NFL Power Rankings 2013: Saints maintain Top Passing Game in NFC

Coming off of their bye week, the Saints maintain the best passing game and the No.4 defense in the NFC. Here we review how the rest of the NFC South compares, and who currently stands as the best and worst of the NFL as we look towards the coming week's games.

Current NFL Rankings: (NFC South)

This Week

Offense

Defense

Passing

Rushing

Saints

6 (↓1)

11 (1)

2 (1)

22 (1)

Falcons

9 (↓1)

20 (↓1)

3 (↓1)

30 (↓4)

Panthers

23 (↓2)

3

28 (↓1)

7

Buccaneers

31

13 (3)

29 (3)

20

After a game against the league-worst Jacksonville Jaguars, the San Diego Chargers bumped the Saints out of the Top Five in the offensive rankings. However, with the best passing game in the NFC, and the fourth-best defense in the NFC, the Saints remain firmly in control of the NFC South.


Saintshelmet_medium New Orleans Saints (5-1):
After having their game against the Patriots taken from them by shoddy refereeing, including several clearly incorrect and game-changing calls, the Saints have hopefully used their bye week to get healthy and work out some of the kinks that are keeping them from complete dominance this year.

In the NFC, only Seattle (6-1) currently has a better record than New Orleans, while only Seattle and Chicago have a better turnover differential (+7) than the Saints (+5). The Saints have the best passing game in the conference, though the running games of the Packers, Eagles, and Redskins boost their offenses' total yardage over that of New Orleans. Defensively, Seattle, Carolina, and San Francisco are the only three teams in the NFC with a higher ranking, while the Saints continue to skirt the Top Ten in the league. New Orleans also currently has the best punting game in the NFC, with Thomas Morstead averaging 46.9 yards per punt... needing to overcome only Miami's Brandon Fields to regain the NFL's top spot.

Coming off of their bye week for Week 8, New Orleans hosts the Buffalo Bills (3-4), who managed to beat a Miami Dolphins team which hasn't won a game since the Saints handed them their first loss of the season in Week 4. Currently dominating the Bills in every category except rushing, the Saints should be able to get some positive momentum in the Superdome, before heading to a slightly chilly game on the Jets home turf. With Buffalo allowing the fifth most rushing yards per game in the NFL, Sean Payton may take this opportunity to rest some of the banged-up receiving corps while letting Ingram have one final chance to battle it out with Khiry Robinson.

[Current Buffalo Rankings: Offense - 18th; Defense - 24th; Passing - 30th; Rushing - 5th]

Falconshelmet_medium Atlanta Falcons (2-4):
Finally winning their second game of the year, against one of the only two teams in the NFL which have lost to everyone they've faced, the Falcons are hardly mentioned by broadcasters anymore. Had Tampa Bay managed to not shoot themselves in the foot -- after gaining a first down only five yards from the end zone late in the game -- Atlanta would currently be tied at the bottom of the division, and one of the worst of the NFC. Regardless, the win might be enough of a boost to give them some momentum when they travel to face off against the Arizona Cardinals (3-4) late Sunday afternoon.

The Falcons are currently ranked higher in both passing and overall offense than the Cardinals, the Arizona defense and rushing game are slightly better than Atlanta's. Still, by the numbers, Matt Ryan should be able to come away with a win, if they can play a full four quarters this coming Sunday. If they don't manage a win this week, there is a decent chance that the Falcons will not win again until they face the Buccaneers a second time, in Week 11. Either way, it would not be surprising if Atlanta only manages a .500 record -- or close to it -- by the end of this season.

[Current Arizona Rankings: Offense - 29th; Defense - 16th; Passing - 17th; Rushing - 26th]

Panthershelmet_medium Carolina Panthers (3-3):
Coming into the season with the only schedule more difficult than the Saints, the Carolina Panthers have achieved convincing wins over the Giants, Vikings, and Rams... each of which have losing records this season. They likely expect to continue their dominance of bad teams when they head in to Tampa Bay this Thursday night; though they may find themselves falling to a trap game, as the Buccaneers play very tough against division opponents. That said, the Panthers are currently ranked higher than Tampa Bay in every category, and the Carolina defense has allowed the third fewest yards in the league. It will definitely be a tough matchup for rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, who has looked better than expected since taking over for Josh Freeman. If Carolina takes this divisional matchup seriously, they should finally have a winning record -- for the first time since the 2008 season -- as they maintain their lead over the Falcons for the second place in the NFC South, behind the Saints.

[Current Tampa Bay Rankings: Offense - 31st; Defense - 13th; Passing - 29th; Rushing - 20th]

Bucshelmet_medium Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6):
The Buccaneers retain their status as the NFL's circus. Although Schiano no doubt took some measure of satisfaction from Josh Freeman's first loss as a Viking on Monday night, the performance of a young quarterback thrown into the fire without time to learn an already-questionable offense vindicates none of the Tampa Bay coach's actions this season.

The Bucs have faced the worst defense in the NFL (Eagles) in Week 6, and yet they still lost. The Bucs faced the Jets at their worst, and yet Tampa Bay still lost. The last three teams the Bucs have faced have losing records, and yet Schiano's team can't mange to scrape a win. Even against a depleted Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay blew its chance at a comeback by acquiring 25 yards in penalties on a first-and-goal which began five yards from the end zone. If Schiano has done anything well this year, it has been distracting everyone from the team's issues away from the field... by delivering such a poor product on the field that nobody is interested in hearing about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His best chance for a win right now may be if the Panthers -- who themselves have only beaten bad teams -- are about as worried about facing the Bucs as they are about contracting MRSA in Tampa Bay.

[Current Panthers Rankings: Offense - 23rd; Defense - 3rd; Passing - 28th; Rushing - 7th]


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

[rehash]

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

Last week: Philadelphia

Defense

Passing

Broncoshelmet_medium
Denver Broncos

Last week: Denver


Raidershelmet_medium

Oakland Raiders (↓1)

Last week: Tampa Bay (29)

Passing

Rushing

Eagleshelmet_medium
Philadelphia Eagles

Last week: Philadelphia

Jaguarshelmet_medium
Jacksonville Jaguars

Last week: Jacksonville

Rushing

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