The Food Chain: Week 4 NFL Rankings Plus Current Super Bowl Odds

The Food Chain: Week 4 NFL Rankings Plus Current Super Bowl Odds


The top and bottom sectors of our chart remains firm, while the insides churn away. We’ve now entered the bye-week stretch of our program, and in The Food Chain, bye week equals no blood, meaning a team can’t sink or rise if it’s out there soaking in some hot tub. It also takes a bit of pressure off yours truly, who’s over here desperately trying to find 32 compelling things to say about the esteemed members of our survey. I mean, how many Woody Allen quotes or Balaklava references can one spoon out in a season? Anyway, on with the countdown:

1. L.A. Rams (4-0): After a quarter of the season, Rams clearly the class of the league. Can play any way you wanna play. Do you want to drag down Main Street? Let’s go. You wanna lock up in a phone booth and see who comes out, we can do that, too. Don’t like the sudden comparisons of Rams head coach Sean McVay to Bill Walsh that I’m hearing, the rush to put some kind of historical stamp on the Rams’ terrific September. For starters, Walsh didn’t become a pro head coach until he was 48; McVay is 31. Can we give the guy a couple more seasons before resting the genius crown?  (SB odds 16:5)

2. Kansas City (4-0): Something very serious is going on in Kansas City. Andy Reid hasn’t worked with an arm like this since his Favre days in Green Bay. The dangerous thing about QB Mahomes is that he gives you both velocity and accuracy no matter how he unloads the ball…planted in the pocket, sprinting from angry hordes, off-balance, dancing the Hopak. The Broncos chased him all over the field on his final two TD drives, in Monday’s fourth quarter, and how many times did we get the camera shot of some Denver DB on his knees, whacking the ground with his fists after Mahomes delivered another one, right on target? (8:1)

3. Jacksonville (3-1): Easy, walk-through win versus overmatched Jets. The defense did its thing, squeezing New Yorkers to 34 yards on the ground. Now they hop on a plane to KC to see if they can ice down the hottest QB in football. However, the real matchup to study here is Jag offense versus KC defense, application of the weakest-link-in-the-chain principle. (12:1)

4. New Orleans (3-1): Give Payton & Co. credit. It’s not been a pretty march, yet here they are 3-1. Schedule ahead, however, is punishing: Skins, at Ravens, at Vikes, Rams, at Bengals. Ouch. I remember an old line from Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Press after the Pitt football team had been massacred by Miami and Notre Dame on consecutive weeks, and someone in the press corps asked the head coach, “Which loss felt worse?” Collier’s response: “That’s like asking roadkill which hurt more, the front axle or the rear?” (10:1)

5. Cincinnati (3-1): To me, the biggest surprise-team through the first quarter of the season. They’re winning games Bengal teams would typically clumsy-away, or bobble-away, or penalty-away. The offense now averaging a stunning 31.5 points per game. For you fact hunters, the Bengals all-time record is 28 ppg game, which came during their majestic Super Bowl run of 1988. Deadly warning from the stat sheets: defense allowing third-down conversions at a 57.4% clip. How long can that go on without repercussion? (15:1)

6. Baltimore (3-1): QB Flacco attacked Pittsburgh exactly how the recipe says to – through the air. Eleven different people in Ravens jerseys caught passes. Run game still a very big problem, however, for the long haul. Team bumbling around at 3.1 ypc. I don’t think they have the personnel on the roster to fix it  (18:1)

7. Green Bay (2-1-1): Easy shutout win over Bills allowed them to finally catch their breath after weirdo first three weeks of the season. Vegas, however, is not convinced this operation has stabilized; the last book I checked had GB a measly single-point favorite at Detroit, a place where QB Rogers has won six of his eight starts. Basically, a pick ’em. Boys and girls, can you say “sucker bet?” (18:1)

