Wednesday, November 23, 2011

1 comments J.S.' NFL Power Rankings: Week Eleven

Who's the best running back in the NFL? I heard on NFL Network last week LeSean McCoy's name thrown around lazily and without much apparent thought this week as the best running back in the NFL, as though that was a given. I disagree (although he is second in YPC with 5.5). Here is my list, for what it's worth.

1 - Matt Forte

Thought real, real hard about Peterson, and I do love him, but Forte just is the entire teams offense and while Peterson's line has deteriorated an awful lot the past three years, it's still a lot better than Chicago's. Peterson is getting better in the passing game but Forte has caught 46 passes this year. Peterson has caught 16.

2 - Adrian Peterson

Still, no one is a better runner, especially in terms of consistency both between the tackles and to the outside, than All Day.

3 - Arian Foster

Last year was no fluke. Big and fast like Peterson and makes the best cuts in the NFL. Can also carry thirty times a game without any apparent drop off in quality.

4 - LeSean McCoy

This seems about right. He's really fast and great in the open field and behind screens, but still isn't much of a trucking back or strong between the tackles. He also has more help in terms of weaponry than anyone above him on this list. I'd be lying if I said the Eagles dismal season didn't play into my thought process somewhat as well.

5 - Frank Gore

I have been a hater of the highest class against Gore, there's no doubt, but Alex Smith can't throw at all, and while the defense is good, much of the credit for their deceptive, but still very good, 9-1 record belongs to Gore, who has both stayed on the field, and given the offense one thing it can count on each week.

Fred Jackson might be going down with the ship, and his first 9 games this season are the very definition of statistical outlier. Chris Johnson looks unforgivably bad, and Ray Rice seems to get slightly worse every year. Turner (consistent but not enough of a pass catching/blocking factor), Jackson (injury prone and aging), Jones-Drew (does it all in an awful offense without help, but not sure about him on short yardage) and McFadden (injury prone and not enough evidence that he is an elite runner here to stay, not just yet) were all tough omission. Criticisms are fully expected in the comments.

Also, Bautista and Kemp were fucking robbed.

Onto the rankings.

1 - GREEN BAY (-)
10-0, 1st NFC NORTH
W 35-26 vTB, next @DET

That's the closest the Packers have looked to losing all season (maybe the opener against Norlans notwithstanding). The Bucs did it with pressure, they played one of the most blitz happy games all year by anyone and it worked, sort of. Certainly Rodgers is a great improvisor (28 yards on 5 rushes and many throws on the run, including an amazing shovel pass to Starks for a third down conversion), and made some things happen with his legs, but you'd prefer that to his normal surgical precision. He didn't quite look flustered, he still had a semblance of control (he still threw for a 112.3 rating), but this time he seemed to have one hand on the steering wheel rather than the customary two.

2 - HOUSTON (-)
7-3, 1st AFC SOUTH
BYE, next @JAX

We get out first look at Matt Leinart next week, but I don't particular feel concerned. I seriously doubt he'll be much worse than Colt McCoy, Blaine Gabbert or any of the other 6-8 worst quarterbacks in the league. How could you really? He's been the backup in Houston for a couple of years, knows the offense, resigned with them, comfortable with his surrounds, Andre Johnson back, it all augers well. Of course, until we see it...

7-3, 1st NFC SOUTH
BYE, next vNYG

New Orleans offensive line has a claim as the best in the league in pass protection. Drew Brees has attempted 299 passes, 46 more than second placed New England (more than 4.5 more attempts a game!) and yet Brees has been sacked less than twice a contest. And if you think they keep out defensive ends well, wait until you see their guard pairing of Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, easily the best in the league.

7-3, 1st AFC EAST
W 34-3 vKC, next @PHI

Remember back when we thought New England might, not be toast, but no longer reserved a seat at the playoff table? All those many moons, 14 to be exact, ago? Having won two straight and with Buffalo and New York losing two straight (and both looking abysmal in doing so), Miami might be the biggest concern for the Pats now. Their upcoming schedule is basically waving them in for landing on the playoff runway now.

7-3, T-1st AFC NORTH
BYE, next @KC

Baltimore's victory was bad news for the Steelers, who would much have preferred tussling with the Bengals, over whom they already hold a victory. They are guarenteed to lose a tiebreaker to the Ravens, who have knocked them over twice. It would also have meant Baltimore would have been reeling in their last five games, instead of having somewhat righted the ship with Sunday's win.

6 - ATLANTA (-)
6-4, 2nd NFC SOUTH
W 23-17 vTEN, next vMIN

Have looked just irresistable the last two weeks - admittedly at home. Tennessee did not run a play in Atlanta territory until 18 seconds remained in the first half. I'm not sure why they seem to attract such lukewarm reaction, they are playing brilliantly, have a great offensive line (Tyson Clabo is a beast), a great quarterback (Ryan has been red hot the past three games with 942 yards, 6TDs and 2INTs, completing 60.2% of his throws for a 99.38 rating), a great running back (along with some interesting change of pace and ball catching options), a good tight end and 2/3 receivers and a legitimate #1 receiver. Sure, their defense isn't great, but it's really not bad either (did you know Atlanta is 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards against?). This game was not as close as the scoreline suggests, Atlanta smoked 'em.

9-1, 1st NFC WEST
W 23-7 vARI, next @BAL

I know they are a handful of plays away from 10-0. I know they've made that record without even having to play that many NFC West games (2). I don't care. They are not a top five team with that pass attack. Not in today's NFL. They are 27th in passing yards. 27th. New Orleans (1), New England (2), Green Bay (3), Pittsburgh (4), Giants (6), Dallas (7), Detroit (9), Houston (10) and on it goes. I know yardage is famously misleading, but see for yourself. Look at the company San Francisco are keeping. Tomorrow is the biggest test for the Niners so far - win there and I promise you, passing offense or no, I will be promoting them.

8 - CHICAGO (+1)
7-3, T-2nd NFC NORTH
W 31-20 vSD, next @OAK

Returns (from both Hester and Knox) kept them not only in this game, but up early. Knox had a 53 yard kick return and Hester 37 and 22 yard punt returns. By and large, this was Chicago's weakest performance of the five game winning streak. Of course now attention pivots to Cutler's broken thumb which will keep him out the rest of the regular season. Matt Forte's already substantial degree of difficulty ratcheted up a notch and the NFC Wild Card race has become increasingly complicated. Won five straight.

9 - BALTIMORE (+2)
7-3, T-1st AFC NORTH
W 31-24 vCIN, next vSF

Their offense is terrible, botched handoffs, penalties, they can't even executed their beloved interior screens at the moment. Flacco hit big passes to Smith, Dickson and Boldin in the second quarter (deep, challenging the corners without Leon Hall), but that was basically it. It was smart and hardly irrelevant, but Baltimore's offense didn't look sharp for the lion's share of this game (13 first downs all day). Still, I suppose Cincy is a for real defense so perhaps it is forgivable. I continue to have grave reservations. It is worth remembering, even in their awful performances, the defense is reliable (though the secondary was shaky down the stretch). It is one of the most consistent units in football and was essentially the difference in this game with three turnovers and a goal line stand on the final plays.

10 - DETROIT (-)

7-3, T-2nd NFC NORTH
W49-35 vCAR, next vGB

The easy narrative is that the turnovers are killing them (9 in the last two weeks), and they are, but it's a more fundamental problem than that. Yeah, Calvin eventually bagged five catches for 89 yards, but he's been shut out of the endzone for a couple of weeks now and only had one catch in the first half, and the entire offense seizes up in fear without him. They can't defend the run to save their life (28th, 4.9YPA against and Williams/Stewart had 95 yards on 18 carries here), nor a screen, and when the ball actually gets in the air they are only average. Basically anything that requires them actually tackling someone is a worry. The whole defense is predicated on a pass rush, their whole offense is predicated on Calvin Johnson (and despite the 140 yards on 16 carries here, no, more Kevin Smith is not the answer). Both are very good, but with two games left against the Packers and the Bears storming home, are Detroit really good enough? Have a pinky left on the bandwagon and am very worried about the Thanksgiving contest against Green Bay.

