NFL Power Rankings 2013: Saints Passing game remains No.1 in NFC

With another performance by the best passing game in the NFC, and a defense which hasn't allowed more than eighteen points by any opponent, the New Orleans Saints remains the only undefeated team in the conference. Here we review how the Saints fared this past week, how the rest of the NFC South compares, and who currently stands as the best and worst of the NFL.

Current Rankings: (NFC South)

This Week

Offense

Defense

Passing

Rushing

Saints

4

12 (↓6)

2

26 (↓1)

Falcons

6 (↑1)

18 (↑7)

3 (1)

25 (↓2)

Panthers

24 (↑2)

3 (↑7)

30 (↑2)

7 (↓4)

Buccaneers

31

13 (↓1)

32 (↓1)

18 (↑2)

The New Orleans Saints continue to feature the highest-ranked passing attack in the NFC. Defensively, however, they slipped several points in the NFL rankings during a week in which a third of the teams couldn't break over twenty points.  Overall, the Saints maintain a solid grip over the NFC South, in both rankings and the playoff standings.



Saintshelmet_medium New Orleans Saints (5-0):
As the only team in the NFC South to post a win once again, the New Orleans Saints remain the only undefeated team in the entire NFC.  Although the New Orleans defense has allowed the fourth fewest points per game this season (behind the Chiefs, Patriots, and Panthers), allowing the Chicago Bears to gain over 400 yards on the sloppy Soldier Field resulted in the Saints dropping several points in the NFL Rankings, which are based on yards allowed per game.  As long as they remain more than four games ahead of their NFC South rivals, however, few are likely to disparage their overall performance.

This coming week, the Saints head to Massachusetts to face the New England Patriots.  While the Saints were slugging it out with the Bears, Tom Brady was being stripped of both his undefeated season and his chances of surpassing the record Drew Brees set last year of 54 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass.  After losing to the Cincinnati Bengals, Belichik will likely return Gronkowski to active playing status in hopes of bouncing back from the two-field-goal performance in this past Sunday's loss.  Despite the possible impact of the elite tight end, New Orleans should have a very real chance of overcoming the gambling odds and heading into their bye week undefeated.

[Current Patriots Rankings: Offense - 18th; Defense - 16th; Passing - 21st; Rushing - 14th]

Falconshelmet_medium Atlanta Falcons (1-4):
While some may have incorrectly picked several weeks during which the Falcons simply couldn't lose this year, there is still one week for which that remains true.  Although they won't be getting any closer to the playoffs -- even if the Saints fall to the Patriots in Boston -- at least Atlanta will be spared one week without a disappointing loss.  The Falcons have failed to come away with a win from nine of the last ten times they have suited up, having won by one touchdown when the Rams (1-3) visited Atlanta in the second week of this season. Sunday night's loss to the New York Jets kept them firmly behind the Panthers (1-3) in the standings.

After losing at home two weeks in a row on national television (Sunday night against the Patriots and this past Monday night against the Jets), the Atlanta Falcons are taking this week off.  When they return from their bye week, Mike Smith and Matt Ryan will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Although it should be an easy win against the worst passing game in the NFL, the way the Falcons have been playing when games are on the line gives no assurances.  Add the possible loss of Julio Jones for the season, and at least Tony Gonzales won't have to worry about going one-and-done in the postseason yet again.  The playoffs are practically a pipe dream for the Falcons right now.  While some 100-million dollar quarterbacks seem to make guys off the street look like pro bowl receivers, Matt Ryan loses a bit of his luster when he doesn't have his all-star supporting cast intact.

[Current Bucs Rankings: Offense - 24th; Defense - 3rd; Passing - 30th; Rushing - 7th]

Panthershelmet_medium Carolina Panthers (1-3):
After being held to only six points by the Arizona Cardinals in Phoenix this past Sunday, the Carolina Panthers head to Minnesota to take on an equally unimpressive Vikings team.  If they hope to stay ahead of the Falcons in the standings, the Panthers need to regain some of their mojo from their Week 3 shellacking of the New York Giants.  Although the Vikings have a better offense than the Cardinals, their defense is one of the worst in the league; so Cam Newton may have a real chance of getting his second win of the season in Week 6.

[Current Vikings Rankings: Offense - 15th; Defense - 30th; Passing - 23rd; Rushing - 10th]

Bucshelmet_medium Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4):
After taking a week off, Tampa Bay will try for their first win of the season when they host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.  Having watched their team replace the New York Jets as the biggest circus in the NFL, Buccaneers fans can only hope their team manages to get things flowing a little better with Mike Glennon under center. Philadelphia's terrible defense should be a relief for the rookie Buccaneers quarterback, who has nowhere to go but up with the worst-ranked passing game in the NFL.  Schiano likely hopes to point to a decent offensive performance as evidence that he made the right decision regarding Josh Freeman, even if Tampa Bay's defense finds itself shredded by the best running game in the league.

