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NFL Power Rankings 2014: Saints Defense has Nowhere to go but Up

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During an uncharacteristic season-opener loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Saints defense allowed the most points, passing yards, and total yards of any team in the first week of the 2014 NFL season.

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 3 (1) 32 (↓28) 6 (↓4) 9 (16) 4 (6) 32 (↓28) 0-1 -3 -1
Falcons 1 (13) 30 (↓3) 1 (6) 14 (↑18) 1 (19) 27 1-0 +3 +1
Panthers 21 (5) 5 (↓3) 19 (10) 16 (↓5) 16 (2) 4 (↓2) 1-0 +6 +3
Buccaneers 28 (4) 12 (5) 29 (3) 18 (4) 27 (3) 15 (6) 0-1 -6 -3

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

The Saints are the only team in the NFC South whose Week 1 performance in any areas were significantly worse than their overall performance last year.  Several months without football leaves many fans reading far too much into the first game of every regular season, though, so this limited sample size should be taken with a grain of salt, for both the good and the bad from every team.


Saintshelmet_medium New Orleans Saints (0-1):
It is not unreasonable for Saints fans to wonder whether last year's defensive performance will be approximated in 2014, especially after seeing what happened in Atlanta.  That said, few teams this season will be defined by their performance this past week.  So while there is not much positive to be taken from this past weekend's defensive showing, at least we should see some amount of improvement over the coming weeks.

Similarly, the fact that only two teams other than the Falcons scored more points than the New Orleans offense in their first game does not guarantee Drew Brees and his squad will be firing on all cylinders this year.  However, especially with what we've seen thus far, there is no reason to believe that the 2014 Saints will not continue to be an offensive juggernaut.

This Sunday, the Saints head to Cleveland for the first time since the 2006 season opener, when Sean Payton grabbed his first win as a head coach.  After last week's blunders, nobody should be taking the field in Cleveland without respecting the NFL team opposite them.  So with the Browns still trying to recover and figure out their own identity, this game should present a good opportunity for New Orleans to build both confidence and momentum.

Current Browns (0-1) Rankings:
Offense (Yards) - 13th; Defense (Yards) - 31st; Passing - 20th; Rushing - 6th
Offense (Points) - 11th; Defense (Points) - 24th

Falconshelmet_medium Atlanta Falcons (1-0):
While the Saints are playing in Cleveland Sunday afternoon, the Atlanta Falcons will be facing off against the Bengals in the southern half of the state.  After they defeated the Saints in Atlanta for the season opener, there is little way to know whether the Falcons will use their momentum to work on an early winning streak, or fall flat on their faces the way many expected them to do a week prior.

Current Bengals (1-0) Rankings:
Offense (Yards) - 15th; Defense (Yards) - 27th; Passing - 8th; Rushing - 24th
Offense (Points) - 14th; Defense (Points) - 7th

Panthershelmet_medium Carolina Panthers (1-0):
Even without Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers began their season with a win on the road in Tampa last week.  When they host the Detroit Lions this weekend, we may discover whether Carolina's winning performance was a result of facing a Buccaneers squad which is no better this year than they were in 2013, or whether the Panthers have a chance at proving their many naysayers wrong this season.  With their starting quarterback back in the lineup, Carolina's offensive line will have a challenge trying to prevent the Lions defense from further damaging Cam's cracked ribs this Sunday.

Current Lions (1-0) Rankings:
Offense (Yards) - 7th; Defense (Yards) - 2nd; Passing - 5th; Rushing - 25th
Offense (Points) - 3rd; Defense (Points) - 4th

Bucshelmet_medium Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1):
The Bucs lost their season opener at home, having been defeated by a Carolina Panthers squad which didn't even include Cam Newton.  This Sunday, Tampa Bay -- which is still trying to rebuild and come together as a unit -- has possibly their best chance to recover, as Lovie Smith and Josh McCown host the St. Louis Rams.  With both teams in recovery mode, Florida may provide a comedy of errors for those few fans who will be tuned in to this game on Sunday afternoon.

Current Rams (0-1) Rankings:
Offense (Yards) - 23rd; Defense (Yards) - 13th; Passing - 13th; Rushing - 26th
Offense (Points) - 31st; Defense (Points) - 27th

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)

Falconshelmet_medium
Atlanta Falcons
Last year:
Broncos


Redskinshelmet_medium / Ramshelmet_medium
Redskins / Rams

Last year: Jaguars

Offense

(Points)

Defense

(Points)

Last year: Seahawks


Saintshelmet_medium
New Orleans Saints
Last year: Vikings

Defense

(Points)

Offense

(Yards)

Falconshelmet_medium
Atlanta Falcons
Last year: Broncos


Raidershelmet_medium
Oakland Raiders

Last year: Buccaneers

Offense

(Yards)

Defense

(Yards)

Jetshelmet_medium
New York Jets
Last year: Seahawks


Saintshelmet_medium
New Orleans Saints
Last year: Cowboys

Defense

(Yards)

Passing

(Yards)

Falconshelmet_medium
Atlanta Falcons
Last year: Broncos



Raidershelmet_medium
Oakland Raiders

Last year: Buccaneers

Passing

(Yards)

Rushing

(Yards)

Jetshelmet_medium
New York Jets
Last year: Eagles


Raidershelmet_medium
Oakland Raiders

Last year: Falcons

Rushing

(Yards)

.