NFL Power Rankings 2013: the New Orleans Saints are On Fire!

NFL Rankings after Week 10, for the NFC South - Jon Oliver

The New Orleans Saints are on fire, and not in the way that might be used to describe a couple of their NFC South opponents. New Orleans delivered another powerful Sunday Night performance, breaking historical records for both the team and the NFL as a whole... and even carrying SNF to the top of the television ratings for the first time in weeks! Of course, they also climbed the NFL rankings in the process.

Current NFL Rankings: (NFC South)

This Week

Offense

Defense

Passing

Rushing

Saints

2 (5)

7(2)

2 (1)

23 (3)

Falcons

14 (↓2)

25 (↓4)

6 (↓1)

32

Panthers

20

2(1)

28 (↓3)

10 (↓2)

Buccaneers

31

14 (3)

30 (1)

14 (4)

With their incredible Week 10 blowout of the Dallas Cowboys, the New Orleans Saints improved in every possible area of the NFL rankings board. The Falcons -- on the other hand -- fell in every category except Rushing, where they already held the distinction of being the league's worst.


Saintshelmet_medium New Orleans Saints (7-2):
With another record-breaking game on Sunday Night Football, the New Orleans Saints have reminded the rest of the world why they are one of the best teams in the business. The Saints set a new NFL record by earning 40 first downs in a single game. They also set a franchise record by racking up 625 total yards in a regular-season game, which is also the most yards gained during regulation in a regular season by any team in the NFL since 1982... and the second-highest since the merger in 1970. And to top it off... after losing out to "The Walking Dead" for a couple of weeks prior, Sunday Night Football returned to the top of the ratings heap with significant help from the Who Dat Nation.

During their impressive 49-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys, the Saints overtook the Lions in passing yards to reclaim their No.2 rank; and a drastic improvement in rushing helped them vault over the Packers, Lions, Eagles, Redskins and Chargers in the rankings for total offense. New Orleans is now second only to the Denver Broncos in both passing yards and total offensive yards per game. Rob Ryan's squad also passed the Chiefs and Jets to further solidify their status as a Top Ten defense; though they are still just behind the Panthers (2), Seahawks (3), and 49ers (6) in the NFC.

This week, New Orleans hosts the San Francisco 49ers. Sean Payton has not lost a game in the Superdome since the 23-13 loss to Tampa Bay in Week 17 of the 2010 season. So when the 49ers step onto his turf Sunday afternoon, it will have been 1,050 days since the last time he was defeated at home. He'll be looking to add at least another three weeks to that total; and there's a good chance the 2013 Saints will be able to make that happen.

San Francisco's offense has generally performed worse than the Cowboys, largely due to having a terrible passing game this season. However, their exemplary rushing game could pose a serious threat to a Saints defense which has had trouble stopping the run. The 49ers defense is also much better than what New Orleans faced this past week, and has allowed almost exactly the same number of yards per game as the Saints have this year. While the Saints (3) are better than the 49ers (9) against the pass, San Francisco (12) has done better than New Orleans (23) against the run this year. With each team's defense being weaker against the other's particular brand of offense, it should be an interesting test for both Mark Ingram and the New Orleans run defense. However, the Black and Gold have a very good chance of coming out of this match with an 8-2 record, putting San Francisco further behind both the Saints and the Seahawks in the playoff race.

New Orleans has gained 324 fewer yards than Denver this season, in the same number of games; so overtaking the Broncos in the offensive rankings is not likely to happen anytime soon. However, with even a slightly better defensive performance than the 49ers this coming weekend, the Saints could easily push past San Francisco and Cleveland regain their Top Five rank in fewest yards allowed.

[Current 49ers Rankings: Offense - 22nd; Defense - 6th; Passing - 32nd; Rushing - 4th]

Falconshelmet_medium Atlanta Falcons (2-7):
The only thing stopping the Falcons from falling in every category this week was the fact that they were already dead last in rushing. For the third week in a row, the Atlanta Falcons maintain their claim on the worst running game in the NFL. This is likely cemented by the fact that they are hoping for the passing game to dig them out of another loss almost every weekend; but -- unfortunately for Atlanta -- Matt Ryan and his receiving corps aren't succeeding.

