Week 8 2009 Power Rankings
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 27, 2009
By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts hero of the Battle of Pilot Knob
A lot can happen in a year. Just ask the Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Believe it or not, last year at this same stage of the NFL season Tennessee and Tampa stood 1-2 atop our power rankings.
The Titans were the only perfect team in the league at 6-0, and Tampa had a stellar 4-1 record against Quality Opponents under its belt. It's hard to imagine that either team could have been that good, but there they were.
Also riding high a year ago: Buffalo (No. 5), Washington (No. 6) and Carolina (No. 7). As a group, the top seven teams a year ago have a combined record of 17-30 this year thanks to respectable efforts from Pittsburgh and the Giants, who have been in the top seven both years.
Obviously, 2008 was the opposite of 2009 at this point. Only four teams were worse than 2-4, and only four teams were better than 4-2. Teams were still establishing their identities.
Still, it's a remarkable fall. And, if you're wondering what those five fallen teams have in common, we brought it up last week: no franchise QB. A year later, Kerry Collins is about to be benched, Jeff Garcia is out of the league, Trent Edwards is still subpar, Jason Campbell is probably bench-bound and so is Jake Delhomme.
None of those guys would even compete for the No. 1 job for this year's best teams. In other words, don't expect this year's power teams to be in shambles a year from now.
On to the rankings!
1. NEW ORLEANS (6-0). Last week: 46-34 win at Miami. By all accounts, RB Reggie Bush is a bust, with bad rushing numbers (3.7 YPA) and few big plays (23 career TDs from scrimmage). Yet, as a focal point of Sean Payton's offense over the last four years, the Saints have ranked first, fourth, first and first in total yardage. Maybe he's not a bust. Maybe he's the greatest decoy in NFL history.
2. INDIANAPOLIS (6-0). Last week: 42-6 win at St. Louis. What do you give the team that has everything? How about three straight home games (SF, HOU, NE). The Collts haven't played any of the other current top 10 teams in the rankings, and has only Denver and New England to come. That's a nice setup for a team that's 6-0 for the fourth time in five years.
3. DENVER (6-0). Last week: bye. Josh McDaniels spent the off week repeating to himself "Holy Sweet Mother of What the F---, We're F---ing 6-0!", then flexing into a full-length mirror. The Broncos easily maintain the top spot in our all-important Defensive Hog Index.
4. NEW ENGLAND (5-2). Last week: 35-7 win "at" Tampa Bay. Randy Moss and Wes Welker have produced 57 first downs between them – more than the entire passing games of Tennessee, Buffalo, Cleveland, San Francisco and Oakland.
5. MINNESOTA (6-1). Last week: 27-17 loss at Pittsburgh. Bad news: After Vikings kickoffs, opposing teams start from the 32.6 yard line on average (worst in the NFL). Good news: when opposing teams get to the red zone, they score TDs only 27.8 percent of the time (best in the NFL).
6. GREEN BAY (4-2). Last week: 31-3 win at Cleveland. If Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are 1 and 1A on the MVP list, how far behind is Aaron Rodgers? Since taking over for Brett Favre in 2008, he's thrown for more yards than his opponent in 17 of 22 games, and has 11 straight games with a passer rating of 83.4 or better. This year, he's second in the NFL in passer rating (110.8) despite taking a league-high 25 sacks.
7. PITTSBURGH (5-2). Last week: 27-17 win vs. Minnesota. When Ben Roethlisberger throws to Heath Miller, success ensues. Passes from No. 7 to No. 83 have been completed 74.5 percent of the time over their five seasons together.
8. N.Y. GIANTS (5-2). Last week: 24-17 loss vs. Arizona. Just when Eli Manning seems to be stepping up to the elite class, he takes a step back down. He followed up the best five-game stretch of his career with back-to-back clunkers: 61.0 rating vs. Saints, 47.5 vs. Cardinals.
9. CINCINNATI (5-2) Last week: 45-10 win vs. Chicago. Chad Ochocinco's pace through seven games projects to 89 catches for 1,309 yards and 11 TDs. Not half bad for a new guy – he's done a great job replacing that jerk Chad Johnson as Cincy's No. 1 WR.
10. PHILADELPHIA (4-2). Last week: 27-17 win at Washington. The Eagles are seventh in the NFL in scoring differential (+7.8 PPG); over Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid's 10-year marriage, Philly has ranked in the top 10 of that telling category eight times.
11. DALLAS (4-2). Last week: 37-21 win vs. Atlanta. The Cowboys are first in the NFL in yards per play (6.8) and also first in the NFL in yards per play on first down (7.1).
12. ARIZONA (4-2). Last week: 24-17 win at N.Y. Giants. Arizona's defense (18.2 PPG allowed, tied for 7th) is still in the playoff form it showed in 2008, but the passing game isn't back there yet. The Cardinals ranks 16th in Passing YPA (6.24), barely ahead of David Garrard and the Jaguars (6.14). The Cardinals ranked sixth in Passing YPA (7.1) last year.
