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NFL Power Rankings 2014: New Orleans Saints had a Good Bye Week

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After an uncharacteristically poor start to the 2014 season, the Saints got a break during the bye week when none of their NFC South opponents managed to score a win. Let's take a look at how New Orleans compares to the rest of the NFL at the moment.

We've gathered some key stats for the NFC South, to track where the New Orleans Saints and their division opponents each rank among all 32 teams in the league.  This series of posts will continue throughout the season.

Current NFL Rankings: (NFC South)

Team Offense
(Yards)
Defense
(Yards)
Passing
Yards
Rushing
Yards
Offense
(Points)
Defense
(Points)
Record Point
Differential
Turnover
Differential
Saints 2 (↓1) 23 (2) 2 (↑2) 8 (1) 13 (↓3) 28 2-3 -9
-7
Falcons 3 31 (↓2) 3 (↓1) 20 (↓3) 5 (↓2) 29 2-4 -6
-3
Panthers 18 (7) 26 (↓6) 12 28 (↑2) 17 (6) 24 (↓6) 3-2-1 -16
+6
Buccaneers 29 (1) 32 (↓2) 26 (3) 27 (↓3) 25 32 (↓1) 1-5 -84
0

For each statistical category, the extent to which each team has improved or worsened since last week is given in parenthesis.  Throughout the year, this value will show the difference from the prior week's rankings.

The Saints had no chance to impact their own position, for better or worse, during the bye week.  The rest of the NFC South, however, gave Saints fans plenty to cheer about.  If only the Bengals hadn't missed a last-second field goal at the end of overtime, the Saints would have had their best jump in the division standings of the season.  With the season just over one-third complete, it's time for the team to step up its game if a postseason showing is to be a consideration.


Saintshelmet_medium New Orleans Saints (2-3):
At the beginning of the season, it didn't seem like the NFL was doing New Orleans any favors with an early bye week.  As far as the scheduling goes, following a Sunday late-night performance with a Thursday away game is still enough to raise an eyebrow.  But the early bye week may have actually been a blessing to a team struggling on the field and dealing with a few key injuries.

After such a slow start to the season, particularly from a team many expected to be one of the best in franchise history, fans can only hope that Sean Payton and Rob Ryan were able to figure out what has been plaguing the Saints, and how to turn things around.  If one can be heartened by the fact that the team's first two losses were by last-minute field goals, it must be concerning that a game against the 1-5 Bucs with a -84 point differential went into overtime.  And although the NFC opponents always play each other extremely hard, the Saints are supposed to be much more dominant at home.

Hopefully, the team was able to regroup during the off week, and can begin the rest of the season with renewed confidence and improved performance on the field.  At the very least, it seems to have given an opportunity for Mark Ingram to finish recovering from his broken hand, and Jonathan Goodwin to rest his knee injury.  Plus, fullback Erik Lorig is finally slated to take the field as a Saint for the first time this coming weekend, and Jimmy Graham was able to get a week's rest for his injured shoulder without yet missing a game.

When the Saints head to Detroit this weekend, fans will see how much of an impact the bye week had on a team that has been nicked up and lacking swagger.  Reggie Bush will be back on the field, after missing last week with an ankle injury, but Rob Ryan's squad will be spared the furor of Calvin Johnson, who is still out and nursing a high ankle sprain.  The No.2 Saints offense (13th in points per game), however, will have a big test against the league's No.1 defense (in yards and points allowed per game).

Current Lions (4-2) Rankings:
Offense (Yards) - 17th; Defense (Yards) - 1st; Passing - 12th; Rushing - 28th
Offense (Points) - 27th; Defense (Points) - 1st

Falconshelmet_medium Atlanta Falcons (2-4):
Last year, Atlanta once again became familiar with what it means to be among the worst of the worst.  After beating the Saints in their first game of the season, Falcons fans had their week of fun, throwing quips about the "NFC South Basement."  Granted, their reaction to a rare victory over the Saints was not unexpected.  Neither was the familiar descent in the standings they've been taking over the past few weeks.  Starting with a loss to the Vikings, whom the Saints defeated, the Falcons have been beaten soundly for three consecutive games.  This week, all of their preseason talk about trying to be tough seems to have flown out the rear window of the NFL bus, as Mike Smith takes his "soft" team to Baltimore, likely for another loss.

