NFL Power Rankings 2013: Saints Bye Week

With the controversies surrounding the Week 6 loss to the Patriots dying down, here is a late look at how the Saints fared in the rankings after their first loss of the season.

The controversies surrounding the Week 6 loss to the Patriots have given fans plenty to discuss over the past week.  But with the Week 7 rankings being decided soon, here is a review of the impact Week 6 had on the rankings for the Saints and the rest of the NFC South.  Technical difficulties with my laptop prevented this from being published a few days ago; but with the slow bye week I decided to put it out there anyway.  The updates to the rankings after Week 7, complete with previews of next week's games for the NFC South, should still be posted this Wednesday or Thursday, as usual.

Week 6 Rankings: (NFC South)

This Week

Offense

Defense

Passing

Rushing

Saints

5 (↓1)

12

3 (↓1)

23 (3)

Falcons

8 (↓2)

19 (↓1)

2 (1)

26 (↓1)

Panthers

21 (↑3)

3

27 (↑3)

7

Buccaneers

31

16 (↓3)

32

20 (↓2)

If it weren't for the final 70-yard drive the New Orleans Saints allowed New England in the final minute of the game, the defense would have been ranked in the Top Ten once again.  Regardless, continued improvement from the rushing game could only add to the firm control New Orleans maintains over the NFC South.


Saintshelmet_medium New Orleans Saints (5-1):
As has already been discussed at length, the New Orleans Saints fought through some questionable calls to barely lose their first game of the season in Week 6 to the New England Patriots.  Although losing is never a good thing, there were a number of silver linings for New Orleans.  Losing an away game against a perennial contender is less disheartening than losing to a lesser-caliber team, at home or on the road.  The fact that it was against a team in the AFC means that it affects very little beyond our actual record at the end of the season.  Being so close to overcoming the Patriots, and their officials, shows that the Saints were not clearly outmatched.  Yet having the first loss of the season come before the bye week should have the boys in black and gold working hard to fix things and come back with a vengeance.

Although the team has plenty to work on during their bye week, they have managed to remain firmly in control of the NFC South.  They are also ranked No.6 league-wide in regards to the turnover differential, having taken the ball away twelve times, compared to the seven time they have given it up... including a rather meaningless fumble at the end of the kickoff in the final seconds of the loss against the Patriots.

Falconshelmet_medium Atlanta Falcons (2-4):
After losing at home two weeks in a row on national television (Sunday night against the Patriots and Monday night against the Jets), the Atlanta Falcons took a week off before hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although it should have been an easy win against the worst passing game in the NFL, the way the Falcons have been playing when games are on the line gave no assurances.  In the end, the Buccaneers shot themselves in the foot by garnering twenty-five yards in penalties after finding themselves five yards and four downs away from the end zone towards the end of the game.  Even without Julio Jones, the Falcons managed to not lose against a team who hasn't been able to beat anyone this year.

[Tampa Bay Week 6 Rankings: Offense - 31st; Defense - 16th; Passing - 32nd; Rushing - 20th]

Panthershelmet_medium Carolina Panthers (3-3):
Nabbing their second win in a 35-10 performance against the second worst defense in the league, the Panthers followed up their away game against the Minnesota Vikings by hosting the St. Louis Rams.  As the only team in the NFL with a more difficult season schedule than the Saints, Carolina picked up their third win against a 3-3 Rams whose three wins have come against the Jaguars (0-6), Cardinals (3-3), and a flailing Houston Texans (2-4).  As expected, the Panthers defeated another bad team, and maintain their position over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South.

[St. Louis Week 6 Rankings: Offense - 30th; Defense - 23rd; Passing - 20th; Rushing - 28th]

Bucshelmet_medium Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6):
Despite facing the worst defense in the NFL when they hosted the Eagles in Week 6, the Buccaneers couldn't dig their way out of their placement as the worst passing game in the league. That said, Mike Glennon's 273 yards (60% completion) were better than his 193 yards (56% comp) in Week 4, and Josh Freeman's performances (210, 125, and 236 yds) in the first three games of the season.  With Carl Nicks having surgery after another case of MRSA striking the Tampa Bay facility, the public are wondering if the Glazers are going to step up and discuss the circus that has become of their NFL team.  Only the Jaguars and the current woes of the New York Giants keep this team from being considered the worst in the league.  Although they could easily be considered worse than the Giants, people can't even bring themselves to care enough about the Buccaneers to place them that high when ranking the "worst of the NFL."  Perhaps their loss to the Falcons this week will gain them a little more notice, as if anyone associated with the team really wants more national attention right now.