8. Chicago (3-1): The rapid surge toward the top, charged by the best linebacking corp in the business. Three interceptions of the Bucs give Chicago’s defense eight on the season, tops in the NFC. 18 sacks, meanwhile, is tops in the NFL. Those are the kinds of stats that emerge when your people can raise severe hell with the quarterback. (20:1)

9. Washington (2-1): BYE (40:1)

10. Carolina (2-1): BYE (33:1)

11. Tennessee (3-1): Have chipped off three straight wins, all by a FG. That’s called life on a thread. Even more serious is the club’s injury report – ten bodies on injured-reserve, plus safetyman Kenny Vaccaro out with an elbow. Four others marked as questionable. How much longer can they hang on? (35:1)

12. Denver (2-2): Admirable way they warred against Chiefs until Mahomes cruelly slashed them up in final minutes. Strange call at the end of the game by the Denver offense, the hook-and-lateral thing from the KC 28. Too congested down there, too many bodies packed into too little a room for that kind of ballet. A depressing loss for Broncs. Even more depressing, other than ESPN play-by-play man Joe Tessitore screaming like a little girl on a roller coaster all night, was him stamping it the “hook-and-ladder” play — “They were going for the old hook-and-ladder on fourth down!” You gotta know better than that, Joe. That’s your job. Get it right. (40:1)

13. New England (2-2): Who couldn’t see that one coming, their 38-7 desecration of Miami? Brady and Belichick a coiled spring for that one. Pats are another team that’s flooding the injury report: 11 on IR, plus a battalion of questionable. Return of WR considered a plus, but remember he’s 32 and hasn’t caught a real ball since the Atlanta Super Bowl. Pats a big fave this Thursday at home, but Colts have been a live team all year. I’m not so sure it’ll be easy. (7:1)

14. Miami (3-1): When I was a kid we’d go on a beach vacation with the family schnauzer, and every year little Stevie, whose parents owned the beach rental, would stop over and try to pet the dog and the dog would immediately bite him. This would happen every year. One summer as we were arriving, the windows were down in the car and we could hear Stevie’s dad yelling, “Go over there and get it over with!” So Stevie came over and the dog bit him and Stevie cried out, “He did it again!” That was Miami’s trip to New England. They did it again! (50:1)

15. Philadelphia (2-2): Can’t find their wheels offensively, can they? Averaging 20 ppg; a year ago it was nearly 29. In Tennessee, they were up 17-3 and couldn’t hold on. What’s going on, fellas? You’re the defending cham-pee-uns. I read through the Eagles postgame quote sheet, and I’m quite certain the record for the number of “We have to look at the tapes” on an 8×11 sheet was set that day. (16:1)

16. Minnesota (1-2-1): I missed Vikings-Rams last Thursday, so I was getting a recap from my sportscaster buddy in Louisville. He said, “Goff had a fantastic day, but so did Cousins. It’s all clicking for the Rams. But the Vikings will be okay once Cousins settles in.” Right now his QB rating is 103.6 but his yards per completion is near the bottom of the league (10.6). The Vikes are 20th in scoring. The more I think about it, what exactly does a settled-in Kirk Cousins look like? (18:1)

17. L.A. Chargers (2-2): Nothing is ever easy for this team. And, to be honest, I’m tired of picking on them. Niners weren’t supposed to give them a scare but sure as hell did. The defense can’t get off the field, as teams converting nearly 50% of third downs on ’em. 28th in points-allowed, too. A lot of “insiders” point to the absence of sack man Joey Bosa from the lineup, but c’mon, it’s not just one guy. (25:1)

18. Seattle (2-2): Very nice rebound after 0-2 start. Suddenly a live team again. Rams, however, come in as large, seven-point favorites this week, a lack of respect for Seattle’s wild home field advantage. Translation: ‘Hawks don’t have the weaponry to keep up. (50:1)

19. Dallas (2-2): I watched the Football Life episode on Tony Romo the other night. They made it sound like the fleet Dak Prescott beat him for the job. That Romo, “the franchise’s leading passer, could see the writing on the wall” and resigned because Prescott was the future and the better player won out. Really? What about the writing on the hospital chart? Romo’s body was broken, remember? How many more broken collarbones was he supposed to absorb? How many more fractures in the spine? C’mon, NFL. Disingenuous reporting there. (40:1)

