NFL Power Rankings 2013: Saints field Top 10 Defense, Offense

NFL Rankings after Week 9, for the NFC South - Jon Oliver

While the Atlanta Falcons continue to sport the worst rushing game in the NFL, their rivals in New Orleans are among the NFL's best in terms of both offense and defense, as well as overall standings.

Current NFL Rankings: (NFC South)

his Week

Offense

Defense

Passing

Rushing

Saints

7 (↓1)

9 (3)

3

26 (↓1)

Falcons

12 (↓1)

21 (1)

5 (↓1)

32

Panthers

20 (2)

3

25 (4)

8

Buccaneers

31

17 (↓3)

31 (↓5)

18 (3)

Despite losing to the Jets, New Orleans stands among the Top Ten league-wide in both offense and defense. Meanwhile, Atlanta has the worst rushing game in the NFL for a second consecutive week, while Tampa Bay continues to sport the second-worst offense in the league.


Saintshelmet_medium New Orleans Saints (6-2):

After their 35-17 rout of the Buffalo Bills in Week 8, the Saints were not pleased with their own performance, which included multiple penalties, wasted timeouts, sacks, and missed field goals. One week later: penalties, wasted timeouts, sacks and a missed field goal contributed to their 20-26 loss at the hands of the New York Jets. Although the Redskins managed to overtake them in the rankings for offensive yardage gained, the Saints climbed back into the Top Ten defensively... only trailing the Seahawks, Panthers and 49ers in the NFC.

With two interceptions, and no takeaways, the Saints have fallen to a +6 turnover differential. Athough nobody in the NFC has given the ball away fewer times than New Orleans, plenty of teams are scoring more takeaways than the fifteen garnered by the Saints defense thus far. The Dallas Cowboys, who travel to New Orleans this week, lead the NFC in both takeaways (21) and overall turnover differential (+10).

This week's episode of Sunday Night Football will pit two NFC Division leaders against each other, as the Cowboys (5-4) currently lead the NFC East. Both teams have records of 3-2 over the past five weeks, are among the best in the NFC in terms of turnover differential, and have had comparable success in running the ball this year. However, the Saints have been more successful on offense this year, and have a much better defense than the Cowboys... who were ranked last in the NFL a week ago. Even though New Orleans was expected to beat the Jets last week, the crowd in MetLife Stadium seemed to affect the Saints at times. This Sunday night, the home-team advantage should work in their favor, solidifying a Saints win against the Dallas Cowboys.

[Current Cowboys Rankings: Offense - 17th; Defense - 31st; Passing - 9th; Rushing - 27th]

Falconshelmet_medium Atlanta Falcons (2-6):
While the Atlanta Falcons quickly went from "the team to beat in the NFC" to another year of "second fiddle to the Saints," they haven't widely been considered worse than the Carolina Panthers. After their 10-34 loss in Carolina, however, Atlanta seems to be solidifying "thank goodness for Tampa Bay" as their motto for the 2013 season. An unlikely win against the Seahawks could regain them some amount of respectability, though it would do much more for a New Orleans team that has fallen one loss behind Seattle in the race for the NFC's top seed. Even those Saints fans who could not bring themselves to pull for Atlanta against the Panthers should be hoping for a Falcons win this weekend. The Seahawks are a better team than the Panthers, overall; but their past couple of games may have exposed some chinks in their armor for the Falcons to exploit at home this Sunday.

[Current Seattle Rankings: Offense - 13th; Defense - 2nd; Passing - 27th; Rushing - 5th]

Panthershelmet_medium Carolina Panthers (5-3):
Last week, Carolina added yet again to the list of poorly-performing teams it has beaten. The Panthers have now achieved convincing wins over the Giants, Vikings, Rams, Buccaneers, and Falcons. Although they managed to pull within one game of the Saints with a win over Atlanta, this week they head to San Francisco. Many Saints fans find themselves looking forward to the loss the Panthers will likely suffer at the hands of the 49ers. However, looking at the schedules ahead for each team, a Panthers win on Sunday should help New Orleans in the long run. Despite the recent run of Carolina wins, New Orleans should have a solid lead over the division at the end of the season, and will likely face San Francisco and/or Seattle in the playoffs. Any Saints fan less interested in immediate gratification than long-term success should be hoping for any result which makes the road to the Super Bowl lead through the Crescent City.

So while a Carolina win is unlikely this weekend, it could help the Saints almost as much as a Falcons win against Seattle. For that to happen, however, the Panthers will need to change gears. While last week they faced the worst rushing game in the NFL, and a Top Five passing game, this week they face the best rushing game in the league, paired with a league-worst passing game. The No.6 defense Cam Newton will face in San Francisco is also a big change from the poor defense the Falcons have sported this year.

