NFL Power Rankings 2013: New Orleans Saints have Top 5 Offense and Defense

NFL Rankings after Week 11, for the NFC South - Jon Oliver

The New Orleans Saints are the only team in the NFL to sport an offense and a defense which are both in the Top 5, and the only team in the NFC with an offense and a defense which are both in the Top 10. For a team that is performing so well, games have been far too close. Will the rest of the Saints season look more like their game against the Cowboys or the Niners?

Current NFL Rankings: (NFC South)

This Week

Offense

Defense

Passing

Rushing

Saints

2

4 (3)

2

23

Falcons

14

26 (↓1)

6

31 (1)

Panthers

22 (↓2)

3 (↓1)

28

10

Buccaneers

28 (3)

15 (↓1)

30

13 (1)

After their Week 11 win over the San Francisco 49ers, the New Orleans Saints leaped past the Niners -- as well as the Bengals and Browns -- in the defensive rankings. They are now ranked as the No.4 defense in the NFL, which is a dangerous compliment to the No.2 Saints offense.


Saintshelmet_medium New Orleans Saints (8-2):
Following their win over the San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said that the game was not as close as the score would suggest. It would be tough to disagree; as -- other than a couple of critical errors -- New Orleans dominated San Francisco on both offense and defense.

However, two self-induced turnovers turned what should have been a blowout into a four-quarter nail biter. The first was a muffed punt reception by Lance Moore at the 11-yard line, which gave San Francisco a short field for a touchdown. The second came when Saints rookie Corey White fumbled the ball, providing an unfortunate end to his excellent interception return. The fumble, which came only a yard shy of the end zone, sent the ball out of bounds in the end zone, returning possession to San Francisco with a touchback instead of a Saints touchdown.

After holding the 49ers to under 200 total yards, New Orleans ranks No.4 defensively, behind only the Texans, Seahawks, and Panthers. Offensively, they continue to trail only the Denver Broncos in passing yards and total offense, while maintaining their No.23 league-wide rushing rank.

This week, the Saints travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons on their home turf. Having beaten their rivals in the season opener, New Orleans hopes to sweep Atlanta with another win this Thursday night. Not only could losing to the flailing Falcons (2-8) be demoralizing, but New Orleans needs the win in order to stay in contention with the Seahawks (10-1) for the No.1 seed, and keep Carolina (7-3) in its rear view mirror for the Division Championship.

[Current Falcons Rankings: Offense - 14th; Defense - 26th; Passing - 6th; Rushing - 31st]

Falconshelmet_medium Atlanta Falcons (2-8):
After losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Falcons defense slipped another place in the rankings; though their rushing game managed to barely climb out of the dubious distinction of being the NFL's worst. Much more significantly, the Falcons now have the second-worst record in the NFL, behind the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9), and tied with the Buccaneers, Vikings and Texans. Atlanta's only two wins have come at home, against the Bucs and the Rams (4-6).

It will be interesting to see whether or not Roddy White is his typical trash-talking self this week, as the Falcons doubtlessly hope to hurt the chances of the Saints winning the top seed in the NFC, if not the division. Games in Atlanta can always be tough for the Saints, who have been suffering a number of injuries lately. But if New Orleans stays focused, and if the black and gold don't shoot themselves in their collective foot, Mike Smith should fall to a 2-8 record against Sean Payton... who would then have a 12-2 record against Atlanta since coming to New Orleans.

[Current Saints Rankings: Offense - 2nd; Defense - 4th; Passing - 2nd; Rushing - 23rd]

Panthershelmet_medium Carolina Panthers (7-3):
With a controversial close win, after the referees redacted a last-second penalty on a Brady touchdown pass attempt to Gronkowski, the Panthers stay only one win behind the New Orleans Saints. While their first five previous victories came over the poorly-performing Giants, Vikings, Rams, Buccaneers and Falcons, the Carolina Panthers have now managed to beat the 49ers and Patriots. Now that they are starting to gain a little bit of respect, the Panthers travel to take on a Miami Dolphins team that is currently shaky, at best. Although the Dolphins managed to defeat the Chargers (4-6) this weekend, they are unlikely to slow Carolina down before the Panthers host the Buccaneers.

If Miami does manage to turn the tables on Cam Newton, the Panthers will undoubtedly lose some of the love they've been getting from the media lately. However, there is a real chance that Carolina will be tied with the Saints when those teams face off in three weeks.