[Current Eagles Rankings: Offense - 2nd; Defense - 31st; Passing - 11th; Rushing - 1st]


Last Week's Performance:
(Saints 26, Bears 18)

Having taken a look at where the Saints currently stand, and what this week holds for the NFC South, let's take a look at what happened last week to affect our team's rankings in each of the four categories.
(Time of Possession: NO - 36:00, CHI - 24:00)

Offense
New Orleans currently leads the NFL in time of possession this season, controlling the ball an average of 34:37 through each of five 60-minute games this season.  In fact, the Saints have controlled the ball this year more than any other team has since the 2001 Pittsburgh Steelers (average ToP - 34:44).  Although this may be surprising, considering how much the Saints rely on the passing game, it is a testament both to how the defense has been getting the other team off of the field, and how well the Saints offense has been protecting the ball.

Not only did the Saints win the turnover battle once again this past week, but they stopped the clock with incomplete passes only six times out of thirty-five passes from Drew Brees.  The 83% completion rate, especially when paired with the Saints running the ball 28 times, means that less than ten percent of the Saints offensive plays ended with the ball hitting the ground and stopping the clock.

Although the running game still leaves much to be desired, Pierre Thomas was on display in his home town, where he always seems to perform well.  Like the previous week, the offense allowed two sacks on Brees -- this time for losses of five yards in the first quarter, and two yards in the second.  They also did an excellent job protecting the ball, and didn't give up any turnovers, despite the wet conditions and Chicago's best efforts.  However, their third down conversion rate was abysmal in the first half; and they only managed to come away with a field goal after the defense recovered a Cutler fumble and gave them the ball six yards from the end zone.

Offense

TD’s

FG’s

Yards

1st Downs

3rd Down Conv

Sacked

Fmbl / Lost

Int

First Half

2

2/2

222

10

1/6 (17%)

2 (7 yds)

0

0

Second Half

0

2/2

125

7

5/10 (50%)

0

0

0

Total

2

4/4

347

17

6/16 (38%)

2 (7 yds)

0

0

All in all, it was a good win, though the Saints left enough on the field to hopefully keep them focused on improving as they move forward.  They are going to need all of their focus for a tough game in Foxborough this Sunday afternoon.

Defense
Contrary to the game against Miami, where the defense buckled down and stifled their opponent in the second half, the Saints defense allowed more yards in the second half this week than they've allowed in any other half this year.  The defense also failed to produce any sacks or turnovers during the second half of the game.  They also seemed to be playing softer defense towards the end of the halves, as 233 of the 434 total yards the defense allowed were gained by the Bears in the last 5 minutes of each half.

That said, the Saints haven't allowed any team to score more than eighteen points against them all year.  The team that brought the Lombardi trophy home to New Orleans allowed more points in all but four of their sixteen games during the 2009 regular season.  So as long as they keep producing at or above the level they have shown this year, the Saints have a very real chance at being postseason contenders.

Kenny Vaccaro, Malcolm Jenkins, and David Hawthorne each managed to sack Jay Cutler; and Cameron Jordan recovered a fumble which Jenkins forced on a sack.  Curtis Lofton led the defense with eight tackles and one assist, followed by six tackles from Vaccaro, five from Jabari Greer, and four from Hawthorne.  Even though Junior Galette had a quiet day on the stats sheet, he did manage a tackle and a couple of hits on Cutler.

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

1

0

181

9

2/6 (33%)

3 (18 yds)

2/1

0

0

Second Half

1

1/1

253

11

2/4 (50%)

0

0

0

0

Total

2

1/1

434

20

4/10 (40%)

3 (18 yds)

2/1

0

0


Although the Saints defense only grabbed one turnover in Chicago, and allowed more yards than they have in any other game this year, they continue to put up impressive performances and have prevented opponents from scoring more than eighteen points thus far.

Passing
The 288 yards the Saints gained through the air were not only markedly short of last week's 400+ yard performance, but prevented Drew Brees from extending his record streak to 11 games with over 300 passing yards.  He was likely not too upset about that one, however, when he discovered that the Bengals stopped the Patriots from making it to the end zone during the same three-hour stretch, ending Tom Brady's streak of consecutive games with a touchdown... two short of Drew's NFL record of 54.

Jimmy Graham was once again the leading receiver for the Saints, and his ten receptions (of 11 targets) for 135 yards was enough to keep him as the leading receiver in the NFL this year.  Sproles (3, 31 yds), Colston (2, 15 yds), and Toon (1, 35 yds) each caught every pass which came their way; and even fullback Jed Collins got in on the action, catching four of his five targets for seventeen yards.  Benjamin Watson, Kenny Stills and Robert Meachem were unable to successfully complete any receptions.