[Falcons Week 6 Rankings: Offense - 8th; Defense - 19th; Passing - 2nd; Rushing - 26th]


Saints Week 6 Performance:
(Saints 27, Patriots 30)


Offense
(Time of Possession: NO - 28:09, NE - 31:51)
Although the causative relationship between Time of Possession (ToP) and wins may be argued ad nauseum, the first loss of the season for the Saints came from the first game in which they did not with the ToP battle.  That said, had the Patriots not gotten away with that final touchdown play, the Saints would have won despite having controlled the ball for less than half of the game.

While the second quarter was the only one in which the Saints didn't score, the fourth quarter may have been the worst for the Saints offense.  Not only was their inability to gain a single first down on either of the last two drives of the game a significant factor in Brady having three opportunities to tie the game, even after Rob Ryan's squad prevented New England from gaining any first downs twice in a row during the final minutes, but the Saints gave up their only sack, their only interception, and their only fumble in the last quarter.  The fourth quarter also saw Sproles and Graham injured, causing a bit of concern for the two most productive members of the team.

Surprisingly, the performance of the offensive line was a bright spot for the team from New Orleans.  They did a good job of protecting Drew Brees from a solid New England defense, and managed to open up some holes for a decent performance by the running game.  Before getting too excited, fans must consider that the Patriots may have had less success with sacks and defending against the run... because they were focused on pass coverage.  The lack of success by the Saints passing game certainly supports this theory.  However, if the offensive line truly earned their success against New England, New Orleans may be well on its way to the kind of balanced offensive attack needed for regular postseason success.

Offense

TD’s

FG’s

Yards

1st Downs

3rd Down Conv

Sacked

Fmbl / Lost

Int

First Half

1

0

130

6

3/7 (43%)

0

0

0

Second Half

2

2/2

231

12

2/7 (29%)

1 (6 yds)

1/1

1

Total

3

2/2

361

20

5/14 (36%)

1 (6 yds)

1/1

1

The Saints offense scored more points against New England than any other team in the first six weeks of the season.  However, their inability to get a first down and burn out the clock at the end of the game gave Tom Brady three chances to win the game; and he eventually capitalized on the opportunities.

Defense
The Patriots were the first team to score more than eighteen points against the New Orleans Saints this season.  However, the loss does not fall squarely on the shoulders of the Saints defense.  Rob Ryan's squad managed to stop Tom Brady and Bill Belichick's offense multiple times at the end.  While it is true that Jabari Greer did give up the score at the end of the game, even on that play he had decent coverage.  It likely wouldn't have even been a factor if a blatant Patriots hold clothesline hadn't prevented Junior Galette from sacking Tom Brady.  Regardless of the leeway given the Patriots offensive line, their quarterback was sacked five times during his match against the Saints -- thanks to Curtis Lofton, Malcolm Jenkins (1.5), Ramon Humber (0.5), Cameron Jordan, and Tom Johnson -- and intercepted once, by Keenan Lewis.  This loss was not due to poor defense, so much as a case of Rob Ryan's squad not being able to save the offense yet again in the fourth quarter.

The Patriots gained almost as many first downs in the first half of the game as the twenty earned by the Bears during the entire Week 5 game.  However, the New Orleans defense managed to rack up four sacks in the first half, and only allowed the same number and percentage of third down conversions by New England as the Saints offense gained in the same half.  The Saints defense also did a very good job of keeping New England in check during the second half.

Defense

TD’s
allowed

FG’s
allowed

Yds
allowed

1st Downs
allowed

3rd Down Conv.
allowed

Sacks

Fumbles
Forced /Rec

Int

Points
Scored

First Half

2

1/1

232

18

3/7 (43%)

4 (28 yds)

1/0

0

0

Second Half

1

2/2

144

8

2/8 (25%)

1 (6 yds)

0

1

0

Total

3

3/3

376

26

5/15 (33%)

5 (34 yds)

1/0

1

0


The New Orleans gave up more points in Foxborough than they have all year, and seemed to be letting New England march down the field too easily in the first half.  However, they had a very solid overall performance against an elite NFL offense.

Passing
After a performance of 288 yards through the air against the Chicago Bears, the Saints had an even worse passing game against the Patriots.  Holding Drew Brees to 236 yards was quite an accomplishment for New England, especially considering that they managed to effectively shut down both Jimmy Graham (0 completions, of 6 targets) and Marques Colston (1 of 3, for 11 yards) for the entire game. On a positive note, Kenny Stills (3/3, 64 yds) and Travaris Cadet (1/1, 3 yds) each pulled in the first touchdowns of their careers.