[Current Dolphins Rankings: Offense - 31st; Defense - 21st; Passing - 20th; Rushing - 24th]

Bucshelmet_medium Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8):
Tampa Bay has managed to pull off another win, beating Atlanta 28-41 on Sunday afternoon. Looking ahead, it's possible that they could win a couple more games. Even though it's still mathematically possible for them to make the playoffs, however, there is virtually no chance of that happening. Is Schiano trying to break even this season; and if so, will they follow their next loss by simply losing out for a high draft pick? Unlikely. Tampa Bay's head coach will no doubt try to gain as many wins as possible. If his job is already lost, there is no reason for him to aim for a better draft pick. And if there is a chance of him returning, it will only be with a powerful showing through the second half of the season.

First, however, his team must travel to Detroit to take on the Lions (6-4). Not only is Detroit better than Atlanta in every category, but the Bucs will not have the advantage which can accompany playing at home. This game will be a good test of whether or not Tampa Bay is finally getting its act together, or whether it simply managed to take advantage of a couple of teams in shambles.

[Current Lions Rankings: Offense - 4th; Defense - 25th; Passing - 3rd; Rushing - 21st]


Saints Week 10 Performance:
(Niners 20, Saints 23)

Offense
(Time of Possession: NO - 34:29, SF - 25:31)

The New Orleans Saints have moved past the Carolina Panthers to lead the NFL in average Time of Possession (ToP). In similarly meaningful news, Ray Lewis went on an insipidly myopic rant after the Saints beat the 49ers this past weekend.

While the Saints performed significantly better than Kaepernick's squad this weekend, three turnovers kept the game close. Only one of those was the fault of the offense, though Lance Moore did lose the ball on special teams. For the second week in a row, a member of the Saints offense muffed a punt. This time, Moore gave San Francisco the ball only 11 yards away from the end zone. The second turnover came from cornerback Corey White fumbling the ball after his interception; while the third was a Drew Brees interception.

Although the offensive performance returned to earth after their match against the Cowboys, it was still a solid showing against one of the best defenses in the NFL. Even though Drew Brees took a vicious hit above the shoulders -- one that could have seriously injured one of the league's premier quarterbacks -- the fact that the Niners defense only managed to sack him the one time is a testament to the improved protection of the offensive squad. If they can continue to provide solid protection, and if the Saints can eliminate some of the careless turnovers, New Orleans should be a dangerous team in the playoffs.

Offense

TD’s

FG’s

Yards

1st Downs

3rd Down Conv

Sacked

Fmbl / Lost

Int

First Half

2

0

143

10

2/5 (40%)

0

2/2

0

Second Half

0

3/3

244

13

4/9 (44%)

1 (10 yds)

1/0

1

Total

2

3/3

387

23

6/14 (43%)

1 (10 yds)

3/2

1

The Saints offense had an average performance by recent standards; though they impressively did so against one of the top defenses in the NFL.

Defense
Despite repeatedly having to return to (or remain on) the field after turnovers, the Saints defense continued to fight a tough battle. They allowed only 3 more yards than they Dallas managed a week prior. And San Francisco scored 17 of their 20 total points off of New Orleans turnovers. With all of that taken into account, it's easy to agree with Sean Payton's assertion that the game was not nearly as close as the score would indicate.

David Hawthorne led the Saints with 6 tackles, and 2 assists. Akiem Hicks, Junior Galette, and Cameron Jordan each managed to sack Kaepernick, while Jordan managed to get three hits on the Niners quarterback. Unfortunately, Rob Ryan's squad was not effective in the turnover battle. Although cornerback Corey White managed to get the first Saints interception in weeks, he gave the ball back to San Francisco when he fumbled the ball into -- and out of -- the end zone while trying to reach for a touchdown.

Despite the multiple New Orleans turnovers, the Saints defense performed admirably, and was able to secure a win by getting Kaepernick off of the field. Following Garrett Hartley's first field goal (21 yds) in the fourth quarter, the defense held San Francisco to three-and-out twice... allowing two more Hartley field goals to tie (42 yds), and then win (31 yds) the game for New Orleans.

Perhaps the worst moment for the New Orleans Saints defense came on a deflected pass by Jabari Greer in the first quarter. As the cornerback landed, his knee snapped sideways, resulting in a torn ACL. Although the 10-year veteran seemed to be in good spirits as he waved to the fans while being carted off of the field, it may have been a final farewell gesture from one of the team's valuable defenders.

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

117

7

3/9 (33%)

2 (3 yds)

0

1

0

Second Half

1

1/1

79

5

3/6 (50%)

1 (9 yds)

1/0

0

0

Total

2

2/2

196

12

6/15 (40%)

3 (12 yds)

1/0

1

0


The New Orleans defense performed very well at home against the Niners, sealing a win despite the multiple New Orleans turnovers.