Those who believe in the power of patterns might look at the Falcons win-loss streaks this year (W,L,L,L,W,L,L,L), and say they are due for another win. The fact that the Falcons are playing the laughingstock of the NFL in Tampa this coming weekend could even give their fans some expectancy in that regard. However, with the Buccaneers pulling off an upset win against the Miami Dolphins (4-5) on Monday night, the Falcons may be tied for the worst record in the NFC (possibly even the league) when the dust settles from Week 11's games. Although I would expect the Falcons to win -- especially with loudmouth Roddy White returning from his injury -- even Vegas is wary of favoring Atlanta over the NFL's worst by more than a single point.

[Current Buccaneers Rankings: Offense - 31st; Defense - 14th; Passing - 30th; Rushing - 14th]

Panthershelmet_medium Carolina Panthers (6-3):
Considering their previous victories came over the poorly-performing Giants, Vikings, Rams, Buccaneers and Falcons, the Carolina Panthers have finally managed to beat a respectable team in Week 10. To the chagrin of quite a few Saints fans, Carolina won in San Francisco, keeping them only one game behind the Saints for the NFC South title. It is quite likely that the New England Patriots (7-2) will put an end to their 5-win streak this coming Monday night, however. If the Panthers have a chance of catching New Orleans this season, it's not likely to happen this week. And if both games play out as expected, Cam Newton should find himself two games behind Drew Brees, as we head into the last six matches of the season.

[Current Patriots Rankings: Offense - 12th; Defense - 21st; Passing - 18th; Rushing - 8th]

Bucshelmet_medium Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8):
Anyone who thought that Tampa Bay couldn't be any more of a circus... couldn't have envisioned the Buccaneers being on the same field as last week's Miami Dolphins, which had just been fitted for their own three-ring tent. Bucs fans may feel like they just won the Super Bowl, and might be licking their chops in anticipation of hosting the flailing Atlanta Falcons. However, despite finally getting a win, Tampa Bay continues to pair a mediocre defense with the NFL's second-worst offense. Much can be said for momentum, confidence, and home-field advantage; and Tampa Bay may actually be in better shape than Atlanta in those three categories. But that doesn't mean they will be able to completely shut down Matt Ryan. Neither team can really be trusted to do anything right this year; so their game may be one of the least impressive on an early Sunday afternoon that includes snooze fests like Cardinals@Jaguars and Raiders@Texans.

[Current Falcons Rankings: Offense - 14th; Defense - 25th; Passing - 6th; Rushing - 32nd]


Saints Week 10 Performance:
(Saints 49, Cowboys 17)

Offense
(Time of Possession: NO - 39:32, DAL - 20:28)

The New Orleans Saints had their best performance during a game in which they controlled the ball almost twice as much as their opponent. Those who would point to this as proof that winning is a direct result of ToP, however, might be surprised by where some teams fall in the ToP rankings this year: particularly Seattle (15th, 30:06 avg), San Francisco (16th, 29:59 avg), Denver (19th, 29:36 avg) and New England (25th, 29:02 avg). New Orleans currently has the second-best average Time of Possession this year (33:38), behind only the Carolina Panthers (33:47).

The worst performance for the New Orleans offense on Sunday Night might have been when Mark Ingram dropped a pass on third down, forcing Thomas Morstead to punt the ball to the Cowboys for the first and only time. The running back made up for it, however, with significant contributions towards the 625 yards New Orleans piled up. No team has ever racked up more yards against Dallas in the history of the Cowboys franchise.

Having accumulated 40 first downs in less than 40 minutes of play time, the New Orleans Saints averaged a first down for every 59 seconds of offense. That's quite impressive, especially when one considers the 45-second play clock, and how infrequently the game clock was stopped. And with 80 offensive plays, the Saints offense averaged a first down on every other play. They also almost doubled the 43 snaps taken by the Cowboys. On their second possession of the second half, New Orleans drove the ball down the field 92 yards in seven plays... each of which was a first down.

The biggest flaw for the Saints offensive corps actually came on a special teams play. After returning from the previous week's concussion, the reliable running back Darren Sproles muffed an early punt return; and the resulting fumble recovery by the Cowboys marked the only turnover of the game. Although New Orleans has still turned the ball over fewer times than any other team in the NFC, their +5 turnover differential is slipping down the rankings.

Perhaps no sight was more troubling for the Saints and their fans than seeing Drew Brees lying on the ground after taking a solid hit from Demarcus Ware on the touchdown throw to Pierre Thomas. Despite Ware getting past Charles Brown and Josh Hill on that play, and getting plenty of pressure on Brees throughout the game, the Saints quarterback had nothing but glowing praise for the offensive line after a game in which he only took one sack (9 yds) and three hits.

