One-point loss to Cards, a win over Seahawks — excellent Chargers team facing big challenge with injuries in backfield.

4. Seattle Seahawks (2-1, 7): Many folks vaulted Hawks back to No. 1 with win over Broncos.

5. Denver Broncos (2-1, 1): At least they are getting closer to Seattle.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0, 5): Hard-fought win over Washington, in more ways than one.

7. Chicago Bears (2-1, 12): Starting to get things together after the season-opening loss to Bills.

8. New England Patriots (2-1, 9): Thousands of knockout-pool contestants exhaled when Pats squeaked past Raiders.

9. Atlanta Falcons (2-1, 14): The 42-pointer over Bucs does indeed count as just one win.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1, 26): A dominant win in Carolina is certainly an eye-opener.

11. Carolina Panthers (2-1, 2): I’ll give Carolina a mulligan for that effort.

12. San Francisco 49ers (1-2, 8): Still think they are a top-five team; just haven’t shown it the past two weeks.

13. Detroit Lions (2-1, 20): You wonder why they don’t dominate more teams defensively like they did the Packers.

14. Baltimore Ravens (2-1, 16): This team just finds a way to win.

15. Buffalo Bills (2-1, 11): Still like these guys; they just ran into a really good Chargers team.

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-1, 18): Not the prettiest thing you will find, but the Boys, back from 21-0 against Rams, momentarily remain the second best team in their division.

17. Indianapolis Colts (1-2, 17): Lots more to prove after rout of Jags.

18. New Orleans Saints (1-2, 23): They still have a long ways to go after an unimpressive win over the Vikes.

19. Green Bay Packers (1-2, 10): Loved Aaron Rodgers’ message to Pack fans — relax.

20. Cleveland (1-2, 22): Another honest day’s work but another crushing loss, this time to Ravens on field goal as time expired.

21. Giants (1-2, 29): Let’s see how they respond from Texans win with Thursday nighter in Washington.

22. Houston Texans (2-1, 13): Bill O’Brien’s strange fourth-down try from own 46 on the first drive of third quarter led to a Giants field goal and 17-0 lead.

23. Washington Redskins (1-2, 24): Yes, I do believe Washington is a better team with Kirk Cousins playing quarterback.

24. Jets (1-2, 19): Any talk of a quarterback change is preposterous.

25. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2, 30): KC back Joe McKnight had two TD catches in rout of Dolphins; remember him, Jets fans?

26. St. Louis Rams (1-2, 27): Blowing a 21-point lead to the Cowboys just not a good thing.

27. Miami Dolphins (1-2, 15): Consecutive 19-point losses to Bills and Chiefs since season-opening win over Pats.

28. Tennessee Titans (1-2, 21): Looked like football’s version of the Bad News Bears against Cincy.

29. Minnesota (1-2, 25): It’s officially Teddy (Bridgewater) Time in Minny; don’t expect much.

30. Oakland Raiders (0-3, 32): Made a game of it in New England when few expected them to.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3, 31): Another long, long season in Jacksonville.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3, 28): The less said about their game a week ago, the better.

kgleason@th-record.com; Twitter: @KevinGleason845

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NFL trends for Week 3

I came across a few interesting trends via PredictionMachine.com (Twitter: @predictmachine).

One that jumped out was a look at potential survivor-pool picks. The pools are becoming more and more popular. I won one last year, believe it or not, but lasted exactly one full week this year when the Saints broke my heart with a lousy effort in Cleveland last week.

Teams favored by at least 14 points, according to the machine, are 206-27 (88 percent) lifetime. The Patriots meet that criteria as a two-touchdown favorite against Oakland Sunday.

Another interesting tidbit: Teams that lost by at least 20 points AND are an underdog the next week are 384-285-21 against the spread (57 percent). The Steelers (plus 3.5 at the Panthers), Vikings (plus 9.5 at Saints) and Jags (plus 6.5 vs. Colts) meet that criteria.

Pick Seattle if you are big on trends. Russell Wilson is 6-0 against the spread at home when Seattle is favored by seven or fewer. The Seahawks are a 4.5-point pick over visiting Denver.

Here’s one trend that held up. Atlanta was 16-1 straight up (straight up means you don’t consider the point spread) in the Matt Ryan Era as at least a seven-point favorite at home. Make it 17-1 with tonight’s romp of Tampa Bay.

In the Tony Romo Era, Dallas is 14-20-1 as a road favorite. The Cowboys are 2.5-point faves at St. Louis.

