NFL Power Rankings: New Orleans Saints Maintain Top 5 Defense

One week ago, the New Orleans Saints had the highest-ranked defense in the entire NFL, and led the NFC South in passing, rushing, total offense and defense. This week, the Saints still lead their division in three of the four categories, and are ranked No. 2 in the entire NFL in both their passing attack and their overall defense.

Regardless of how you feel about the NFL preseason, it never hurts to know how your team's performance thus far compares to the rest of the league. Unless, perhaps, you're a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs... who currently rank dead last in passing, rushing, and total offense. While some may point to KC's low rankings as an excuse for the Saints having such a high showing thus far, jazzed up Saints fans might argue that the Chiefs have simply been stuffed by the No. 1 and No. 2 defenses in the NFL. There is certainly worse company to have, in terms of defense, than San Francisco right now.

Current Rankings: (NFC South)

This Week

Offense

Defense

Passing

Rushing

Saints

6

2 (↓1)

2 (↑1)

16 (↓4)

Falcons

11 (↑16)

22 (↑6)

12 (↑12)

7 (↑12)

Panthers

22 (↓4)

23 (↓9)

18 (↑1)

26 (↓9)

Buccaneers

18 (↑7)

27 (↓6)

24 (↓2)

10 (↑15)

Despite a slight slip on the part of the Saints, and significant improvements by the Falcons and the Buccaneers, New Orleans continues to stand strong atop the NFC South rankings.
Saintshelmet_medium New Orleans Saints (2-0):
As the only team in the NFC South who won last week, New Orleans played well enough against the Oakland Raiders to maintain a firm grip at the top of their division. However, their running game struggles caused the Saints to not only drop out of the top five in rushing, but to fall below both the Falcons and the Buccaneers in the rankings for that area. This coming week, the Saints travel to play the Houston Texans, who are currently ranked 1st and 2nd NFL-wide in passing and total offense, respectively. It should be a real test for the Black and Gold, in the most important game of the preseason. We can only hope the Texans won't be trying to maim anyone this week, though at least Antonio Smith won't be there to assault anyone else with their own helmet.
[Current Texans Rankings: Offense - 2nd; Defense - 4th; Passing - 1st; Rushing - 9th]

Falconshelmet_medium Atlanta Falcons (0-2):
Atlanta improved their rankings in all four areas despite their loss against the Baltimore Ravens last week. Although some might think the Falcons improved against a good team, it may come as a surprise that the defending Super Bowl Champions are currently ranked near or below No. 20 in all four categories. This coming week, the Falcons take on the Titans, who hold similar rankings to Atlanta across the board, except for having the 2nd worst-ranked defense in the NFL right now. Falcons fans should expect to see Atlanta continue to climb the board in all offensive categories this week.
[Current Titans Rankings: Offense - 12th; Defense - 31st; Passing - 14th; Rushing - 6th]

Panthershelmet_medium Carolina Panthers (1-1):
Carolina slipped in three of the four categories when they traveled to Philadelphia, while keeping almost the same rank league-wide with their passing game against one of the league's worst-ranked defenses (28th). This week, the Panthers follow in the Dirty Birds footsteps and head to Baltimore, whose current rankings are not much different than their own.
[Current Ravens Rankings: Offense - 19th; Defense - 24th; Passing - 21st; Rushing - 21st]

Bucshelmet_medium Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2):
Tampa Bay's 158 Rushing yards against the 30th-ranked Patriots defense rocketed the Buccaneers up the charts past half the league. Despite only putting up 160 passing yards and slipping two notches in the passing ratings from their trip to Boston, this vast improvement in the Bucs rushing ranking unsurprisingly accompanied a significant jump in overall offense. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's own defensive ranking slipped a few notches against the top-five Patriots offense, currently holding the league's No. 2 rushing spot. This week, the Buccaneers hop over to Miami to enjoy Incognito's winning personality and test their running game against a defense that's ranked significantly higher than Tampa's right now. If everyone weren't going to be resting their starters in week 4, this game might give us a bit of a preview for what to expect when the Saints head to South Florida next week.
[Current Dolphins Rankings: Offense - 17th; Defense - 14th; Passing - 19th; Rushing - 17th]

Last Week's Performance:
(Saints 28, Raiders 20)

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.

Offense
New Orleans posted 369 yards in 65 plays throughout the course of the game, averaging 5.7 yards per play and putting 26 points on the board via 2 TD's and 4 Field Goals. While earning 23 first downs, the Saints converted 5 of 12 (42%) on third downs, and were prevented from getting a touchdown the one time they went for it on fourth down.

For those who are only interested in the first team... in the first half, Sean and Drew's offense converted 2 of their 5 third downs, while earning 14 first downs on their way to racking up 240 yards. The first team also scored almost all of the offensive points with 2 TD's out of 4 trips to the red zone, and making all 3 Field Goal attempts in the first half (including a 53-yarder). In the second half, Seneca Wallace was sacked for a loss twice and fumbled the ball on a third sack near the Saints goal line to give the Raiders a defensive touchdown. The only offensive score by the Saints in the second half was when Hartley chipped a 28 yard FG in with less than 3 minutes of game time remaining.

Offense

TD’s

FG’s

Yards

1st Downs

3rd Down Conv

Sacked

Fmbl / Lost

Int

First Half

2

3/3

240

14

2/5 (40%)

0

0

0

Second Half

0

1/1

129

9

3/7 (43%)

2 (17 yds)

3 / 2

1

Total

2

4/4

369

23

5/12 (42%)

2 (17 yds)

3 / 2

1

Despite the abysmal second half performance, the first team's performance against the average NFL defense (16th after the Saints game) was good enough to keep the Saints at the #6 rank in the NFL Offensively. The current top 5 ranked offenses are: Bengals, Texans, Eagles, Bills, Patriots. It is unlikely that the Saints will climb the chart in this category while playing against the Texans top-5 defense this week.