Offense

TD’s

FG’s

Yards

1st Downs

3rd Down Conv

Sacked

Fmbl / Lost

Int

First Half

4

0

320

21

6/7 (86%)

1 (9 yds)

1/1

0

Second Half

3

0/1

305

19

3/5 (60%)

0

0

0

Total

7

0/1

625

40

9/12 (75%)

1 (9 yds)

1/1

0

The Saints offense was quite succinctly described by Drew Brees after the game: "Today was an extremely efficient day on offense -- both in the pass and the run."

Defense
What could be a better endorsement of your current job performance, than a public statement of regret from the man who fired you? After the game on Sunday night, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones acknowledged that firing Rob Ryan this past February may not have been the best idea. "We thought it best for us to go in the direction that we are, and it doesn't look good right now," may be the best words Rob Ryan could hope to hear from the mouth of his former employer. If someone embroidered that sentence on one side of a pillowcase -- and brought it to Ms. Mae's after the 49ers game this weekend -- I wouldn't be surprised if the defensive coordinator debated on whether to keep it on his pillow at the facility, or have it waiting for his long silver locks at home.

Nine was the unlucky number of the week for the Dallas Cowboys. They only managed nine first downs throughout the entire game. They only gained nine positive yards on each of their first two possessions. Dallas did not convert a single third down, despite nine attempts. Romo only had nine pass attempts in the first half. And the Cowboys were unable to gain even a single first down on nine of their twelve possessions. Conversely, the Saints successfully converted nine of their third downs; and Drew Brees averaged just over nine yards per passing attempt over the course of the game, while successfully completing passes to nine different receivers. The Cowboys have lost 8 of their last 9 games against the New Orleans Saints.

Were it not for a muffed punt giving Dallas the ball a mere 22 yards from the end zone, the Saints defense would have held the visitors to two scores. As it is, Rob Ryan's new squad still only allowed four yards (after a 5-yard False Start penalty) and a field goal on that possession, even despite having to defend a short field immediately after having already held the Cowboys to their first 3-and-out, of seven total for the evening. By the end of the game, the New Orleans Saints defense had held the Cowboys to 100 yards or less in each of the two halves, and only allowed Dallas to take 43 offensive snaps. Of those snaps, Tony Romo passed 24 times, and only had 10 completions for 128 yards.

Keenan Lewis was matched up against Dez Bryant for the majority of the game, and largely won that battle as he held the Cowboys star receiver to one reception, for 44 yards. ILB's Ramon Humber and Curtis Lofton led the New Orleans defense with four tackles each, followed by Safety Kenny Vaccaro, who tallied three tackles before suffering another concussion when he took a knee to his helmet. DE's Glenn Foster and Tom Johnson each managed to sack Tony Romo, as did OLB Parys Haralson. On special teams, Humber tallied another tackle; and ILB Will Herring added two tackles to the one tackle and two assists he tallied on defense.

Despite their overall impressive performance, the Saints could still use some work on stopping the run. Although the Cowboys have the fifth-worst running game in the NFL, running back Demarco Murray managed to average 5.6 yards per carry for the Cowboys, gaining 89 yards and a touchdown in sixteen rushing attempts. New Orleans will face some much tougher rushing squads in the coming weeks, as the Seahawks (2nd), 49ers (4th), and Panthers (10th) all have Top Ten ground games. The Saints have already lost to the Jets (8th) and Patriots (9th), though they did manage to defeat the Bills (7th)... as well as the Raiders (5th) in preseason.

Rob Ryan's squad also failed to produce any turnovers for the second consecutive game. If they are going to be serious contenders in the playoffs, they need to start winning the turnover battle once again.

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

1/1

100

4

0/4 (0%)

0 (0 yds)

0

0

0

Second Half

1

0

93

5

0/5 (0%)

3 (24 yds)

0

0

0

Total

2

1/1

193

9

0/9 (0%)

3 (24 yds)

0

0

0


The New Orleans defense performed extremely well at home against the Cowboys, despite not creating any turnovers.

Passing
With one of his most flawless performances,
Drew Brees completed ten more passes than Tony Romo attempted on Sunday night, and passed Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to take fourth place in the race for the most touchdown passes of all time. Despite Charles Brown failing to properly protect the Saints quarterback from Cowboys DE Demarcus Ware, Brees remained mobile and was able to complete 34 of 41 pass attempts, for 392 yards and four touchdowns.