20. Cleveland (1-2-1):  That black cloud ain’t going away easy. This time it was the officials, stripping Cleve of a vital first down with a minute left in Oakland. Like the line from an old song: I’ve been kicked so many times, I don’t know anything else. (75:1)

21. Pittsburgh (1-2-1): Worst start for Steelers in five years. You all saw that broken running game Sunday night – 19 yards. They could sure use what Le’Veon Bell brings, that beautiful suspended animation style we’ve never seen before. But then again, I think back to a story about Jim Valvano, when he was coaching basketball at Iona. Somebody asked him why he booted so-and-so off the team and wouldn’t bring him back, despite the kid’s terrific talent. “A wormy dog,” he said. “All they do is infect the rest of the pack.” (20:1)

22. Tampa Bay (2-2): 48-10 wipeout in Chicago does a lot of damage to one’s credibility. Years ago, there was this comedy sketch show called SCTV. Occasionally they did a thing called Farm Film Report, where these two hayseeds would review movies and grade them by how many things “got blown up” along the way.  Man, they’d have loved this movie – Famous In September. Tampa got blown up real good! (55:1)

23. Atlanta (1-3): Hard-luck football on display. Every game down to the wire. Competitive enough to lose. Would be unbeaten if the battered defense could somehow get it together late in these games. But, as Dick Vermeil used to say, “What do you want me to do, open up a new can of players?” (33:1)

24. Oakland (1-3): AFC’s number two passing attack heads down to…where? What’s it called?  Rokit Field at StubHub Center? Is there a caps lock issue here? AnYwAY, i dO THiNk thE raIDERs wiLl BEaT The cHaRgErS tHis sunDAY. (100:1)

25. Indianapolis (1-3): They give you a big fight every week, and look where it’s gotten them. Lotta cap bucks on the sideline, however. Over $50M according to the fine people at First order of business-wide receiver. Or is it running back? Or a pass rusher? And why am I even worried about 2019 in October of ’18? (80:1)

26. San Francisco (1-3): Another scrapper club, just like the Colts. No, I won’t get into anything 2019 here. Instead, I see rookie Matt Breida, a Georgia Southern man, is averaging 7.6 yards/carry at the tailback position. Who says the Niners weren’t going to have any running game this season? Um, I think it was me. (75:1)

27. Detroit (1-3): Beat Green Bay this Sunday and they can start thinking about having a season again.  (66:1)

28. NY Giants (1-3): Itinerary has been too tough for them. All those Eli dump offs and check-downs aren’t getting it done versus superior competition. What are they supposed to do, open a new can of…schedules?  (75:1)

29. Houston (1-3): Struggles continue, but FG favorites at home this week against Dallas. Neither team skilled at throwing the ball. Gout a slight favorite over arthritis. (50:1)

30. Buffalo (1-3): Back to their stumbling ways. After picking off the punch-drunk Vikes, Green Bay was on the lookout. Seven Bills’ drives went three-and-punt. Three others ended with turnovers. They asked offensive coach Brian Daboll what went wrong. “Pretty much everything.” The lead story on the Bills’ website this Tuesday was about fullback Pat DiMarco’s struggles with cancer. Lots of heaviness around this team right now. (250:1)

31. N.Y. Jets (1-3): an Interesting write-up in the New York Post this week, on how words can kill, or if anything, unemploy: “Todd Bowles said the magic words that get coaches fired.” Lots of I-dunno-whys from the Jet head coach. Somehow I get the feeling he’s telling the truth. However, if I were Bowles, I’d go with the “new can of players” alibi instead. Easier on employer’s ears. (150:1)

32. Arizona (0-4): Hear that lonesome whippoorwill, He sounds too blue to fly, The midnight train is whining low, I’m so lonesome I could cry. (250:1)

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