While Drew has been under-throwing Kenny Stills quite a bit this year, the rookie disappointed no one perhaps more than himself when he dropped one pass which hit him in the hands midway through the fourth quarter.  He also failed to come down with his other target, thanks to some very good double coverage in the end zone; but that play was immediately followed by a touchdown pass to Pierre Thomas on the next play.

Pierre Thomas was given plenty of opportunities to shine in his home town, supplementing his rushing game by catching all nine of the passes slung his way, for 55 yards and both New Orleans touchdowns.  Robert Meachem should have had a touchdown reception in the first half, but his defender managed to get away without getting flagged for some clear pass interference the one time Brees targeted Meachem.

Colston Countdown: with 15 receiving yards against the Bears, the Quiet Storm sits at 7,707 career receiving yards... trailing the all time Saints leader in receiving yards (Eric Martin, 7854) by 147 yards.  It's looking like the Saints are saving yet another record-breaking performance for the home crowd, as he will likely set the record when the Saints host the Bills in the Superdome on October 27th.

Passing

Yards

Attempts

Complete

Yds/Att

Int

Sacked

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

195

20

17 (85%)

9.8

0

2 (7 yds)

8

2

Second Half

93

15

12 (80%)

6.2

0

0

3

0

Total

288

35

29 (83%)

8.2

0

2 (7 yds)

11

2

Although the Bears largely prevented New Orleans from having much success with the long game, the Saints managed to drive the ball down the field well enough to rake in a couple of touchdowns and four field goals. 

Rushing
The 34 yards over 11 carries (3.1 ypc) in the first half was an improvement over the 10 yards gained in the first 8 carries (1.3 ypc) against the Dolphins.  However, at the end of the day, the Saints had gained two fewer rushing yards despite four more carries than they tallied in Week 4.  Four of their 28 running plays resulted in tackles for a loss, totaling eleven negative yards.

With Payton still trying to mix up the run game, fullback Jed Collins was asked to carry the rock for the first time of the season.  In addition to being targeted for several passes, he had the highest average of the Saints 'backs in Chicago, gaining 11 yards on his three carries (3.7 ypc).  Darren Sproles (10 yds, 3.3 ypc) and Khiry Robinson (9 yds, 3 ypc) also ran the ball three times each.  Though Pierre Thomas had the longest run in each half, and had more than twice as many attempts running the ball than the other three combined, the 36 yards he gained on 19 carries (1.9 ypc) resulted in the lowest average of the four New Orleans rushers.  For the first time in three games, Drew Brees did not run the ball.

While some people pointed to the relative success of the running game against the Cardinals (104 yards, 24 attempts, 4.3 ypc) as proof that Mark Ingram was the bane of the New Orleans running game, their limited rushing success has dropped off in each of the two following games.  Despite the sharp decline they had against Miami (68 yds, 24 att, 2.8 ypc), their performance in Chicago (66 yards, 28 att, 2.4 ypc) was even less successful.  New Orleans has been less successful running the ball in each of the last two games than they were against Atlanta (78 yds, 29 att, 2.7 ypc) and in Tampa Bay (75 yds, 20 att, 3.8 ypc).

That said, though Khiry still has not been targeted for a pass, his 9.5 ypc (4 attempts, long 21), 3.1 ypc (12 att, lg 11), and 3 ypc (3 att, lg 8) over the last three games have been better than Mark Ingram's 1.2 ypc (9 att, lg 11) against Atlanta, and 2.5 ypc (8 att, lg 8) in Tampa Bay.

Rushing

Yards

Attempts

Yds/Carry

Longest Run

Fmbl / Lost

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

34

11

3.1

9 yds (P. Thomas)

0

2

0

Second Half

32

17

1.9

12 yds (P. Thomas)

0

3

0

Total

66

28

2.4

12 yards

0

5

0

Although Jimmy Graham and Nick Toon each had single receptions which garnered more yards than the Saints managed to accumulate on the ground in either quarter, the fact that Sean Payton still ran the ball over 44% of the time shows some amount of continued dedication to the run game.

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

Redskinshelmet_medium
Washington Redskins (↓1)

Last week: Philadelphia (31)

Defense

Passing

Broncoshelmet_medium
Denver Broncos

Last week: Denver


Bucshelmet_medium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (↓1)

Last week: Carolina (30)

Passing

Rushing

Eagleshelmet_medium
Philadelphia Eagles

Last week: Philadelphia

Giantshelmet_medium
New York Giants (↓2)

Last week: St. Louis (29)

Rushing

More from Canal Street Chronicles:

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Canal Street Chronicles

You must be a member of Canal Street Chronicles to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Canal Street Chronicles. You should read them.

Join Canal Street Chronicles

You must be a member of Canal Street Chronicles to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Canal Street Chronicles. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker