Power Rankings: Packers, Patriots lead way

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 20, 2011



By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Power Ranger


The Houston Texans have been waiting for a savior, and they might have found it.

In Wade Phillips?

Houston comes in at No. 3 this week in our Power Rankings, and they’ve done it with defense – pass defense, no less, which has haunted them like a murdered lover over the years.

The Texans were last in Defensive Passer Rating last year (100.5), and have never cracked the league’s top 10 in a season. But the Texans are No. 1 thus far in yardage defense (162.5), and No. 4 in Defensive Passer Rating (69.5).

Playing Kerry Collins and Chad Henne didn’t hurt, but Henne was coming off a 400+ yard effort vs. New England.
Houston will play Drew Brees this week, so the party might be over. But there are still two dates with Jacksonville and Tennessee, plus QB-thin games vs. Cincinnati and Cleveland; besides Brees and maybe Cam Newton, there are none of the real stat gashers in the Titans' mix.

Green Bay stays atop our power rankings, with Kansas City just edging Seattle for the bottom spot – but don’t worry, Seahawks fans, you guys will compete for that bottom spot all year.

On to the rankings!

1. GREEN BAY (2-0)

Last week: 30-23 win at Carolina
Next three weeks: at CHI vs. DEN, at ATL
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jordy Nelson’s numbers over his last eight games including playoffs: 35 catches, 610 yards, five touchdowns. That’s a 70-catch, 1,220-yard, 10 TD pace over a full season – not bad for a guy who averages 30-35 snaps a game.  

2. NEW ENGLAND (2-0)

Last week: 35-21 win vs. San Diego
Next three weeks: at BUF, at OAK, vs. NYJ
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: There are plenty of amazing numbers to talk about, but how about this one: the Patriots are No. 31 in yards allowed … but 13th in scoring defense, thanks to a Bendability Index number of 21.3 yards allowed per point, which is off the charts. But what isn’t off the charts with this team?

3. HOUSTON (2-0)

Last week: 23-13 win at Miami
Next three weeks: at NO vs. PIT, vs. OAK
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Who leads the NFL with runs of 10+ yards through two weeks? How about Ben Tate, who looks poised to be the man – don’t forget, it was his job before he got hurt in camp last year and gave it to Arian Foster. Tip of the cap to offensive line coach John Benton, who got the job in 2009 and has the Texan Hogs playing as well as anyone’s.

4. NEW YORK JETS (2-0)

Last week: 32-3 win vs. Jacksonville
Next three weeks: at OAK, at BAL, at NE
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Including playoffs, Mark Sanchez has now had passer ratings over 80 in six of his last seven games – his longest run of decent quarterbacking to date. He’s not the Sanchise yet, but he’s looking not to be the Suckchise anymore.

5. NEW ORLEANS (1-1)

Last week: 30-13 win vs. Chicago
Next three weeks: vs. HOU, at JAX, at CAR
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: What a difference a week, opponent and site make. New Orleans’ defense at Green Bay: 6.2 yards per play and 42 points allowed, two sacks of Aaron Rodgers. New Orleans’ defense vs. Chicago at home: 3.9 yards per play and 13 points allowed, seven sacks and Jay Cutler.

6. PHILADELPHIA (1-1)

Last week:35-31 loss at Atlanta
Next three weeks: vs. NYG, vs. SF, at BUF
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Eagles started the season with back-to-back 31-point efforts, no real surprise in the Michael Vick Era – they averaged 29.9 PPG in his 11 regular-season starts last year.

7. DETROIT (2-0)

Last week:48-3 win vs. Kansas City
Next three weeks: at MIN, at DAL, vs. CHI
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Two games, zero sacks allowed. That’ll get you to 2-0 even if you are the Detroit Lions. This is the Lions’ first appearance alongside the NFL’s elite since the Na-Dene people occupied much of northwest and central North America in 10,000 B.C.

8. BALTIMORE (1-1)

Last week: 26-13 loss at Tennessee
Next three weeks: at STL, vs. NYJ, bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Ravens were outgained by 200+ yards and also went minus-2 in turnovers in the loss to Tennessee. How rare is that? Rare enough that the Ravens had never done it in their franchise history.

9. SAN DIEGO (1-1)

Last week: 35-21 loss at New England
Next three weeks: vs. KC, vs. MIA, at DEN
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Vincent Jackson’s last 16 regular-season starts have been pretty special: 69 catches, 1,057 yards and 10 touchdowns, and a team record of 14-2 – with no games where the offense scores fewer than 20 points.
 

10. PITTSBURGH (1-1)

Last week: 24-0 win vs. Seattle
Next three weeks: at IND, at HOU, vs. TEN
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Best week-to-week improvement since Kathy Krendles from the office came back from “vacation” with 36 double-D’s.
 

11. BUFFALO (2-0)

Last week: 38-35 win vs. Oakland
Next three weeks: vs. NE, at CIN, vs. PHI
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bills aren’t buying into this whole “kick it out of the end zone” thing, and it’s working fine for them. They’ve allowed a league-high 11 kicks to be returned, but have allowed just 18.9 yards a crack (No. 3 behind the Jets and Buccaneers). Bonus note: they only have one kick return, for 21 yards. Second bonus note: They’re 2-0!

12. ATLANTA (1-1)

Last week: 35-31 win vs. Philadelphia
Next three weeks: at TB, at SEA, vs. GB
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Last we saw Atlanta in the playoffs, they were allowing 48 points to Green Bay. Follow it up with 30 to Chicago and 31 to the Eagles, and seems like someone forgot to fix the defense down in Georgia. The Falcons have allowed 9.1 yards a pass, and all three QBs they faced got it done (Jay Cutler 9.8, Michael Vick 8.6, Mike Kafka 8.0).

13. WASHINGTON (2-0)

Last week: 21-20 win vs. Arizona
Next three weeks: at DAL, at STL, bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: In two weeks, Rex Grossman has led scoring drives of 11, 5, 10, 14, 6, 7, 13 and 8 plays. In other words, this hasn’t been a fluky start – it’s been a methodical and rock-solid one, which is what Mike Shanahan offenses are all about. Two more games against suspect defenses coming up probably won’t hurt the cause either.

14. CHICAGO (1-1)

Last week:30-13 loss at New Orleans
Next three weeks: vs. GB, vs. CAR, at DET
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bears start out the season facing Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford – if their Defensive Passer Rating is in the 80s by the end of Week 5, it’s going to be quite an achievement.

15. DALLAS (1-1)

Last week: 27-24 win at San Francisco
Next three weeks:  vs. WAS, vs. DET, bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: DeMarcus Ware is one of the most underappreciated great players in recent memory. Despite playing for a big-ticket franchise – and dominating, in every facet – he’s not talked about like guys like Troy Polamalu, Clay Matthews, etc. He’s never missed a game, and his career rate of .857 sacks a game through six years and two games is better than Lawrence Taylor, Bruce Smith, Michael Strahan and Derrick Thomas. Dating back to 2010, he has 10 sacks in his last five games.

16. NEW YORK GIANTS (1-1)

Last week: 28-16 win vs. St. Louis.
Next three weeks: at PHI, at ARI, vs. SEA
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Giants’ Monday night win rated a 36 percent on NFL.com’s “Game Fan Rating,” ranking it firmly in the “forgettable” range – no mean feat for a national game. Wait, who played on Monday night again?

17. OAKLAND (1-1)

Last week: 38-35 loss at Buffalo
Next three weeks: vs. NYJ, vs. NE, at HOU
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: We can’t help noticing that the Raiders play our No. 2, 3 and 4 ranked teams the next three weeks. For a team that’s allowed 29.5 first downs a game thus far, we’ll rate that gauntlet as a 9.248 on the “Just Hope To Win One, Baby” Index.   

18. TAMPA BAY (1-1)

Last week: 24-20 win at Minnesota
Next three weeks: vs. ATL, vs. IND, at SF
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Unofficially, coach Raheem Morris’ “YUNGRY” hats are the corniest motivating tools by a coach since 1964, when a high school coach named Red Arvingson in Iowa actually gave out stalks of corn to his best players each week. Bucs fans should be yungry for a new slogan.

­­­­19. TENNESSEE (1-1)

Last week: 26-13 win vs. Baltimore
Next three weeks: vs. DEN, at CLE, at PIT
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: It’s early, and the Titans didn’t exactly open with the iron (Indy and Jacksonville), but Tennessee is No. 1 in yards per play allowed at 4.4 through two games.

