NFL Power Rankings 2013: New Orleans Saints Offense, Defense skirting Top 5

NFL Rankings after Week 14, for the NFC South - Jon Oliver

After a solid performance against one of the better teams in the conference, the New Orleans Saints may be one good game away from rejoining the ranks of the NFL's Top 5 in terms of both offense and defense. They are still the only team in the NFC with both offense and defense that are among the ten best in the league.

Current NFL Rankings: (NFC South)

his Week

Offense

Defense

Passing

Rushing

Saints

6

6 (1)

2 (1)

25 (↓2)

Falcons

13

26

6 (↓1)

30 (↓1)

Panthers

26 (↓2)

2

29 (↓2)

9

Buccaneers

31

13 (3)

31 (↓1)

21 (1)

With a strong showing in Week 14, the New Orleans Saints regained a bit of traction in the rankings.


Saintshelmet_medium New Orleans Saints (10-3):
After their worst game of the season, the New Orleans Saints bounced back strong at home against the Carolina Panthers. It was a game during which Drew Brees became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 50,000 yards within 183 games. He also became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 4,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons, and moved to within less than 900 yards from a record third consecutive 5,000-yard season (and fourth total).

A win against the Rams this week would guarantee New Orleans a berth in the playoffs, as would:
1. Saints tie + Cardinals or 49ers loss or tie
2. Cardinals loss + Cowboys or Eagles loss or tie
3. 49ers loss + Cardinals tie + Eagles loss or tie
4. 49ers loss + Cardinals tie + Cowboys loss or tie

However, without counting on the Jets and/or Falcons beating Carolina, the Saints must still either defeat the Panthers or both the Rams and Buccaneers to guarantee themselves the NFC South championship. To better understand the various paths to the playoffs for New Orleans, check out yesterday's article on the subject.

First, though, the Saints must focus on this Sunday's game. The St. Louis Rams have a passing attack and overall offense which are ranked almost equal to those of the Panthers. However, with a defense and rushing game that are much worse than Carolina's, the Rams should have a difficult time spoiling any postseason plans for New Orleans. With St. Louis out of playoff contention, they may not be playing with the same heart and desire as the Saints; though it's always difficult to know when a team will actually perform better without any real pressure on them to win.

[Current Rams Rankings: Offense - 27th; Defense - 19th; Passing - 26th; Rushing - 18th]

Falconshelmet_medium Atlanta Falcons (3-10):
A week after Atlanta managed to win a meaningless game against the Buffalo Bills (4-9), the Falcons managed to give the Green Bay Packers (6-6-1) their first win of the season since Aaron Rodgers cracked his collarbone. This Sunday afternoon, Atlanta hosts the Washington Redskins (3-10) in a match to determine which team will keep the worst record in the NFC.

As terrible as the Redskins have been this season, they are still ranked above the Falcons in three of the four categories. It's possible that Atlanta will try and give their fans a win at home; though the same fans which would heckle them over a loss would likely complain about the lesser draft pick resulting from a win. Will the fans actually show up to watch Atlanta play a game they have a chance of winning? Or will the Georgia dome look like the Redskins stadium did this past Sunday?

[Current Redskins Rankings: Offense - 9th; Defense - 22nd; Passing - 17th; Rushing - 2nd]

Panthershelmet_medium Carolina Panthers (9-4):
After an embarrassing prime-time loss in New Orleans, Carolina's postseason future ranges from winning the top seed in the NFC to missing the playoffs altogether. Of the nine games the Panthers have won this year, only the Niners, Patriots, and Dolphins have won more than five games going into Week 15; and the Dolphins were in the midst of turmoil when they lost to the Panthers. Carolina's luck doesn't change, either, with the Jets and Falcons making up two of the three remaining games for the Panthers. The only real challenge ahead should come when Carolina hosts the New Orleans Saints.

This weekend, they host another team with a losing record: the New York Jets (6-7), who have only managed to win one game on the road this season (against the Falcons). Given the home field advantage, and the importance of this game to their playoff hopes, the Panthers should be guaranteed a win against a Jets team whose playoff hopes are vanishing like the stain of breath upon a mirror.

[Current Jets Rankings: Offense - 30th; Defense - 11th; Passing - 30th; Rushing - 11th]

Bucshelmet_medium Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9):
After having their unexpected winning streak stamped out by the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay managed to win another home game this past weekend: against the Buffalo Bills (4-9). Although the Buccaneers are finding themselves capable of playing football just in time to spoil playoff hopes for the Niners or Saints, it is unlikely that they will pull off an upset when the San Francisco 49ers visit Tampa this weekend. San Francisco is actually worse than the Bills in passing, rushing, and total offense, but the elite Niners defense should certainly give the Bucs plenty of trouble.

[Current Niners Rankings: Offense - 28th; Defense - 4th; Passing - 32nd; Rushing - 6th]


Saints Week 14 Performance:
(Panthers 13, Saints 31)

Offense
(Time of Possession: CAR - 32:27, NO - 27:33)

Despite letting Carolina control the ball for five more minutes on Sunday than the Saints did, New Orleans thoroughly manhandled the Panthers. After getting off to a slow start, punting after only three plays on their first possession, the Saints racked up more yards in the first half than they managed in Seattle a week prior. The three first-half touchdowns largely secured the win before the break, and Sean Payton's squad seemed to focus on trying to add some more passing yards to their stats in the second half.

While the Saints would definitely be better off if they did not require a possession or more to get in gear for every game, the level of play which they displayed in the first half could take them deep into the postseason.