[Current San Francisco Rankings: Offense - 16th; Defense - 6th; Passing - 32nd; Rushing - 1st]

Bucshelmet_medium Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8):
The Buccaneers are officially the worst team in the NFL. While their record is no worse than the Jaguars, at least everyone expected Jacksonville to do poorly in a rebuilding year. Tampa Bay gave its fans hope, and then pulled the rug out from under everyone who thought the Buccaneers could accomplish something this year. After surprising the Seahawks with an early 21-7 lead in Seattle this past weekend, the Buccaneers were outscored 3-17 in the second half, and lost the game in overtime. If the Buccaneers are going to win one game this year, it will likely be the meaningless game against the Dolphins this coming Monday night.

[Current Dolphins Rankings: Offense - 28th; Defense - 23rd; Passing - 21st; Rushing - 22nd]


Saints Week 9 Performance:
(Saints 20, Jets 26)

Offense
(Time of Possession: NO - 29:32, BUF - 30:28)

Had the New Orleans Saints managed to convert their final third down, they likely would have won the Time of Possession battle. Would doing so have equated to a win? There's no way to know. However, for the second time this season, the Saints controlled the ball for less than half of the game; and for the second time, they lost said game.

The loss of Darren Sproles to a concussion on the first possession of the game really threw a wrench into the game plan for New Orleans. Sproles was exactly the sort of weapon that could have given the Saints a win against the Jets, and his absence had a huge impact on the game. Not only was he not available as a player who could move the ball down the field effectively; but Brees found himself under pressure more than he would have, had his favorite release valve been on the field with him throughout the game.

The Saints really couldn't get anything going offensively in the second half, and were only able to convert one of their seven third downs into a first down. The Jets managed to hold New Orleans to two field goals in the second half, in which Hartley mostly redeemed the one he missed in the first half. They also traded the two first-half interceptions for two second-half sacks, one of which produced a Brees fumble, which was recovered by Jimmy Graham.

Aside from the drops and interceptions, perhaps the most discouraging aspect of the Saints offense was the fact that they had to burn all three timeouts in the first quarter, and still had a delay of game penalty coming off of one of those timeouts. The crowd noise was indeed loud, hitting near 100 decibels on several occasions while Drew was trying to get his squad on track, but the multiple game delays and wasted timeouts hurt the Saints both tactically and mentally.

Offense

TD’s

FG’s

Yards

1st Downs

3rd Down Conv

Sacked

Fmbl / Lost

Int

First Half

2

0/1

245

12

2/4 (50%)

0

0

2

Second Half

0

2/2

162

11

1/7 (14%)

2 (16 yds)

1/0

0

Total

2

2/3

407

23

3/11 (27%)

2 (16 yds)

1/0

2

The Saints offense seemed to be affected by crowd noise from the beginning, and were unable to accomplish much of anything in the second half of the game. Had one or two plays happened differently, the Saints would have been victorious; but the Jets defense earned their Week 9 win over the Saints.

Defense
The Jets were only the second team this year to post more than eighteen points against New Orleans; and almost half of their 26 points came from four field goals. The Saints defense was able to hold them to 140 passing yards, though the home team was able to post 198 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Even with the New Orleans offense giving up two interceptions in the first half, Rob Ryan's defense fought hard and was able to keep their team in the game throughout the entire match. They simply couldn't overcome the turnovers and lack of production on the offensive side of the ball.

The first time New Orleans gave up an interception, it was on their third play of the drive. The defense -- which had just forced a Jets punt -- returned to the field, and managed to hold the Jets to a field goal. The second interception came on the second play of another Saints drive; and a defense which had already fought through two long Jets drives in the second quarter had to retake the field, and gave up a Jets touchdown. The Saints defense gave up way too many yards to the Jets running game; though the offense didn't give them much time to rest, before asking them to go back out and stop their opponent again.

Unfortunately, the Saints defense was unable to create any turnovers, and did not seem to have as much success with the blitz as Rob Ryan undoubtedly had hoped. David Hawthorne and Junior Galette each managed to tally one sack, though neither was for a loss of yardage. Although there are several areas in which the defense could have improved, their performance was enough to elevate them back into the ranks of the Top Ten defenses in the NFL. Had the offense performed as has become expected of the Saints, the defense should have been able to seal the win for New Orleans.

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

2/2

221

11

2/6 (33%)

1 (0 yds)

0

0

0

Second Half

0

2/2

117

3

2/8 (25%)

1 (0 yds)

0

0

0

Total

2

4/4

338

14

4/14 (29%)

2 (0 yds)

0

0

0


The New Orleans defense performed fairly well on the road against the Jets, though not quite well enough to reel in a win for the Saints. Had they been able to create any turnovers, the black and gold could have emerged victorious.

