Week 7 2009 Power Rankings
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 20, 2009
By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts pugilist of pigskin
Here at Cold, Hard Football Facts, we know there's a tendency to repeat some of our basic points about what makes for winning football in the NFL. But it's only because there are so many people who just don't seem to be paying attention.
Week after week, we hear drivel about the almighty importance of the running game – and it's still widely accepted as pigskin gospel.
So, here's a quiz for those who believe running the ball wins championships.
We present two groups, A and B, and ask you to choose one group.
Tailback Group A: Mike Bell, Joseph Addai, Knowshon Moreno, Adrian Peterson, Brandon Jacobs, Laurence Maroney, Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner, Ryan Grant and Ray Rice.
Tailback Group B: Clinton Portis, Marshawn Lynch, DeAngelo Williams, Justin Fargas, Chris Johnson, Kevin Smith, Jamal Lewis, Browns, Larry Johnson, Stephen Jackson and Cadillac Williams.
Which group of tailbacks is better? Both groups have their big names, but overall it's a tossup.
Now, choose from these two groups:
Quarterback Group A: Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Kyle Orton, Brett Favre, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco.
Quarterback Group B: Jason Campbell, Trent Edwards, Jake Delhomme, JaMarcus Russell, Kerry Collins, Matt Stafford, Derek Anderson, Matt Cassel, Mark Bulger and Josh Johnson.
Hmm. Not much of a call, is it? Group A is clearly superior to Group B.
In case you're a little slow on the uptake, the Group As are the main tailbacks and quarterbacks from the top 10 teams in this week's rankings. The Group Bs represent the bottom 10.
It proves our point for the millionth time: If you don't have a franchise QB and/or an effective passing game, you go nowhere. Sure, teams sometimes buck the trend, but as the Titans are finding out the hard way, winning without a decent quarterback doesn't last long.
On to the rankings, where good QB play is the spice of life, and the No. 1 Saints would fit nicely in Emeril Lagasse's seasoning rack. But they're not just winning through the air -- they're either 1st, 2nd or 3rd in Passing Yards Per Attempt, Offensive and Defensive Hog Index, and Defensive Passer Rating. That's unprecedented stuff, and the reason that they're on top.
1. NEW ORLEANS (5-0). Last week: 48-27 win vs. Giants. Each week as part of our top-secret Power Rankings formula, we grade games based on opponent, margin of victory and road/home breakdown. The Saints have scored five perfect 10s in five games, and Sunday's game should have been an 11. So, what are the chances of a perfect season for the Saints? Of their final 11 opponents, seven currently have losing records, and three winning teams will be at the Superdome (NE, ATL, DAL). Their only tough road game is at Atlanta.
2. INDIANAPOLIS (5-0). Last week: bye. The Colts are 7-4 (.636) after the bye during the Manning Era, which sounds pretty good until you realize that they're 117-59 (.665) overall under Peyton.
3. DENVER (6-0). Last week: 34-23 win at San Diego. Since 1960, only three QBs have thrown one or fewer INTs in 150+ attempts while leading their team to a 6-0 start – Roger Staubach (1977 Cowboys), Roman Gabriel (1969 Rams) and Kyle Orton this year. And the one interception was an end-of-half heave vs. New England. Gabriel reached the playoffs and Staubach won the Super Bowl ... against the Broncos.
4. MINNESOTA (6-0). Last week: 33-31 win vs. Baltimore. Of the undefeated teams, the Vikings play with the slimmest margin for error. They average 5.6 yards per play on offense and yield 5.5 yards a play on defense. The differential (+.1 yards) is just 16th league-wide. But Brett Favre's Vikings are the most efficient offense in football.
5. N.Y. GIANTS (5-1). Last week: 48-27 loss at New Orleans. The Giants suffered through one of the worst road trips since Steve Martin in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." The Gints looked like The Jerks -- but they were just another victim for the big, bad, John Candy-esque Saints, who have won all five games by two touchdowns or better. "Wait a second ... THOSE AREN'T PILLOWS!"
6. NEW ENGLAND (4-2). Last week: 59-0 win vs. Tennessee. Now that he's got a 59-0 win under his belt, it's worth noting that Tom Brady is pretty great. Since throwing four INTs in a loss to Indy back in 2006, he's tossed an amazing 72 touchdown passes to just 14 interceptions and has a record of 27-4 (.871). Over those 31 games, only twice did he finish with a passer rating less than 75.
7. PITTSBURGH (4-2). Last week: 27-14 win vs. Cleveland. The Steelers are dominating on both sides of the ball, but are the least efficient good team in the league. They rank 24th in Scoreability (worst of any winning team) and 22nd in Bendability. This might explain why they're tied for the NFL worst at 1-5 ATS.
8. ATLANTA (4-1). Last week: 21-14 win vs. Chicago. Great stat, courtesy of NFL.com: since Mike Smith took over, the Falcons are 15-1 when leading at halftime. Meanwhile, Smith's former team (he was defensive coordinator at Jacksonville) has gone from No. 1 in our power rankings midway through his final season (2007) to needing OT against St. Louis without him.
9. GREEN BAY (3-2). Last week: 26-0 win vs. Detroit. Aaron Rodgers has a 104.1 passer rating despite being on pace to take 80 sacks. Of the eight QBs that have even been sacked 60 times in a season, only Ken O'Brien (1985 Jets) and Randall Cunningham (1992 Eagles) finished with passer ratings over 80.
10. BALTIMORE (3-3). Last week: 33-31 loss at Minnesota. Joe Flacco throws 10.7 more passes per game this year than he did last year; the Ravens have attempted 100 more passes than their opponents (228-128).