Defense
The New Orleans Saints defense performed fairly well last week, with sacks by Humber and Harper in the first half and two sacks credited to Glenn Foster in the second half. One of those sacks came near the end of the game, when referees made an indisputable error in calling a fumble (forced by Foster, recovered by Dion Turner) down by contact. On the next play, an interception by Jim Leonhard effectively ended the game with about a minute remaining on the clock. The only TD the Raiders scored in the second half was off of a fumble by Seneca Wallace. On the other end of the field, the New Orleans defense stepped up to carry the offense (say what?) when they followed up the Saints' failed fourth-and-goal attempt by stuffing the run twice... scoring a safety the second time. Oakland was lucky to have that second chance, since their ball carrier was pushed backwards over the white line as he dropped to the ground on the first attempt to get out of the end zone. Perhaps the refs felt sorry for Oakland by the fourth quarter; or perhaps their minds were already on hitting the French Quarter.

Defense

TD’s

FG’s

Yds

1st Downs

3rd Down Conv

Sacks

FF / FR

Int

Pts.

First Half

1

0

130

6

3/8 (38%)

2 (13 yds)

0

0

0

Second Half

1

2/2

55

4

2/7 (43%)

2 (14 yds)

1 / 0

1

2

Total

2

2/2

185

10

5/15 (33%)

4 (27 yds)

1 / 0

1

2

Despite their good showing against the Raiders, the Saints defense slipped to the #2 spot in the NFL. San Francisco lept to the top spot against the Kansas City Chiefs, whose only touchdown came on a 104-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. Although the 49'ers defense allowed the Chiefs 170 yards -- only 15 less than the Saints allowed Oakland, and 45 less than we allowed the Chiefs in our new Defense's debut -- San Francisco did rack up 7 sacks this weekend. The Saints have grabbed 4 sacks in each of our first two games so far.

Passing
The first team offense carved up the Raiders fairly well, with the passing game gaining over 80% of the Saints' positive yardage in the first half and punctuating a 5-minute, 78-yard drive with a touchdown pass for which Kenny Stills displayed impressive poise and skill. Seneca Wallace earned his release from the team with his third quarter performance, as the only Saints QB to get sacked (twice for 17 yards, and once for a fumble), the only Saints QB to throw an interception, and the only Saints QB without any scoring drives. Wallace managed to throw the ball six times, connecting twice with Parker (total 30 yards), once with Cadet for 2 yards, and once with O. Gaithers of the Oakland Raiders. Ryan Griffin had a significantly better performance, completing five of his six pass attempts for 69 yards.

Passing

Yards

Attempts

Complete

Yds/Att

Int

Sacked

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

202

18

14 (78%)

11.2

0

0

10

1

Second Half

84

12

8 (67%)

7

1

2 (17 yds)

5

0

Total

286

30

22 (73%)

9.5

1

2 (17 yds)

15

1

Despite the dismal third quarter, everyone involved in the passing game whose name isn't Seneca Wallace managed to put on a solid enough performance to bump the Saints passing game over the Saint Louis Rams to the #2 rank in the NFL. The only team currently ranked higher than New Orleans is the Houston Texans, so hopefully the Saints will put on enough of a show against the No. 4 defense to overtake them. With the Rams, Eagles and Seahawks all facing defenses ranked in the middle to bottom half of the NFL this week, it's conceivable that any of those teams might jump up the Passing ranks to overtake both the Saints and Texans.

Rushing
Last week's rushing game was certainly the most consistent aspect of the New Orleans Saints game from one half to the next, averaging 2.5 yards per carry each half. That figure was brought down significantly in the 3rd quarter by Cadet, who managed a net loss of -5 yards after five rushing attempts with two fumbles (both recovered by Saints). In the 4th quarter. Robinson averaged 5 yards per carry over the course of ten attempts; and RG4's single run for 3 yards was negated (as far as rushing stats go) by kneeling twice for losses at the end of the game. In the first half, Ingram averaged 3.3 yards per carry on his nine runs, including a 2-yd TD; while Sproles averaged 1.8 yards over his five carries.

Rushing

Yards

Attempts

Yds/Carry

Tackled for Loss

Fmbl / Lost

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

38

15

2.5

1 (1 yd)

0

3

1

Second Half

45

18

2.5

3 (21 yds)

3 / 2

2

0

Total

83

33

2.5

4 (22 yds)

3 / 2

5

1

Although New Orleans had 33 rushing attempts to 30 passing attempts, the lack of success in the third quarter was enough to drop them four ranks to No. 16 of the NFL's 32 teams. Meanwhile, the Falcons and the Bucs both made huge leaps up the board in the Rushing rankings, overtaking the Saints. Unless Sean Payton figures out how to turn things around for our running game, New Orleans will likely fall even further down the rankings against the Houston's No. 4 defense this weekend.

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

Bengalshelmet_medium
Cincinnati Bengals

Chiefshelmet_medium
Kansas City Chiefs

Offense

Defense

49ershelmet_medium
San Francisco 49’ers

Vikingshelmet_medium
Minnesota Vikings

Defense

Passing

Texanshelmet_medium
Houston Texans

Chiefshelmet_medium
Kansas City Chiefs

Passing

Rushing

Bengalshelmet_medium
Cincinnati Bengals

Chiefshelmet_medium
Kansas City Chiefs

Rushing

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