13. N.Y. JETS (4-3). Last week: 38-0 win at Oakland. A frustrating year for RB Leon Washington ended with a leg injury Sunday. A year after breaking out with 10 total touchdowns, he had scored zero TDs with a long play of 43 yards on 105 touches in 2009.
14. BALTIMORE (3-3). Last week: bye. Did the Ravens do something to piss off the schedule maker? Their next six games: vs. Denver, at Cincy, at Cleveland, vs. Indy, vs. Pittsburgh, at Green Bay. If this team makes the playoffs, it'll definitely be battle-tested.
15. ATLANTA (4-2). Last week: 37-21 loss at Dallas. Red zone efficiency is the reason the Falcons are above .500. They're being outgained 5.7 YPP to 5.3 YPP, but they're second in scoring touchdowns inside the 20 (68.4 percent), and third in preventing them (63.2 percent).
16. SAN DIEGO (3-3). Last week: 37-7 win at Kansas City. It's feast or famine for the Chargers the rest of the way. Of their final 10 games, five are against teams currently ranked in our top 11 and five are against teams in the bottom eight.
17. HOUSTON (4-3). Last week: 24-21 win vs. San Francisco. Matt Schaub joined Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger in a rare but exclusive club of players with 2,000+ passing yards in their first seven games. Prior to 2009, it had only been accomplished 31 times; Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning will also hit that milestone with representative efforts this Sunday.
18. CHICAGO (3-3). Last week: 45-10 loss at Cincinnati. Rex Grossman threw interceptions on 3.64 percent of his attempts before getting booed out of a job in Chicago; Jay Cutler throws interceptions on 4.78 percent of attempts here in 2009.
19. SAN FRANCISCO (3-3). Last week: 24-21 loss at Houston. If we've seen the last of Shaun Hill as the San Fran starter, he had an awfully nice run. In 16 starts, he won 10 games, threw just 11 interceptions and accounted for 26 touchdowns (23 passing, three running).
20. MIAMI (2-4). Last week: 46-34 loss vs. New Orleans. Miami ranks No. 1 on third downs (53.8%), No. 2 in TOP (34:46) and No. 5 rushing the football (4.8 YPA), but has just a 2-4 mark to show for it. Look on the bright side, Dolphins fans. At least you're getting a lot of time on SportsCenter this year.
21. JACKSONVILLE (3-3). Last week: bye. The Jags' front office spent the extra week working on new slogans to sell season tickets. The winner? "Jaguar Football: At Least We're Competitive!" David Garrard has thrown just five TD passes this year ... but three came against the Titans and their historically dysfunctional pass defense.
22. SEATTLE (2-4). Last week: bye. RB Edgerrin James isn't helping his borderline Hall of Fame credentials with his average of 2.7 YPA on 40 carries this year.
23. BUFFALO (3-4). Last week: 20-9 win at Carolina. Rookie safety Jarius Byrd has returned five INTs 91 yards over his last three games. Over the same three games, teammate Terrell Owens has 10 catches for 84 yards.
24. CAROLINA (2-4). Last week: 20-9 loss vs. Buffalo. Not only are the Panthers worst in the NFL in turnover margin (-14), they're the worst in both takeaways (7) and giveaways (21). That's the worst ball control this side of boxer shorts.
25. WASHINGTON (2-5). Last week: 27-17 loss vs. Philadelphia. Our feelings about the Redskins can best be summed up by Seth Rogen's speech in "The 40 Year Old Virgin" after returning from a horse-porn show. "It was really giving it to her. And you know what? To be honest, I just felt bad for her, we all just felt bad for her. I kinda felt bad for the horse!"
26. OAKLAND (2-5). Last week: 38-0 loss vs. N.Y. Jets. One of our boldest predictions to date came through on Sunday, when angry football fans called CBS and demanded that the network show "Heidi" instead of Jets-Raiders.
27. DETROIT (1-5). Last week: bye. The "improved" Lions spent their bye week wondering why their Defensive Passer Rating (118.7) is higher than Peyton Manning's own lofty passer rating (114.5).
28. TENNESSEE (0-6). Last week: bye. It's worth noting as the Titans likely ready a switch to Vince Young that Young is 18-11 as an NFL starter.
29. CLEVELAND (1-6). Last week: 31-3 loss vs. Green Bay. Not only are the Browns bad, they're old. Cleveland has 18 players on their roster 30 and over.
30. KANSAS CITY (1-6). Last week: 37-7 loss vs. San Diego. The Chiefs are easily last in the NFL with an average of 3.73 yards per first-down play (2nd worst: Cleveland, 4.24).
31. TAMPA BAY (0-7). Last week: 35-7 loss vs. New England. Shouldn't this Bucs team be wearing the old yellow unis that represented the pre-Tony Dungy misery that was Tampa Bay football?
32. ST. LOUIS (0-7). Last week: 42-6 loss vs. Indianapolis. Between the Rams and the Chiefs, Missouri is going through its worst autumn since the Battle at Pilot Knob back in 1864. St. Louis. The Rams score 8.6 PPG, which puts them on pace to become the worst offense since the 1977 Buccaneers (7.4 PPG), a team that lost a record 26 straight games.
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