The Chiefs (plus 5 at Miami) are 24-41-1 against the spread (36 percent) vs. AFC East teams. Yet in the last 10 years, the Dolphins are just 6-23 against the spread (21 percent) as home favorites of 3 or more points.

 

 

 

 

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Gleason’s NFL Power Rankings: Week 3

(Record, previous week ranking)

1. Denver Broncos (2-0, 3): Peyton Manning’s quarterback rating in first two games – 111.9, 143.9.

2. Carolina Panthers (2-0, 9): They waited way too long to take a stand on Greg Hardy before deactivating him on game day, then made another on-field statement with a 17-pointer over Detroit.

3. Arizona Cardinals (2-0, 5): They find a lot of different ways to win, with defense the constant.

4. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0, 12): Dominated Falcons by forcing three Matt Ryan interceptions – and without A.J. Green (toe) for almost the entire game.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0, 6): Birds seem to have that comeback thing down quite well.

6. San Diego Chargers (1-1, 15): Antonio Gates showing few signs of slowing down at age 34.

7. Seattle Seahawks (1-1, 1): Denver in that unenviable position of traveling to Seattle off the Hawks’ loss to San Diego.

8. San Francisco 49ers (1-1, 2): Who had them blowing that fourth-quarter lead against Chicago?

9. New England Patriots (1-1, 14): Vikes represented Bill Belichick’s 200th win and Raiders will represent 201st on Sunday.

10. Green Bay Packers (1-1, 16): As Aaron Rodgers alluded to, Jordy Nelson one of the great underrated wideouts in the league.

11. Buffalo Bills (2-0, 19): Reason No. 17,564 why preseason is virtually meaningless – EJ Manuel looked awful.

12. Chicago Bears (1-1, 24): Figuring out these Bears could take great time and effort.

13. Houston Texans (2-0, 21): In a surprise to nobody, Texans are vastly improved under Bill O’Brien.

14. Atlanta Falcons (1-1, 4): Falcs-Bucs not exactly the Thursday night sizzler we’re looking for.

15. Miami Dolphins (1-1, 7): Season-opening 13-point win over New England followed by 19-point loss in Buffalo – this is the NFL.

16. Baltimore Ravens (1-1, 22): Bernard Pierce will be a more-than-adequate replacement for Ray Rice.

17. Indianapolis Colts (0-2, 13): Just way too much of a burden on Andrew Luck.

18. Dallas Cowboys (1-1, 25): You hold the ball for 41:11, as Dallas did against Tennessee, you win.

19. Jets (1-1, 23): I think Rex Ryan made it clear he didn’t call the timeout.

20. Detroit Lions (1-1, 8): Safe to say Matthew Stafford found Carolina’s defense a tad more challenging than he did the Giants’ “D.”

21. Tennessee Titans (1-1, 11): Big win at K.C. followed by a dud against Dallas in their home opener.

22. Cleveland Browns (1-1, 28): Another gritty effort, first back from 24 down to almost beat Pitt, then back to beat Saints.

23. New Orleans Saints (0-2, 10): Dear Saints, Wish I could place a bounty on your entire team for eliminating me from my suicide pool.

24. Washington Redskins (1-1, 30): We will now find out what many folks believe – that Kirk Cousins is no step down from RG3.

25. Minnesota Vikings (1-1, 20): This team is going nowhere, with or without Adrian Peterson.

26. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1, 17): For the second straight season, a tricky team to figure out.

27. St. Louis Rams (1-1, 29): Third-string quarterback Austin Davis leads win over Bucs.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2, 27): The value of saving timeouts – Bucs reach Rams’ 32 in closing seconds but don’t have one, losing 19-17.

29. Giants (0-2, 26): Not a complete mess, but a lot of things need to be cleaned up.

30. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2, 18): Why third-down conversions are overrated – Chiefs converted 11 of 16 and lost a close one in Denver.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2, 31): Definition of bad day – losing by 31 to Redskins and losing tight end Marcedes Lewis (high ankle sprain) for at least eight weeks.

32. Oakland Raiders (0-2, 32): Exactly whom is Oakland going to beat?

kgleason@th-record.com; Twitter: @th_KevinGleason

 

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Gleason’s NFL Power Rankings: Week 2

Kevin Gleason’s NFL Power Rankings

Published: 9:30 AM – 09/11/14
Last updated: 9:45 AM – 09/11/14

1. Seattle Seahawks (1-0): I can’t remember when a team looked so prepared to repeat.

2. San Francisco 49ers (1-0): The season starts as it ended, with Seattle/San Fran the top two teams.

3. Denver Broncos (1-0): The much-improved defense didn’t have much of a second half against Indy.

4. Atlanta Falcons (1-0): You beat a Saints team that many people picked for the Super Bowl, you get major props.

5. Arizona Cardinals (1-0): These guys have a certain toughness that could give the Giants fits on Sunday.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0): Jacksonville wasn’t going to hang on to the 17-0 lead once Nick Foles started hanging on to the football.