Passing
Despite accumulating relatively few yards in the first half, particularly by Drew Brees standards, the New Orleans quarterback managed to complete receptions to all eleven of his Week 11 targets. Even injured, Jimmy Graham was Drew's favorite target, though the dynamic duo completed only 6 of their 11 passes, for 41 yards (long of 13). Marques Colston caught 5 of his 8 targets, for 80 yards (long of 23), and set two franchise records in the process. Lance Moore caught 3 of his four targets, for 23 yards (long 16); though his muffed punt had a much larger impact on the game.

Rookie tight end Joshua Hill did miss one of his two targets -- as did Kenny Stills and Mark Ingram -- but came through when it mattered, as he pulled in the only Saints passing touchdown of the day. Pierre Thomas (5 rec, 35 yds, long of 10) , Darren Sproles (4 rec, 19 yds, long of 8) , and Robert Meachem (2 rec, 78 yds, long of 44) each caught every ball Brees threw their way, as did Nick Toon and Jed Collins (1 each).

The one time San Francisco managed to intercept Brees was the result of an athletic tip-and-catch by linebacker Ahmad Brooks, on a pass which could have been thrown a bit higher to Graham. Drew also fumbled the ball once, on the brutal sack by Brooks; but the illegal nature of the hit gave the Saints the ball, in addition to fifteen yards and a first down.

Colston Countdown: After returning to form in Weeks 10 and 11, the Quiet Storm has become the all-time leading receiver in every category for the New Orleans Saints. His 80 yards against San Francisco put him at 7,923 career receiving yards... which is 69 yards more than the former all-time Saints leader in receiving yards (Eric Martin, 7854). With 7,930 total yards from scrimmage, he also passed Martin's previous record of 7,865. After setting these two records against the Niners, Colston is now the Saints' all-time franchise leader in receiving yards, yards from scrimmage, receiving touchdowns, total touchdowns, and total receptions. He also holds the NFL record for the most receptions in history (168) for any player's first two seasons.

Passing

Yards

Attempts

Complete

Yds/Att

Int

Sacked

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

97

17

12 (71%)

5.7

0

0

5

1

Second Half

208

26

18 (69%)

8.0

1

1 (10 yds)

10

0

Total

305

43

30 (70%)

7.1

1

1 (10 yds)

15

1

Although it wasn't the mind-boggling performance they had against the Cowboys, the Saints receiving corps performed very well against a tough San Francisco defense.

Rushing
Although the Saints fumbled the ball three times, with two of them resulting in turnovers, none of the fumbles were the result of the rushing game, nor even by a Saints running back. And while their rushing numbers were not overly impressive, they reflect a solid performance against an elite run defense.

With Mark Ingram performing well for the second week in a row, all three New Orleans primary running backs averaged over four yards per carry (YPC). In addition to his five receptions, Pierre Thomas had the most runs (11 att, 49 yds), averaging 4.5 ypc with a long of 10 yards. Despite suffering another injury during the game, Darren Sproles added to his four receptions by running three times for the most yards per carry (5.3) of any Saints 'back. Mark Ingram made an appearance in the passing game, but his impact on the ground came in the form of 25 yards over six attempts (4.2 ypc), including a 15-yard break. Fullback Jed Collins, in addition to catching his one dump-off from Brees, was also asked to carry the ball twice... adding three yards and the only rushing touchdown for New Orleans.

Although Travaris Cadet wasn't used as a rusher nor receiver against San Francisco, the fourth-string running back had a huge impact, when his 82-yard kickoff return gave the Saints a short field for their second touchdown near the end of the first half.

Rushing

Yards

Attempts

Yds/Carry

Longest Run

Fmbl / Lost

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

47

8

5.9

15 yds (M. Ingram)

0

4

1

Second Half

46

14

3.8

7 yds (D. Sproles)

0

2

0

Total

93

22

4.2

15 yards

0

6

1

There were a few plays which could have gone for more yardage, but overall the Saints had another solid rushing performance... and this time, against an elite run defense.

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

Last week: Dallas

Defense

Passing

Broncoshelmet_medium
Denver Broncos

Last week: Denver

49ershelmet_medium
San Francisco 49ers

Last week: San Francisco

Passing

Rushing

Redskinshelmet_medium
Washington Redskins (↑2)

Last week: Philadelphia Eagles (2)

Jaguarshelmet_medium
Jacksonville Jaguars
(↓1)

Last week: Atlanta (31)

Rushing

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