11 - DALLAS (+2)
6-4, T-1st NFC EAST
W 27-24 (OT) @WAS, next vMIA

DeMarco Murray thudded back to Earth hard. It's hard to think of a relevant run he had the entire first half, and Dallas force fed him (at one point he had 20 yards on 10 carries, he finished with a not much better 73 on 25). As I've said before, Dallas are a mediocre team at best when they can't run, and this was a particulary visceral example of that. Regular readers will also know I am a Romo apologist, and leaving him hanging out to dry, against a good pass rushing team (T-1st in sacks with 31 and had 4 with 12 total hits in this game) was always going to go bad places (although Romo's numbers, 292 yards on 37 throws with 3TDs didn't reveal the trouble he was so often in). Special teams too, was a major issue, with Banks punt returns of 55 and 32 yards. An unconvincing performance, but the Giants loss was huge for the new NFC East favourites. At home to Miami is not the straightforward contest it looked a month ago.

12 - JETS (-4)
5-5, T-2nd AFC EAST
L 13-17 @DEN, next vBUF

I could tell you about the first shank punt that got 13 yards. I could tell you about the missed 50 yarder. I could tell you about the 61 yard kickoff return conceded. I could even tell you about the punt that trapped the Jets on the 1 yard line, a drive that led to Goodman's pick six, which might not have been a pick six elsewhere on the field. But in the end, there's not enough offense to take the team seriously as a contender in today's NFL. The key has been a mediocre year from the previously top five offensive line. Despite being 19th in pass attempts, the Jets have conceded the eighth most sacks this year (26).

13 - GIANTS (-1)
6-4, T-1st NFC EAST
L 10-17 vPHI, next @NO

Eli Manning threw one of the most inexplicable, terrible interceptions you will ever see in the first quarter. The absolute obsession with deep balls (why would you want to go deep on a team with Samuel and Asomugha is beyond me) did not help. I suppose that's Manning (18/35, 264 yards with a TD and a pick), who has been amazing this year, occasionally, he'll be just abysmal (he got negative help from his receivers, who seemed to be paid by the drop). He's like an incredibly rich, investment banker man's Rex Grossman. The Giants had 36 yards on their first 23 plays, which is fucking incredible really. It's as simple as this - the New York Giants just did not come to play in this game, and it has cost them sole possession of the NFC East division lead with a non-compliant schedule continuing next week at the Saints. A very costly loss.

6-4, 3rd AFC NORTH
L 24-31 @BAL, next vCLE

The secondary was flat out awful in this game. Awful to a degree that simply losing Leon Hall cannot account for. They allowed throws of 49, 38, 35, 28 and failed to halt a Ray Rice run of 59 yards. The front seven continued their good work but the loss of Hall is likely to be terminal on this performance. Equally missed was AJ Green. Dalton attacked deep in the first half but his second rate receiving corps was unable to help and you couldn't help but think Green might have made a difference in this game, especially early. As it was, this they lost on the strength of a questionable review. They have had a good season (I consider them essentially San Francisco minus the hype), and with the Bills, Titans and Jets collapsing in a heap and the AFC West being awful, the wild card torch remains aflame.

15 - TAMPA BAY (+2)
4-6, 3rd NFC SOUTH
L 26-35 @GB, next @TEN

The good Tampa team definitely showed up for this one. What killed them was penalties (9, including four on a critical fourth quarter drive from the Packers and one that cost four points by removing a Winslow TD) and some lost broken plays against them defensively, where they were generally excellent. Yes, you can be excellent against Green Bay and give up 35 points. Winslow was out of this Universe with 9 catches for 132 yards, but Blount wasn't nearly as good as his line (18 rushes for 107 yards with a TD) suggested. The 54 yarder was one of the runs of the season, to b sure, but it came down 14-0, largely due to two yards on his first four carries. He had too many negative or no yardage plays. If that seems harsh,'re playing Green Bay.