Darren Sproles was the only player Brees targeted more than his favorite tight end, and #43 only managed to reel in half of his twelve targets (58 yds).  Running back Pierre Thomas (29 yds) and fullback Jed Collins (3 yds) each nabbed the only pass which came their way, and tight end Benjamin Watson (61 yds) completed three of the four passes Drew sent him.  Nick Toon (7 yds) only managed to complete one of his four targets, and Robert Meachem couldn't hold on to his only shot.

Colston Countdown: with only 11 yards against the Patriots, after only 15 receiving yards against the Bears, the Quiet Storm sits at 7,718 career receiving yards... trailing the all time Saints leader in receiving yards (Eric Martin, 7854) by 136 yards. While it was previously looking like the Saints were aiming for yet another record-breaking performance in front of the home crowd on October 27th, right now it seems as if any game in November could be a safe bet..

Passing

Yards

Attempts

Complete

Yds/Att

Int

Sacked

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

111

19

9 (47%)

5.8

0

0

6

1

Second Half

125

17

8 (47%)

7.4

1

1 (6 yds)

7

1

Total

236

36

17 (47%)

6.2

1

1 (6 yds)

13

2

Although the Saints had one more pass attempt in Week 6 than they had against the Bears, they only completed as many passes in Foxborough as they completed during the first half in Chicago.  With a few more weapons showing promise against the Patriots, hopefully Brees and Sean Payton will be able to return New Orleans to the elite level fans have come to expect of the passing game.

Rushing
Although the rushing game was lacking in the first half, the second half left a number of fans wondering if an improved rushing game could actually be a bright spot behind the dark cloud hanging over the end of the game.  Khiry Robinson (7 attempts, 53 yds, 7.6 ypc) scored the only rushing touchdown posted by the Saints, and had his best game since Week 3, when he posted 9.5 yards per carry (long of 21 yds) over four carries against the Cardinals.  Although Khiry is the only New Orleans 'back which has not been targeted for a pass, if he had good hands he could become one of the better running backs and return men the Saints have had in a while.  Even if he never becomes a receiving threat, however... if the rookie can stay healthy and hold on to the ball while continuing to post solid numbers, Mark Ingram may find himself joining Chris Ivory's sideline cycling club.

Drew Brees had the second longest rush of the game, when he scrambled for sixteen yards in the fourth quarter; though he also lost five yards when he tried to scramble on the last opportunity for New Orleans to close out the game.  So far, the hundred-million dollar quarterback has run for positive yardage every week this year, except for the game in Chicago.  For the second consecutive week, Pierre Thomas had the most carries, gaining 51 yards on eleven touches, for an average of 4.6 yards per carry.  He was also responsible for the only fumble by the Saints in Week 6, though it was due to being hit as he tried to lateral the ball during the kickoff return which ended the game.  Sproles added 15 yards over five carries (3.0 ypc) to his 58 receiving yards, maintaining his status as a rushing and receiving threat; and Jed Collins continued to make the fullback position valuable, posting a one-yard run in addition to his three-yard reception.

Rushing

Yards

Attempts

Yds/Carry

Longest Run

Fmbl / Lost

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

19

6

3.2

6 yds (D. Sproles)

0

0

0

Second Half

112

20

5.6

20 yds (K. Robinson)

1/1

7

1

Total

131

26

5.0

20 yards

1/1

7

1

The Saints rushed for almost twice as many yards against New England than they gained on the ground in Chicago; and they did it with two fewer attempts.  Although Khiry seems a bit one-dimensional for Sean Payton's offense, he does seem to be doing that one thing rather well so far.

Lagniappe: The Best and the Worst in the NFL

Who currently holds the best and worst ranks in the NFL in each category?


Best
(Current #1 Rank)

Worst
(Current #32 Rank)

Offense

Broncoshelmet_medium
Denver Broncos

Last week: Denver

Jaguarshelmet_medium
Jacksonville Jaguars

Last week: Jacksonville

Offense

Defense

Texanshelmet_medium
Houston Texans

Last week: Houston

Eagleshelmet_medium
Philadelphia Eagles (↓1)

Last week:  Washington (28)

Defense

Passing

Broncoshelmet_medium
Denver Broncos

Last week: Denver


Bucshelmet_medium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last week: Tampa Bay

Passing

Rushing

Eagleshelmet_medium
Philadelphia Eagles

Last week: Philadelphia

Jaguarshelmet_medium
Jacksonville Jaguars (↓2)

Last week: New York Giants (30)

Rushing

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