Drew managed to complete at least one pass to each of his nine targets, including seven completions each to Marques Colston (8 targets, 107 yds, 1 TD), Darren Sproles (7 targets, 76 yds, 1 TD), and Pierre Thomas (7 targets, 24 yds, 1 TD). Jimmy Graham caught all five of his targets, for 59 yards, and Kenny Stills caught three of the four balls Drew tossed his way, for 75 yards... including a 52-yard touchdown, the longest reception of the game. Mark Ingram finally got involved in the passing game, catching two passes (15 yds) and dropping one. And Brees managed to connect once each with Robert Meachem (1 target, 17 yds), Lance Moore (2 targets, 14 yds), and Benjamin Watson (3 targets, 5 yds).

Colston Countdown: After a few slow games and a week off of the active roster, the Quiet Storm returned to top form in Week 10, fighting his way to the end zone late in the first quarter to grab the first touchdown of the game. His 107 receiving yards put him at 7,843 career receiving yards... bringing him to within 11 yards of the all-time Saints leader in receiving yards (Eric Martin, 7854). Fully aware of the impending record, New Orleans stopped throwing to him at the beginning of the fourth quarter, meaning they are certainly looking forward to the great esprit de corps boost which will accompany setting another record against their tough Week 11 opponent. As I predicted early in the season, the Saints saved the record for the home crowd, which should be fired up when Colin Kaepernick and his crew visit the Superdome this coming Sunday.

Passing

Yards

Attempts

Complete

Yds/Att

Int

Sacked

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

252

30

26 (87%)

8.4

0

1 (9 yds)

15

3

Second Half

140

11

8 (73%)

12.7

0

0

5

1

Total

392

41

34 (83%)

9.6

0

1 (9 yds)

20

4

Although the Saints only passed for ten more yards against the Cowboys than they gained against the Jets a week prior, they did so with ten fewer attempts; and the end result of the Week 10 game was much different.

Rushing
Perhaps the biggest difference in the explosive New Orleans offense was the advent of gaudy rushing numbers by Saints running backs. Mark Ingram (10.4 ypc) tallied a career-high 145 yards on the ground, on only 14 carries, while Pierre Thomas (5.1 ypc) gained 87 yards on 17 carries. Add another 12 yards on 5 carries (2.4 ypc) by Darren Sproles, and the Saints running backs chalked up 244 yards on the ground. Subtract two yards for two Luke McCown kneel-downs to end the game, and the 242 total rushing yards are the most the Saints have gained on the ground since a 249-yard performance against the Bengals in 1990.

Not only did the Saints gain 15 first downs on the ground -- compared to 20 in the air -- but each of the three running backs scored one rushing touchdown. Add the one passing touchdown each by Sproles and Thomas, and the New Orleans running back corps accounted for five touchdowns... enough to win most NFL games.

It was rare for fullback Jed Collins to not be used even once as a receiver or a ball carrier; but he was still a key player in the Saints win over Dallas. The fullback was used quite successfully as a blocker, not only in the passing game, but in clearing running lanes for Mark Ingram to follow and use to great effect. Although the Saints are unlikely to have their way with another team quite as freely as they did with Dallas, hopefully they will have continued success by providing their passing game with a dangerously complimentary running threat. And hopefully Khiry Robinson will use his time on the inactive roster to improve his own running, receiving and blocking abilities, in order to provide the team with quality relief, should one of the primary backs become unable to perform.

Rushing

Yards

Attempts

Yds/Carry

Longest Run

Fmbl / Lost

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

77

15

5.1

13 yds (M. Ingram)

0

4

1

Second Half

166

21

7.9

34 yds (M. Ingram)

0

11

2

Total

244

36

6.8

34 yards

0

15

3

Mark Ingram gained over three times as many yards against Dallas than the combined Saints rushers managed against the Jets. It will be interesting to see whether or not New Orleans can be as successful with the run against some of the teams remaining on the schedule, who tend to pair quality running games with great run-stopping ability.

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

Cowboyshelmet_medium
Dallas Cowboys (↓1)

Last week: Philadelphia (31)

Defense

Passing

Broncoshelmet_medium
Denver Broncos

Last week: Denver

49ershelmet_medium
San Francisco 49ers

Last week: San Francisco

Passing

Rushing

Eagleshelmet_medium
Philadelphia Eagles (2)

Last week: San Francisco (4)

Falconshelmet_medium
Atlanta Falcons

Last week: Atlanta

Rushing

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