20. ARIZONA (1-1)

Last week: 21-20 loss at Washington
Next three weeks: at SEA, vs. NYG, at MIN
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Cardinals gave up 400+ yards passing in Week 1, 172 yards rushing in Week 2. That’s balance for you.

21. CINCINNATI (1-1)

Last week: 24-22 loss at Denver
Next three weeks: vs. SF, at BUF, at JAX
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: It’s been a surprising season to say the least thus far, but the most surprising number of all might be Andy Dalton’s passer rating through two games: 105.7. Note to Mike Brown: It’d probably be a good move to trade Carson Palmer now.

22. SAN FRANCISCO (1-1)

Last week: 27-24 loss vs. Dallas
Next three weeks: at CIN, at PHI, vs TB
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jim Harbaugh's 49ers have come out of the box with 209 and 206 yards and 4.4 yards a play, numbers that aren't exactly what you're looking for from your offensive-minded head coach.

23. JACKSONVILLE (1-1)

Last week: 32-3 loss at Jets
Next three weeks: at CAR, vs. NO, vs. CIN
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: As David Garrard watches at home, Luke McCown puts up a passer rating of 30.6 in two games. If boxing commentator Larry Merchant was 50 years younger, he’d kick Jaguar GM Gene Smith’s ass.

24. DENVER (1-1)

Last week: 24-22 win vs. Cincinnati
Next three weeks: at TEN, at GB, vs. SD
The Cold, Hard Football Facts:  It didn’t take long for John Fox to make a difference with the Denver defense. Last year: 29.4 PPG, 5.9 yards per play, 38 percent on third downs. This year: 22.5 PPG, 5.4 YPP, 24 percent on third downs.

25. CLEVELAND (1-1)

Last week: 27-19 win at Indianapolis
Next three weeks: vs. MIA, vs. TEN, bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: You can move the kickoff to the 35, but you can’t stop Josh Cribbs. He’s averaging 34.2 yards a kick return and 13.8 a punt return thus far.

26. CAROLINA (0-2)

Last week: 30-23 loss vs. Green Bay
Next three weeks: vs. JAX, at CHI, vs. NO
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Does Cam Newton play defense? The Panthers are allowing 7.7 yards per play thus far, which would be an NFL record by a fair margin over a whole season.

27. ST. LOUIS (0-2)

Last week: 28-16 loss at New York Giants.
Next three weeks: vs. BAL, vs. WAS, bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: This Rams team looks like a worse version of last year’s Rams team – decent on defense, incapable of scoring touchdowns on offense. Last year, 27 touchdowns, 33 field goals. This year, two touchdowns, five field goals.

28. MIAMI (0-2)

Last week: 23-13 loss vs. Houston
Next three weeks: at CLE, at SD, bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Why are the Dolphins just another opponent? They don't force turnovers; one in two games thus far, after forcing just four in the last five games of the 2010 season.
 

29. MINNESOTA (0-2)

Last week: 24-20 loss vs. Tampa Bay
Next three weeks: vs. DET, at KC, vs. AZ
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Team nickname is "Vikings."

30. INDIANAPOLIS (0-2)

Last week: 27-19 loss vs. Cleveland
Next three weeks: vs. PIT, at TB, vs. KC
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Kerry Collins has as many passes of 25+ yards this year as Detroit’s Shaun Hill does (one), with one notable caveat: Hill has only thrown a single pass. And that’s against teams that were 17th (Cleveland) and 32nd (Houston) in defensive passer rating last year. Collins is averaging 5.6 yards per attempt; Manning’s is 7.6 over his Colt career.

31. SEATTLE (0-1)

Last week: 24-0 loss at Pittsburgh
Next three weeks: vs. ARI, vs. ATL, at NYG
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Last year was amusing in its novelty, but know this: if the Seahawks make the playoffs again in 2011, the entire NFC West should be subbed out for the Virginia Destroyers, Omaha Nighthawks, Hartford Colonials and Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL.

32. KANSAS CITY (0-2)

Last week: 48-3 loss at Detroit
Next three weeks: at SD, vs. MIN, at IND
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Chiefs have lost their Ronnie Lott (Eric Berry), their Barry Sanders (Jamaal Charles) and their Jason Witten (Tony Moeaki). What’s left? Their Matt Cassel (last four passer ratings including playoffs: 19.1, 20.4, 64.5, 44.5).



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