Offense

TD’s

FG’s

Yards

1st Downs

3rd Down Conv

Sacked

Fmbl / Lost

Int

First Half

3

0

247

16

3/4 (75%)

1 (0 yds)

0

0

Second Half

1

1/1

126

8

4/8 (50%)

1 (9yds)

1/0

0

Total

4

1/1

373

24

7/12 (58%)

2 (9 yds)

1/0

0

The New Orleans offense was in typical high-powered form throughout the game, against one of the best defenses in the NFL, and did not give up any turnovers.

Defense
The New Orleans defense was dominant throughout the game, holding Carolina to two field goals in the first quarter, and one touchdown in the second half. Although they did not create any turnovers, they kept constant pressure on Cam Newton and held Carolina to similar numbers in the air and on the ground.

Although Curtis Lofton and Malcolm Jenkins led the Saints defense in tackles, Kenny Vaccaro was a definite force for the New Orleans defense, repeatedly showing the Panthers just how physical he can be. In addition to making several tackles on defense and special teams, the rookie was quite rough with Panthers offensive players off of the line, without drawing any penalties.

Some of the best defensive plays came at the hands of Junior Galette, who sacked Cam Newton thrice, for 30 yards, and had Saints fans roaring when he mocked the quarterback's signature "Superman" move. Cameron Jordan added another two sacks, for 19 yards, and kept pressure on Carolina's Cam throughout the game.

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

0

2/2

110

7

4/8 (50%)

2 (19 yds)

0

0

0

Second Half

1

0/1

129

9

2/7 (29%)

3 (30 yds)

0

0

0

Total

1

2/3

239

16

6/15 (40%)

5 (49 yds)

0

0

0


The New Orleans defense had a solid game against a likely playoff contender, and may end the season as one of the NFL's Top Five squads.

Passing
With 313 passing yards,the New Orleans Saints had a solid passing performance against one of the best defenses in the league. Drew Brees completed passes to all nine of his intended receivers. Marques Colston was Drew's favorite target, and racked up 125 yards and 2 touchdowns on his 9 receptions (13 targets, long of 21). Jimmy Graham added another 2 touchdowns and 58 yards with 6 catches (11 targets, long of 22).

Pierre Thomas (4 receptions, 14 yds), Darren Sproles (3 rec, 23 yds) and Kenny Stills (2 rec, 22 yds) each caught every pass Brees sent their way; while Lance Moore caught 3 of his 4 intended passes, for 40 yards. Ben Watson (20 yds) and Jed Collins (4 yds) caught the only pass Drew sent each of them. And Robert Meachem, in addition to his one running play, managed to successfully complete one of his three targets, for seven yards.

Despite attempting the same number of passes in each half, the Saints had fewer completions, fewer yards, fewer first downs, and fewer touchdowns in the second half. While some might attribute this drop in production to halftime adjustments by the Panthers, the decision to abandon the run in the second half likely played a role in the decrease in passing production.

Brees Countdown: With 4,107 passing yards this season, Drew Brees is only 893 yards away from a record third consecutive season (and his fourth total) with at least 5,000 passing yards. St. Louis is giving up an average of 358 yards per game, while Carolina is allowing only 296 yards on average. If the Saints passing attack has average games over the next two weeks, that could leave them only 239 yards away from 5,000 yards when they host Tampa Bay. If the passing attack continues to perform at an elite level, Drew could pass the mark early in Week 17, before New Orleans sits most of the team's starters.

Passing

Yards

Attempts

Complete

Yds/Att

Int

Sacked

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

183

21

17 (81%)

8.7

0

1 (0 yds)

12

3

Second Half

130

21

13 (62%)

6.2

0

1 (9 yds)

7

1

Total

313

42

30 (71%)

7.5

0

2 (9 yds)

19

4

The Saints put up fewer passing yards in Seattle than they did in the first half of an unremarkable game in Atlanta the previous week.

Rushing
Darren Sproles grabbed the majority of the team's rushing yards by running for 38 yards on his only carry. Pierre Thomas had the most carries, and averaged 2 yards each over his 7 runs (14 yards total), and Mark Ingram added 4 yards in 3 runs (1.3 ypc). Khiry Robinson (6 yds), Robert Meachem (4 yds), and Jed Collins (0 yds) were each given one carry, and Drew Brees scrambled once for 4 yards.

Once the Saints pulled ahead with a good lead, New Orleans seemed to largely abandon the running game. This may have been because the passing game was working; or it may have been in an effort to rack up passing yards for Drew Brees. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, abandoning the run resulted in a much less impressive second half overall for the Saints offense.

Rushing

Yards

Attempts

Yds/Carry

Longest Run

Fmbl / Lost

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

64

8

8.0

38 yds (D. Sproles)

0

3

0

Second Half

6

7

0.9

5 yds (P. Thomas)

0

0

0

Total

70

15

4.7

38 yards

0

3

0

Despite some success with the run in the first half, the Saints seemed to eschew the ground game during the second half of the game, possibly with the intent of passing the 50,000 yard benchmark in front of the home crowd.

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

Seahawkshelmet_medium
Seattle Seahawks

Last week: Seattle

Cowboyshelmet_medium
Dallas Cowboys

Last week: Dallas

Defense

Passing

Broncoshelmet_medium
Denver Broncos

Last week: Denver

49ershelmet_medium
San Francisco 49ers (1)

Last week: Jets (30)

Passing

Rushing

Eagleshelmet_medium
Philadelphia Eagles (1)

Last week: Redskins (2)

Jaguarshelmet_medium
Jacksonville Jaguars

Last week: Jacksonville

Rushing

X
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