7. Miami Dolphins (1-0): Knowshon Moreno knows how to beat the Pats — with 358 yards rushing the last two times facing them.

8. Detroit Lions (1-0): Beating the Giants might be the start of a big season in Detroit.

9. Carolina Panthers (1-0): Not bad for a quarterback (Derek Anderson) making his first start in four years, though the Bucs weren’t lovely in their debut under Lovie (Smith).

10. New Orleans Saints (0-1): Allowing Matty Ryan’s team-record 448 yards passing is no way to start that Super Bowl run.

11. Tennessee Titans (1-0): They changed their offense and defense from last year, then dominated the Chiefs in the opener.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0): They almost blew a 15-0 halftime lead to the Ravens.

13. Indianapolis Colts (0-1): Welcome back, Reggie Wayne (nine catches, 98 yards).

14. New England Patriots (0-1): “We need to do a better job than we did today (against Miami); it’s as simple as that.” Well said, Bill Belichick.

15. San Diego Chargers (0-1): Tough late-game loss to Arizona after leading by 11 entering the fourth.

16. Green Bay Packers (0-1): You just don’t see teams make Aaron Rodgers look as bad as Seattle did.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0): They almost blew a 24-point halftime lead to the Browns.

18. Kansas City Chiefs (0-1): KC’s picking up right where it left off last season.

19. Buffalo Bills (1-0): Definition of a good week in Buffalo — big win over Da Bears followed by news of team staying in WNY following sale.

20. Minnesota Vikings (1-0): A 28-point win in St. Louis despite Adrian Peterson gaining just 75 yards on 21 carries.

21. Houston Texans (1-0): Obviously a tough break losing Jadeveon Clowney for at least a month, but Houston has recorded 50 percent of its 2013 win total.

22. Baltimore Ravens (0-1): What’s with the home crowd booing Joe Flacco, who gave them a Super Bowl title two seasons ago.

23. Jets (1-0): They looked the worst of all the opening-week winners, but a lot of good signs nonetheless.

24. Chicago Bears (0-1): The Bills are expected to be improved, but that’s a terrible loss for Chicago.

25. Dallas Cowboys (0-1): The good news is that they were the second best team in their division on opening week.

26. Giants (0-1): The good news is that there are 15 games left.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1): For all the criticism of their play, they did lose by six to a very good Panthers team.

28. Cleveland Browns (0-1): Some thought Browns, down 24 to Pitt at the half, were a bad possession from replacing Brian Hoyer with Johnny Manziel.

29. St. Louis Rams (0-1): A 28-point home loss to Minnesota? Ouch.

30. Washington Redskins (0-1): I missed it, did RG3 blame the 11-point loss to Houston on Mike Shanahan?

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1): Suggestion for Jags’ new motto — “We aren’t as lousy as last year.”

32. Oakland Raiders (0-1): Looking like another awful football season in Oakland.

kgleason@th-record.com; Twitter: @th_KevinGleason

 

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Want Army football perspective? Ask the guy who carries around a copy of the constitution

When I need a keen perspective on the state of Army football, senior fullback Larry Dixon is one of the guys I go to. This is a kid, after all, who carries around a copy of the constitution.

On heavy lifting:
“I’ve been lifting heavy for a long time, but these (coaches) take it to another level. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m more athletic than I’ve ever been.’’
On the team getting stronger this offseason:
“It’s awesome. A lot of these guys are my best friends. I look at these kids I’ve known two years, three years, four years from the prep school, and these guys are just different, and it’s just really nice.’’
On Army’s improving strength translating to wins:
“Absolutely. This whole thing is a change of mind set. The best word to describe Coach Monken is ‘winner’. He’s won everywhere he’s been and we are excited to learn from him. We have a very experienced staff with a lot of wins. They’ve done a lot of great things at their (previous) schools. This is a staff that is absolutely always going to push you to work harder.
“On the field it gives you a lot more confidence. I know what everybody’s going to do because this is going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.’’
On the opening day of practice:
“It was everything that we expected it to be. It was hard, it was tough, but we learned a lot. When we face any hardship, we are going to come together and get better.’’
On learning more about the game every day:
“Coach Krzyzewski used to talk about a basketball having all the knowledge that there is (inside of it) and he draws a little Sharpie marker and says, ‘That’s what I know about basketball.’ His mark was tiny. Mine is microscopic compared to our coaches. They just have so much knowledge about the game and so much insight to where I’m seeing the game develop in a different way. You can see guys just becoming smarter players and that’s just awesome.’’
On being rejuvenated by the new staff:
“It reenergizes you. We just all feel like if we can do what the coaches ask of us, we are going to be a better team.’’
kgleason@th-record.com; Twitter: @th_KevinGleason

