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NFL Power Rankings 2014: New Orleans Saints lead the NFC South

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After an uncharacteristically poor start to the 2014 season, the Saints came back from their bye week by barely losing yet another game in the waning moments of the match. Surprisingly, even with a 2-4 record, New Orleans leads the NFC South in most statistical categories. Let's take a look at how the team and the rest of the division compare 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 21 (2) 2 13 (↓5) 10 (3) 28 2-4 -10
-7
Falcons 6 (↓3) 30 (1) 5 (↓2) 23 (↓3) 12 (↓7) 30 (↓1) 2-5 -28
-1
Panthers 20 (↓2) 27 (↓1) 12 27 (↑1) 16 (1) 29 (↓5) 3-3-1 -37
+5
Buccaneers 30 (↓1) 32 24 (↑2) 28 (↓1) 25 32 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.

As we approach this coming Sunday, no team in the NFC South will have won a game since the Saints and Panthers managed close victories three weeks ago.  The Falcons and Buccaneers haven't won since September.

The NFC South is floundering.  No team in the division has a winning record; and there is a good chance that will remain true for at least one more week, if not longer.  If things continue down this track, football fans may see a team with a losing record hosting a playoff game in January.

Four of the five NFL teams which have allowed the most points per game this year are in the NFC South.  The Saints, having allowed the fifth-most points per game of any team in the league, are actually the best team in the division in this category.  Actually, New Orleans leads the division in every statistical category above but one:  the turnover differential, where the Saints are significantly behind its division opponents, and most of the league.  And of course, New Orleans doesn't yet lead the division in the standings, though that could change before next weekend.

As the halfway point in the Saints season nears, it's time for this team to step up its game if a postseason showing is to be a consideration.


Saintshelmet_medium New Orleans Saints (2-4):
For most of the game this past Sunday afternoon, it looked like the Saints were coming out of the bye week having turned things around.  It wasn't the prettiest game we had seen, on either side of the ball, but it was enough to get a solid win.  Until the last few minutes of the game, of course.

By now, you've seen the game and/or heard the narrative.  Almost an hour of good football was erased in a matter of minutes.  In its place, a costly interception and a complete defensive breakdown on a Golden Tate touchdown pass were burned into the minds of Saints fans everywhere.  And a fan base celebrating a bit too soon found itself staring in disbelief at another heartbreaking close loss where we should have had a win.

Three of the four losses New Orleans has suffered this year were by a sum total of 6 points.  A field goal in overtime, and a couple of last-minute scores resulting in losses by one and two points, are all that stand between the Saints having 2-4 or 5-1 records.  But in the end, it won't matter that these losses were so close; they still go down in the record books as losses.  The only saving grace thus far is that the rest of the NFC South is flailing, as well.

The Saints are a victory against the Panthers away from taking the division lead.  Before heading to Carolina on a short week, however, New Orleans hosts the Packers for this weekend's edition of Sunday Night Football.  Defeating the team which just handed the Panthers another loss would definitely be a boost to morale, for the team and its fans alike.  Will this be the game where the Saints finally turn things around, or will Green Bay be able to snap the team's Superdome winning streak? Either way, this weekend's match between two of the best quarterbacks in the league is expected to be a high-scoring affair.

Current Packers (5-2) Rankings:
Offense (Yards) - 25th; Defense (Yards) - 19th; Passing - 20th; Rushing - 22nd
Offense (Points) - 4th; Defense (Points) - 9th

Falconshelmet_medium Atlanta Falcons (2-5):
This weekend the Atlanta Falcons "host" the Detroit Lions in London, England.  Last week, the Ravens had a passing game which was ranked 13th in the NFL.  After playing the Falcons, Baltimore's passing game is now ranked 9th in the league, and their defense jumped two slots to become the top-rated defense in terms of points allowed.  This week, the Falcons face the Lions, whose passing game is currently ranked 13th in the league.  Where will Detroit stand after playing the Falcons in neutral territory? While their offense will likely improve in the rankings, they also stand a good chance of topping the charts defensively in terms of both yards allowed and points allowed.  Anyone who wants to start their day watching the Falcons get thrashed should tune it at 9:30 AM (Eastern) / 8:30 AM (Central) to catch the game being played on a European Sunday afternoon.  That will likely be a very long flight home for the Falcons, if they can even figure out where they are supposed to be in the first place.  At least if the team doesn't show up to play, they have an excuse this week.

Current Lions (5-2) Rankings:
Offense (Yards) - 24th; Defense (Yards) - 1st; Passing - 13th; Rushing - 31st
Offense (Points) - 25th; Defense (Points) - 2nd

Panthershelmet_medium Carolina Panthers (3-3-1):
This weekend, the Panthers host the Seattle Seahawks, who are having an equally mediocre season thus far.  At the beginning of the season, the Saints were expected to be juggernauts, and likely contenders to try and prevent an unstoppable Seahawks team from repeating as Super Bowl Champions.  Instead, neither team has been terribly impressive this season.  And the Panthers, who were expected to flounder after losing most of Cam Newton's most reliable support system, are one win ahead of the Saints to lead the floundering NFC South.

Saints fans with a particular grudge against Seattle will have a difficult time cheering for either team to win this match early Sunday afternoon.  But especially as long as the best hope for New Orleans relies on the continued poor performance of its division rivals, Saints fans don't want the Panthers to be energized by a win against the defending champs... especially when Carolina plays host on Thursday to a New Orleans team coming off of a late Sunday night match against a solid contender.

Current Seahawks (3-3) Rankings:
Offense (Yards) - 15th; Defense (Yards) - 8th; Passing - 29th; Rushing - 2nd
Offense (Points) - 8th; Defense (Points) - 19th

Bucshelmet_medium Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5):
For the second time this season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to not lose a game.  Unfortunately for them, it was thanks to having a bye week.

Coming off of their break, Tampa Bay hosts the Minnesota 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.  The one bright spot is that one of them will be snapping their losing streak this Sunday afternoon, at least temporarily.

Unfortunately for the NFC South, the Buccaneers could be within a game and a half of the division lead by the end of the weekend.

Current Vikings (2-5) Rankings:
Offense (Yards) - 29th; Defense (Yards) - 13th; Passing - 32nd; Rushing - 10th
Offense (Points) - 30th; Defense (Points) - 14th

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)


Denver Broncos (2)
Last Week: Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week: Jaguars

Offense

(Points)

Defense

(Points)

Baltimore Ravens (2)
Last week: Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: Buccaneers

Defense

(Points)

Offense

(Yards)

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

Offense

(Yards)

Defense

(Yards)

Detroit Lions
Last week:Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: Buccaneers

Defense

(Yards)

Passing

(Yards)

Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: Colts
Minnesota Vikings (↓2)
Last week: Jets

Passing

(Yards)

Rushing

(Yards)

Dallas Cowboys
Last week: Cowboys
Oakland Raiders (↓1)
Last week: Jaguars

Rushing

(Yards)

.