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NFL Power Ratings, Part 1

   by Bryan Leonard - 09/03/2005

The NFL regular season kicks off next week, and my web site lists my pro power ratings. These ratings are based, in part, by offseason changes, last year’s stats, and a team’s play in the preseason with its starters. This final part is key, as I carefully watched how the starting units on offense and defense played, which is sometimes an entire half, or just a few series. The Raiders, for example, were a very poor defensive team last season, with a lot of injuries. However, the starting defense has talent and played very well in the preseason, so they appear improved. Here’s a look at the top teams in the AFC with my current power rating next to them.

Patriots (80): Forget about their poor play in two preseason home games. When their starters played and the coaching staff asked for a top performance, they produced at a high level, which was evident in their total dismantling victory at Green Bay two weeks ago. The losses of two key linebackers (Bruschi, Johnson) and top assistant coaches to Bill Belichick are their main concerns. However, this is still a star-studded offense and defense. New England also has enormous depth at nearly every position, which is essential in the NFL, as injuries will happen. Their only weaknesses would be depth at QB and RB. Remember last season, RB Corey Dillon missed one game: October 31 at Pittsburgh, and New England lost 34-20 with just 6 yards rushing! Still, it’s no accident they’ve won 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls. And never underestimate this team at home: The Pats are 19-0 SU and 15-3 ATS the last two years at home!

Steelers (79): After a 15-1 regular season, the Steeler’s defense has looked just as sharp in preseason. This is a well coached club that usually plays at a high intensity level each week, a tribute to Bill Cowher and the above-average coaching staff surrounding him. This is still a deep team at wide receiver and linebacker, despite the losses of LB Kendrell Bell and WR Plaxico Burress. They open the season without RBs Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis at less than 100% because of nagging injuries in August. The health of their running backs appears to be the biggest concern as the regular season gets underway.

Colts (79): The Colts had a lousy preseason, but this is one sensational offense that will carry this group into the playoffs again, especially in such a weak division. The key will be if the defense can stay healthy and improve. The addition of Corey Simon this week was a very good move. They will tear up teams with weak defenses, especially at home, but they may struggle again against power running teams.

Ravens (76): The defense still leads the way for this group, the only AFC team other than the Patriots to win a Super Bowl since 1999. The starters played well in the preseason, but there are still key weaknesses to this team on offense. They are too one-dimensional, with a strong ground game and a terrible passing attack behind still-learning QB Kyle Boller. Still, they won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at quarterback, so don’t overlook the importance of defense. If you like to play totals, this is a team to look at going “underâ€쳌 the total.

Chiefs (74): See, Indianapolis Colts. The Chiefs are a mirror image of the Colts, with an unstoppable offense and a shaky ‘D’. This team may improve, however, as they made a splash in the off-season adding defensive stars LB Kendell Bell, CB Patrick Surtain, and DE Carlos Hall. There’s more talent for defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham to utilize, so don’t look for this group to go 7-9 again.

Raiders (74): I know their defense has been a joke the last two years, but the starters looked sharp in exhibition play. They expect a lot out of newcomer DE Derrick Burgess, from the Eagles. The offense was already very good, but they upgraded with RB Lamont Jordan, whom they feel was not utilized properly with the Jets, and star WR Randy Moss. This team won the AFC three years ago. But remember that Oakland is 2-14 SU/5-11 ATS on the road last two seasons!

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