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MLB playoff possibilities: What the bookies think

Bovada (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV), an online site, passed along their odds on teams making the playoffs. Take a peek:
(Note: Teams with lower than 10/1 odds to win the World Series are assumed to make the playoffs, which includes Oakland, the Dodger, Angels, Detroit and Washington).
Baltimore Orioles
Yes – 1/2
No – 3/2
Toronto Blue Jays
Yes – 2/1
No – 1/3
Yankees
Yes – 3/1
No – 1/5
Kansas City Royals
Yes – 5/2
No – 1/4
Cleveland Indians
Yes – 5/1
No – 1/9
Seattle Mariners
Yes – 2/3
No – 11/10
Atlanta Braves
Yes – 10/11
No – 10/11
Milwaukee Brewers
Yes – 1/1
No – 5/7
St. Louis Cardinals
Yes – 5/7
No – 1/1
Cincinnati Reds
Yes – 1/1
No – 5/7
Pittsburgh Pirates
Yes – 2/1
No – 1/3
San Francisco Giants
Yes – 2/3
No – 11/10

kgleason@th-record.com; Twitter: @th_KevinGleason

 

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A few thoughts as Army football opens fall camp

OK, the first thing you notice watching the Army football team up close is that they are… HUGE!
I mean, it’s unbelievable how apparent the size transformation is after a single offseason under new head coach Jeff Monken.
The Black Knights clearly benefited physically from having their six-week summer training session moved to the front end of the summer (actually spring time) from, in prior years, the weeks leading up to preseason camp. It allowed players to get a head start on lifting instead of being trained and trying to bulk up in the final weeks of July. Fullback Larry Dixon said his training ended on a Saturday and he and teammates were in the weight room on Monday.
The second thing you notice is that coaches are going to demand a ton from these players, painstakingly harp on detail after detail and hold them accountable each and every minute of practice. Dixon talked about learning something new about football each and every day since the new staff took over.
The third thing you notice is that despite all of their mistakes on Monday, the Black Knights have a heightened sense of belief in themselves. It became clear the past two years that not all players shared the belief that they would win each week, no matter what they told the media. These players are certain that Monken and his staff will lead them to wins. The combination of that belief with Army’s commitment and physical improvements could translate to a winning season.
Now Army needs to concentrate on being focused every minute of practice, because the sessions are going to be long and it’s going to be hot.
The Monken Era has begun.

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An interview with new Army football coach Jeff Monken

An interview with new Army football coach Jeff Monken a couple days before the start of his first preseason camp

On commitment:
“Everyone has a desire to win but not everyone is able to put forth the effort and put in the time and have the dedication and commitment to seeing it all the way through. I believe in our guys.’’
On expectations:
“They all have to show me and I have to show them. They have heard me say it a bunch of times: Don’t convince me; show me. I want to see it. Words are cheap. Talk is cheap. I want to see some action.’’
On his first order of business as Army coach:
“I think the first thing is to establish expectations and set standards to meet those expectations. Whatever those expectations are, you make them clear and you commit to organizing how we are going to get there, how we are going to meet those expectations.’’
On challenging players in the weight room:
“I think probably the toughest practices that we have are in the weight room. Nobody has it tougher and harder than we do.’’
On creating a culture of toughness:
“It (being tough) doesn’t take any kind of physical ability. You can be tough. It’s a choice we can make.
“We haven’t done anything yet. So what if we lift all these weights and draw up all these plays. That’s not an accomplishment. We are nowhere close to being ready to play.’’
On playing freshmen:
“I’ve never been part of a football program where freshmen are not playing.’’
On recruiting (Monken says recruiting at Army is exactly the same as recruiting at Navy):
“A lot of kids we talk to don’t know anything about the Academy. Recruiting is a challenge here. Your recruiting pool as an Academy recruiter isn’t the same as everyone else’s. It’s narrowed for a lot of reasons — if a kid’s been in trouble; he doesn’t have the leadership qualities… Frankly, a lot of kids aren’t open to (West Point). I think there are enough players out there that are still open to serving the country.’’