16 - MIAMI (+3)
3-7, 4th AFC EAST
W 35-8 vBUF, next @DAL

Honest to God, Matt Moore looked fucking great in this game (16/20 160 yards with 3TDs). I don't know how much of it was Buffalo's atrocious...everything, but just about everyone looked fantastic. The receivers made a number of athletic, and cerebral plays (and not even relying on Marshall, who only had five yards receiving, perhaps the most amazing stat all day). The offensive line was shooing away defenders like flies (Buffalo only got to Moore twice, and one was a coverage sack on a 10-12 second developing play). The special teams didn't allow any kind of returns and of course, a blocked punt and the defense looked like one of the best in the league, generating two turnovers, stifling anything on the ground (41 yards on 19 carries from the Bills) and could have had much more the way a terrified Fitzpatrick was fumbling all day. If they didn't dig themselves such a deep hole, and with the way the presumptive AFC Wild Cards have looked, you'd fancy them for a playoff spot.

17 - SEATTLE (+1)
4-6, 2nd NFC WEST
W 24-7 @STL, next vWAS

Held Steven Jackson to 2.8YPC to move to third in YPA behind Baltimore and Cincinnati. Are 2-3 on the road, which is like a perfect season for them. A very winnable game next week

18 - TENNESSEE (-3)
5-5, 2nd AFC SOUTH
L 17-23 @ATL, next vTB

I think I have given enough attention to Chris "Negative Yardage on the Play" Johnson's single handed execution of the Titans season (2TDs, 3.2YPC all season, amazing). Instead, I want to congratulate Jake Locker (9/19 for 2TDs and 140 yards) on an exceptionally promising opening performance. Sure, it was against a soft zone and in a very specific circumstance, but you could do an awful lot worse. At least the Titans might be able to take a genuinely exciting future QB out of this season. Tennessee, however, are not going to the playoffs. Since shocking Baltimore in Week Two, their wins have come against Carolina, Denver, Cleveland, Denver (pre-Tebow, if that is meaningful to you) and Indianapolis. They lost by 21 to the Steelers and 34 to the Texans.

19 - OAKLAND (+3)
6-4, 1st AFC WEST
W 27-21 @MIN, next vCHI

They might have enough you know, even without McFadden for the forseeable future. Palmer (a servicable 17/23 for 164 yards and a TD in this game) has played well the last two weeks, albeit into two of the softest secondaries out there. If they can lead the AFC West after trysts against the Bears, Dolphins and Packers, it's unlikely the Tebows or Chargers (who haven't won since October 9th) will be able to hunt them down.

20 - DENVER (+3)
5-5, 2nd AFC WEST
W 17-13 vNYJ, next @SD

Denver is tied for 8th in sacks this year with 27. Dumervil may be rounding into form with 3.5 sacks in his last three games, and likely Defensive Rookie of the Year Von Miller has an exceptional 9.5 on the year. A good Denver pass rush, and opportunistic corners (Goodman and Bailey have three picks in their last three games) can allow this defense to keep up, it's certainly asked to do plenty of work by it's offense. Denver are playing with no margin of error and hoping each bounce of the ball favours them, so far, so good in their abomination of a division.

21 - SAN DIEGO (-)
4-6, T-3rd AFC WEST
L 20-31 @CHI, next vDEN

I've always thought he was pretty overrated, but Vincent Jackson has been great this year (800 receiving yards, 8th in the NFL) and especially recently (328 yards and 3TDs the last three games). Watching this game you could just see how inexperienced the Chargers were on both lines and while the offensive line did surprisingly well against the intimidating Bears front seven (got to Rivers just once all day), the three men up front on defense could not occupy blockers. Couple that with no Shaun Phillips and there was no pass rush whatsoever. But never fear, the Chargers have Antoine Cason in the secondary...yeah...

4-6, 3rd NFC EAST
W 17-10 @NYG, next vNE

Vince Young looked like he hadn't thrown a football in any capacity in six months (258 yards on 36 throws with 3 picks, though he improved as the game went on). Combined with Manning's resolute show of incompetence, made this a shockingly difficult game to watch. DeSean Jackson is not only playing like shit, he's playing like shit and being stupid too - awesome (to be fair, he did everything imaginable to make up for the worst penalty of the season, he finished with 88 yards on six catches and 51 yard punt return that set up the first Eagles TD). Kudos to the much maligned offensive line, which showed just how terrible this Giants defense is if you can block them (New York touched Young just twice). Not getting sucked in after how badly they have played mind you.