11. CHICAGO (3-2). Last week: 21-14 loss at Atlanta. The Bears just can't get any momentum. Since their Super Bowl run of 2006, they're 19-18 and haven't won more than three in a row.
12. PHILADELPHIA (3-2). Last week: 13-9 loss at Oakland. No, really. The Eagles lost to the Raiders. And that's no small blow – the Eagles have no more games left against teams currently ranked in our bottom nine.
13. DALLAS (3-2). Last week: Bye. Owner Jerry Jones spent the week off trying to punt the ball into the Jumbotron, failing, then muttering "Raise it, my ass" to himself. On another note, the Cowboys average an awesome 5.92 YPA on the ground this year, which puts them on pace to become the greatest running team in NFL history. The current record is held by the Jim Brown-led 1963 Browns (5.74 YPA). They failed to reach the postseason.
14. CINCINNATI (4-2). Last week: 28-17 loss vs. Houston. Over his last 16 games, Carson Palmer has 19 TDs to 17 INTs and eight single-game passer ratings under 80. In other words, injuries have turned him into a pretty average QB.
15. ARIZONA (3-2). Last week: 27-3 win at Seattle. The Cardinals haven't been able to shake Larry Fitzgerald loose; his longest catch this year is 26 yards, and his average of 10.3 yards per catch is 3.4 below his career average (13.7).
16. SAN FRANCISCO (3-2). Last week: bye. Rookie WR Michael Crabtree might start this weekend at Houston. In this decade, only three rookies have produced 100-yard games in their debuts (Anquan Boldin in 2003, and DeSean Jackson and Eddie Royal in 2008).
17. N.Y. JETS (3-3). Last week: 16-13 loss vs. Buffalo (OT). Note to Mark Sanchez (8 INTs in three games): your guys wear green. Sanchez ranks 34th in passer rating (56.7) among 36 qualifying quarterbacks, behind such un-notables as Kerry Collins (62.0), Josh Johnson (58.9) and Jake Delhomme (56.8).
18. HOUSTON (3-3). Last week: 28-17 win at Cincinnati. In three road games, Texan QB Matt Schaub has thrown for an average of 373 yards with 10 TDs and 2 INTs. Give this guy any kind of defense and he'd be right there with Drew Brees and Peyton Manning in the MVP mix.
19. MIAMI (2-3). Last week: bye. So much for "controlling the clock." The Dolphins lead the league in time of possession (35:29 per game), thanks to an incredible 56 percent success rate on third down. Unfortunately, they only have two wins to show for it.
20. SAN DIEGO (2-3). Last week: 34-23 loss vs. Denver. When it's time to move the chains, call on WR Vincent Jackson. In 2008, 88.1 percent of his catches went for first downs, tops in the league. This year, he's at 87.5 percent, second behind Santonio Holmes among players with 15+ catches.
21. SEATTLE (2-4). Last week: 27-3 loss vs. Arizona. According to the NFL Record & Fact Book, this team played for an NFL title four years ago; does any video of this supposed event exist?
22. JACKSONVILLE (3-3). Last week: 23-20 win vs. St. Louis (OT): According to eBay research site terapeak.com, the Jags were last in total eBay sales over the past month, selling less than $100,000 worth of tickets and swag.
23. WASHINGTON (2-4). Last week: 14-6 loss vs. Kansas City: Why are the Redskins this high? In addition to the lack of talent on the NFL's sea floor, they allow only 16 PPG (5th) and 4.6 yards per play (4th). In other words, they're quite good on one side of the ball – more than most of the NFL's chumps can say.
24. BUFFALO (2-4). Last week: 16-13 win at NY Jets. The Bills are wasting a heck of a pass defense. Buffalo is first in the NFL in yards per pass play allowed (5.49) and second in Defensive Passer Rating (58.5).
25. CAROLINA (2-3). Last week: 28-21 win at Tampa Bay. If you're excited about a turnaround for Carolina, don't be – the team's final 11 opponents have a combined record of 39-22 right now.
26. OAKLAND (2-4). Last week: 13-9 win vs. Philadelphia. Just Shock The S--- Out Of America, Baby! The Eagles simply did not show up. Despite the NFL's No. 2 ranked Defensive Hogs, they failed to overwhelm Oakland's 32nd-ranked Offensive Hogs.
27. TENNESSEE (0-6). Last week: 59-0 loss at New England. Call it the curse of the Week 17 mail-in. The Titans had won 17 of 20 before mailing in the final game of the 2008 with home field locked up. Including that loss, they're 0-8 since, and have scored 10 or fewer points in five of those games.
28. DETROIT (1-5). Last week: 26-0 loss at Green Bay. Kicker Jason Hanson has hit 20 of his last 26 field goals from 50+, and 28 of his last 32 from 40-49. In other words, the Lions have to play really badly to get shut out.
29. CLEVELAND (1-5). Last week: 27-14 loss at Pittsburgh. The Browns have 414 yards passing over their last three games – 247 yards of it to rookie Mohamed Massaquoi (59.7 percent).
30. KANSAS CITY (1-5). Last week: 14-6 win at Washington. The Chiefs are 25th or worse in points, yards, rush yards and pass yards ... on offense and on defense. And their highest ranking in any of our Quality Stats is 17th. So yeah, the Chiefs aren't good.
31. ST. LOUIS (0-6). Last week: 23-20 loss at Jacksonville. Congrats, Rams. You've gone 16 games without winning, which we can now refer to as the "Ram Grand Slam." They've turned the ball over at least once in 15 of those 16 games.
32. TAMPA BAY (0-6). Last week: 28-21 loss vs. Carolina. The good news for Tampa? The forecast in London Sunday calls for 50s and sunny skies – no snow to worry about as they face off with the Patriots overseas.
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