Current Ravens (4-2) Rankings:
Offense (Yards) - 8th; Defense (Yards) - 17th; Passing - 13th; Rushing - 9th
Offense (Points) - 5th; Defense (Points) - 3rd

Panthershelmet_medium Carolina Panthers (3-2-1):
In 2008, Shayne Graham missed a 47-yard field goal attempt for the Cincinnati Bengals with seven seconds left in overtime, resulting in a tie against the Eagles.  This past weekend, Mike Nugent capped first drive of overtime in last week's game against the Panthers with a 42-yard field goal.  Under the new overtime rules, however, the Panthers were able to tie the game with Graham Gano's 36-yarder.  On the final play of the game, Nugent had a chance to win the game with a 36-yarder of his own, but he sliced it wide right and left everyone in the stadium stunned as the game ended with the scoreboard showing 37 points for each team.  Had Nugent not planted his foot too far forward, Saints fans would have been treated to one of the best bye weeks they could have hoped for, with losses by all three division opponents.

Carolina hasn't exactly been remarkable this season, but -- uncharacteristically, as of late -- the lead in the NFC South hasn't been particularly difficult to maintain this year.  Over the next couple of weeks, facing the Packers and Seahawks, the Panthers have an opportunity to show the world that they are still a force to be respected, if they aren't exposed by their solid NFC opponents.  The New Orleans coaching staff will be reviewing those two games closely, in preparation for a Saints contest against the Packers before making a trip to Carolina, for a game which may determine the division leader halfway through the season.

Current Packers (4-2) Rankings:
Offense (Yards) - 26th; Defense (Yards) - 19th; Passing - 20th; Rushing - 24th
Offense (Points) - 8th; Defense (Points) - 12th

Bucshelmet_medium Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5):
At the beginning of the season, some sportscasters expected Lovie Smith to walk in to Tampa Bay and field a playoff worthy team in his first year.  Instead, he has fielded a team that has been the NFL's absolute worst defensively (both in terms of points and yards allowed), and one of the worst in the league offensively.   Last week, the Ravens defeated the Bucs 48-17 in Tampa Bay.  And the game wasn't even that close.

Most fans dread the bye week, but at least this is one week in which the Buccaneers are guaranteed not to lose.  When they come off of the break, they will have another game at home, as they host the Vikings.   Both teams have fielded multiple quarterbacks this season, sit at the bottom of their respective divisions, and will likely be looking forward to playing one of the easier opponents on their 2014 schedules.

Current Vikings (2-4) Rankings:
Offense (Yards) - 27th; Defense (Yards) - 8th; Passing - 30th; Rushing - 13th
Offense (Points) - 28th; Defense (Points) - 20th

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

(Points)


Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars (↓1)
Last week: Raiders

Offense

(Points)

Defense

(Points)

Detroit Lions (1)
Last week: Chargers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (↓1)
Last week: Jaguars

Defense

(Points)

Offense

(Yards)

Indianapolis Colts (1)
Last Week: Saints
Jacksonville Jaguars (↓1)
Last week: Raiders

Offense

(Yards)

Defense

(Yards)

Detroit Lions
Last week:Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (↓2)
Last week: Jaguars

Defense

(Yards)

Passing

(Yards)

Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: Colts
New York Jets
Last week: Jets

Passing

(Yards)

Rushing

(Yards)

Dallas Cowboys (1)
Last week: Seahawks
Jacksonville Jaguars (↓1)
Last week: Raiders

Rushing

(Yards)

.