LAS VEGAS -- The New England Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions and have been continuously in the news all offseason thanks to Deflategate, but the Seattle Seahawks enter the 2015 season as the top-ranked team in the NFL Vegas Rankings.
The Seahawks came up 1 yard short of back-to-back titles and have kept more of their defense together than the Patriots, and that helped get the nod in the combined power ratings from our panel of ESPN Chalk handicappers -- Erin Rynning of sportsmemo.com, Sal Selvaggio of madduxsports.com and yours truly, Dave Tuley.
Power ratings are used to compare the relative strength of teams to the current point spread, as if they were to meet on a neutral field before factoring in home-field advantage. The industry standard is 2.5 points for home field, but teams such as Green Bay, New England and San Francisco are typically given a full field goal, while Denver and New Orleans are closer to 3.5. Seattle is given the biggest home-field advantage in the league (about four points). Every week during the season, we compare that week's lines to the NFL Vegas Rankings and list the value plays for the week. However, we also suggest using our ratings as a base to create your own numbers if you think we have some teams ranked too low or too high to help in your own handicapping.
If you had used our recommendations the last time we updated the NFL Vegas Rankings after the draft, you would have three solid bets at numbers that are no longer available: New York Jets minus-2 vs. Cleveland (the line is now NYJ minus-3), Miami minus-2.5 vs. Washington (the line is up to MIA minus-4) and Minnesota plus-4 vs. San Francisco (the Vikings are now a 2.5-point favorite). After the rankings, we'll list any potential plays we see with the current numbers.
Note: As always, these are not my personal plays or those of any of the other handicappers, but rather the group as a whole. My picks will be in the Thursday night betting preview and my "Tuley's Takes" column Friday.
NFL Vegas Rankings
1. Seattle Seahawks (Power rating: 27) The Seahawks keep rolling along and are poised for another deep run (and they're doubly tough if they earn home field for the NFC playoffs). They've kept most of their championship-caliber team intact, plus added tight end Jimmy Graham. Their power rating is only decreased until they show they can return to their lofty postseason form. Previous rating: 28