23 - BUFFALO (-7)
5-5, T-2nd AFC EAST
L 8-35 @MIA, next @NYJ

As cliche as it is, it really does fit.

3-7, 3rd AFC SOUTH
L 10-14 @CLE, next vHOU

Have not scored more than 20 points all season. They are last in yards, points, 2nd last in first downs, last in YPA, last in passing TDs (6!). They are even 26th in YPC!

25 - CAROLINA (+2)
2-8, 4th NFC SOUTH
L 35-49 @DET, next @IND

Running out of puff in the second half and their offense looks a lot less dynamic than it did six weeks ago. Newton has thrown five interceptions against one touchdown the last two weeks. Their defense (Detroit had 495 yards of offense) remains the subbest of pars. Special teams were fantastic, Mare barely let Logan out of the endzone on kick returns and of course Pilares ran one back for a TD. Must win, as far as must win's go for a 2-8 team, next week at Indy.

26 - MINNESOTA (-2)
2-8, 4th NFC NORTH
L 21-27 vOAK, next @ATL

Christian Ponder, under the circumstances, has had a solid start to his rookie campaign. He ran for 71 yards in this game which masked a shocking game throwing, which was made to look better than it was by chasing in the fourth quarter (19/33 for 211 yards, 2TDs and 3 picks). Adrian Peterson's injury closes the chapter on another sad year for the Vikes.

27 - ARIZONA (-2)
3-7, 3rd NFC WEST
L 7-23 @SF, next @STL

If I had a dollar for every dropped pass or overthrown ball by these two teams...well...I'd have had a lot of dollars. Skelton and Smith combined to go 5/19 in the first quarter - with an interception.

28 - CLEVELAND (+2)
4-6, 4th AFC NORTH
W 14-10 vJAX, next @CIN

Worst 4-6 team ever? The teams they have beat have a combined record of 10-30, the best team they beat was Seattle in Cleveland. They have won those games by 16 points, total. They have scored 44 points in their last five games. They have two more home games all season - against the Steelers and Ravens...good luck.

29 - WASHINGTON (+2)
3-7, 4th NFC EAST
L 24-27 (OT) vDAL, next @SEA

The difference between Grossman (25/38 with 289 yards, 2TDs and a pick) and Beck is that while Grossman probably will ruin your offense eventually, at least you'll have an offense to ruin. I would be surprised if they return to Beck after this week, although Mike Shanahan is an incompetant and spiteful coach, so who knows. Have lost six straight.

30 - ST. LOUIS (-2)
2-8. 4th NFC WEST
L 7-24 vSEA, next vARI

Matt Millen said this week on NFL Network that Brandon Lloyd was "one of the best wide receivers in the game today". Brandon Lloyd does not have a touchdown this season. Then again, Matt Millen thought that about Mike Williams, Roy Williams and Charles Rogers at one point too.

31 - KANSAS CITY (-3)
4-6, T-3rd NFC WEST
L 3-34 @NE, next vPIT

Tied with San Diego, as we all expected, heading into a tight December and frantic finish in the AFC West. Sadly, this pre-season prediction which was no doubt out there, is technically still true.

0-10, 4th AFC SOUTH
BYE, next vCAR

I'm not sure how this is going to translate, but this was a hilarious video of the worst team in the Australian Football League's fictional tussle with the bye which seems apt this week.


rich said...

Two things about the Giants offense:

1. Cruz and Ballard drop too many passes.

2. Kevin Gilbride is one of the worst coordinators in football.

The reliance on Jacobs (what?!) in the run game instead of Ware, the decisions to chuck the ball downfield on 3rd and short, running on second and long. It's abysmal.

Every week, Giants fans have to watch a terrible half of football, only to see them turn around and light it up in the second half. It happened in NE and it happened in Philly.

Basically, Buddy Ryan is my hero for punching him in the face.