Passing
Drew Brees and his squad seemed to have a great deal of trouble clicking, throughout the game. Early on, Drew had to waste all three of the Saints first-half timeouts, and still managed to be called for delay-of-game penalties. His receivers had trouble catching the ball, and tipped a couple of interceptions right into Jets hands in the first half. And in the second half, Brees managed to avoid interceptions -- with his one interception being called back due to defensive holding -- and delay-of-game penalties, but was sacked twice.

Drew Brees passed for over 300 yards for the second game in a row this past Sunday. In New Jersey, Jimmy Graham led the Saints in targets (12), receptions (9), and receiving yards (116) against the Jets, and scored both of the team's touchdowns. The star tight end also had the second-longest reception (51yds) behind Robert Meachem (60yds), whose 93 yards on four receptions (of 5 targets) accounted for the second-most yards gained by any Saints player on Sunday. Running back Pierre Thomas (7 rec, 66 yds) and receiver Lance Moore (6 rec, 70 yds) were each targeted ten times by Brees. Kenny Stills added 35 yards on his three receptions (of 5 targets); and Sproles gained two receiving yards on the one play which knocked him out of the game. Despite Drew Brees targeting eleven different players, five of them were unable to reel the ball in. Most notable of these was Nick Toon, who failed to make anything of his four targets. Tight ends Ben Watson and Josh Hill, running back Mark Ingram, and fullback Jed Collins were each targeted once, to no avail.

Colston Countdown: After having three games with significantly declining performances, the Quiet Storm was kept inactive for the Week 9 game against the Jets. Currently sitting at 7,736 career receiving yards... Colston trails the all-time Saints leader in receiving yards (Eric Martin, 7854) by 118 yards. Even if he returns to his previous productivity, he is unlikely to set the record in Week 10; but the Saints will likely attempt to help him set another record in the Superdome, either against San Francisco or later this season.

Passing

Yards

Attempts

Complete

Yds/Att

Int

Sacked

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

230

23

15 (65%)

10.0

2

0

10

2

Second Half

152

28

15 (54%)

5.4

0

2 (16 yds)

6

0

Total

382

51

30 (59%)

7.5

0

2 (16 yds)

16

2

Although the Saints passed for fifty more yards against the Jets than they gained against the Bills a week prior, the end result of the Week 9 game was much different.

Rushing
While the twenty-three rushing attempts against the Bills in Week 8 was a sharp decline from previous weeks, the Saints dropped even further in Week 9. New Orleans ran the ball only twelve times against the New York Jets, gaining only 42 yards on the ground throughout the entire game.

After Khiry Robinson's unimpressive performance (7att, 9yds, 1.3ypc) against the Bills in Week 8, the Saints benched him in favor of returning Mark Ingram to service. Although Ingram performed fairly well in his limited rushes, he was only asked to carry the ball four times, and gained nineteen yards (4.8ypc, long of 13). Brees also threw the ball near Ingram's feet once, to avoid a sack; there wasn't anything Mark could have done to make a play out of that one. Pierre Thomas gained 24 yards on six rushing attempts (4.0ypc, long of 9), and was one of the team's top receivers. Jed Collins picked up seven yards on his one carry which wasn't erased by a Rex Ryan timeout, and Josh Hill lost eight yards on a fourth down double-reverse with one yard to go. Darren Sproles was undoubtedly a big part of the Saints game plan against the Jets, and was sorely missed after suffering a concussion on the third play of the game.

Rushing

Yards

Attempts

Yds/Carry

Longest Run

Fmbl / Lost

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

16

5

3.2

7 yds (J. Collins)

0

1

0

Second Half

26

7

3.7

13 yds (M. Ingram)

1/0

3

0

Total

42

12

3.5

13 yards

1/0

4

0

The Saints did not perform poorly against the Jets run defense; they simply ran the ball fewer times than they ran it in any other game this season. If Mark Ingram can maintain his same level of performance over the course of a greater load, perhaps Sean Payton will be able to start running the ball more to balance out the New Orleans offense.

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: Dallas (31)

Defense

Passing

Broncoshelmet_medium
Denver Broncos

Last week: Denver

49ershelmet_medium
San Francisco 49ers (↓1)

Last week: Oakland (30)

Passing

Rushing

49ershelmet_medium
San Francisco 49ers

Last week: San Francisco

Falconshelmet_medium
Atlanta Falcons

Last week: Atlanta

Rushing

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