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NFL over-under win totals: Let the games begin

This might be my favorite time of the year, not that there is a ton going on in the sports world, but it’s a beautiful month thanks to the blissful combination of sunny weather and the start of NFL training camp.
As such, fans have begun launching spirited arguments regarding their team, specifically the number of wins and chances of post-season participation. One of my favorite exercises, other than the Elliptical, of course, is checking out predicted regular-season win totals installed by various casinos.
As an example, to those unfamiliar, the Cardinals’ over-under is 7½, so folks who think the Cards will win at least eight games would pick the over, and those who think they will win fewer than eight games would pick the under.
Anyway, I’ve listed the numbers according to Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV), and the digits given to the New York teams jump off my page.
The Giants are over/under eight. Listen, at the risk of sounding like a shameful homer, of which I’m actually not:
I will be stunned – STUNNED! – if the Giants don’t win at least nine games this season. Three things must happen for the Giants to win fewer than eight games, all of which, this being the NFL, are entirely possible:
1. Eli Manning would have to perform as miserably as he did last season. I think he will smoothly transition into new coordinator Ben McAdoo’s offense and have a big bounce back season.
2. The rebuilt offensive line would have to be a complete failure. This is, and will continue to be, the team’s greatest concern heading into the season.
3. The Giants would have to get buried with key injuries, which indeed has taken place on several occasions under Tom Coughlin.
But, again, I would be surprised if all three factors play out. If I had to make a prediction today, I’d put the Giants at 10-6.
A couple thoughts from Kevin Bradley, Sportsbook Manager with Bovada.lv (sorry, Cowboys fans):
“NFL win totals continue to take more money than any other future market we have up right now for the NFL, and a few teams are really standing out as popular bets. The Chicago Bears over 8.5 has taken over 95 percent of the money, but we are comfortable holding the number at 8.5, especially in a pretty competitive division. The Saints (10) and Patriots (11) are seeing the same type of action forcing each of their win totals to move up half a win. The two teams who have caught my eye taking quite a bit of under money is the Dallas Cowboys dropping from eight to 7.5 wins and the Carolina Panthers (8½) with 80 percent of the public expecting them to regress from their surprising year in 2013.”
I will talk a bit about the Jets’ number (seven) later, of which I think might be a tad low as well.

Arizona Cardinals: 7½
Atlanta Falcons: 8½
Baltimore Ravens: 8½
Buffalo Bills: 6½
Carolina Panthers: 8½
Chicago Bears: 8½
Cincinnati Bengals: 9
Cleveland Browns: 6½
Dallas Cowboys: 7½
Denver Broncos: 11½
Detroit Lions: 8½
Green Bay Packers: 10½
Houston Texans: 7½
Indianapolis Colts: 9½
Jacksonville Jaguars: 5
Kansas City Chiefs: 8
Miami Dolphins: 7½
Minnesota Vikings: 6
New England Patriots: 11
New Orleans Saints: 10
New York Giants: 8
New York Jets: 7
Oakland Raiders: 5
Philadelphia Eagles: 9
Pittsburgh Steelers: 8½
San Diego Chargers: 8
San Francisco 49ers: 10½
Seattle Seahawks: 11
St. Louis Rams: 7½
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7
Tennessee Titans: 7
Washington Redskins: 7½

kgleason@th-record.com; Twitter: @th_KevinGleason

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Today’s quiz: Name West Point’s most successful program the past seven seasons

If you were asked to name the top five most respected sports at West Point, chances are you might forget to mention boxing.
After all, it has become a somewhat forgotten sport on the national scene, a virtually anonymous sport collegiately, and at West Point tends to fall off the radar as a club sport.
That is, unless you spend some time around the program, which in April won its sixth national title in seven years. Spend a couple hours in the boxing room and you would quickly realize that it’s not only one of the most successful sports at the Academy, but one of the most popular.
Ray Barone, West Point’s director of boxing since 1999, has done a remarkable job building the program and maintaining a first-class operation. He expects to have some 130 cadets out for the team with tryouts beginning on Aug. 19. More than 90 incoming freshmen have expressed interest in giving it a shot. And the Black Knights look to defend their title with 30 returning boxers.
Barone has talked about his boxers going on to do big things in the military. It’s no surprise given the level of dedication and commitment required to be part of the prestigious program.

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