Wednesday, December 7, 2011

6 comments J.S.' NFL Power Rankings: Week Thirteen

After a frustrating first three quarters of the season, where only Green Bay looked remotely elite, the cream is beginning to rise to the top in the NFL. Green Bay have obviously been good from start to finish (if anything, the undefeated pressure seems to be wearing on them slightly recently in games against Tampa and the Giants), but the second tier is firming.

New Orleans and New England have won four in a row. Pittsburgh have won seven of their past eight and Houston has won six in a row. Those four teams once sported mediocre records of 5-3, 2-2 and 3-3.

Meanwhile, teams such as Buffalo (once 4-1), Cincinnati (6-2), Detroit (5-0) and yes, the Giants (6-2) have not coped well at all with the increasing difficulty in their schedule.

Penalties were the theme of Week Thirteen in the NFL, here's a closer look.

1 - GREEN BAY (-)
12-0, 1st NFC NORTH
W 38-35 @NYG, next vOAK

What do you have to do to beat these guys? The Giants had an astronomical 7.33 yards per play and still Green Bay won - on the road.

9-3, 1st NFC NORTH
W 31-17 vDET, next @TEN

After the Saints led 10-0, you honestly could feel them taking this game over. A Lions defense missing Suh, Delmas and Houston was just powerless to stop them from scoring whenever they wanted.

9-3, 1st AFC EAST
W 31-24 vIND, next @WAS

New England's secondary allowed Indianapolis to pass for 338 yards and a 113.1 QB rating. That's 80 more yards than the Colts had thrown for in any game all year (the QB rating was bested by Painter against the Chiefs, but otherwise, no Colt had got within 13 of it). The secondary is that bad folks.

9-3, T-1st AFC NORTH
W 21-10 @CLE, next vIND

Joe Flacco, still having a terrible season. Baltimore had less than half first downs passing (7) as rushing (16) and Flacco was 10/23 for 166 yards for a 66.9 rating - and lost a fumble. His QB rating this season is 78.3 - down more than 15 points from last year.

9-3, T-1st AFC NORTH
W 35-7 vCIN, next vCLE

Slowly, at times frustratingly slowly, but surely, Pittsburgh have fixed their problems from a horror start. First it was run defense, which they have gotten down to 4.0 YPC after giving up 4.8YPC through their first four games. Then it was the turnovers. After a criminally low three in their first eight games, they have nine in their last four. Now it's the running game, with Mendenhall and Redman helping the Steelers to 136 yards here against the #3 rushing defense (3.6YPC). The special teams had a just about perfect game, blocking a kick, forcing a turnover and Brown returned a punt for a TD. By the way, when Antonio Brown is not returning punts for TDs, he's leading the Steelers in receiving, something he has done in four straight games. As I've said before, I am an enormous fan. My concerns come from their 1-3 record against top ten teams (and that doesn't include the Saints or Packers, clearly the best two in the NFL through 13 weeks IMO), and the San Fran tussle will be telling for both teams, but the Steelers are looming on the horizon for the rest of the NFL.

6 - HOUSTON (+1)
9-3, 1st AFC SOUTH
W 17-10 vATL, next @CIN

At some point, I feel you need to buy into this Texans' defense. I have, absolutely - it's top five. It closes on the ball better than anyone, and I mean any defense in the NFL. That's a good Atlanta offense they held to ten points. Houston are 2nd in YPA (6.0), 2nd in INTs (17), 2nd in sacks (35), 1st in completion percentage (50.2%), 1st in QB rating (62.1, 5.5 better than #2 Baltimore). Their ranks in those categories last year - 31st, 23rd, 23rd, 27th, 32nd (32nd to 1st in opposing QB rating!!!). It's astonishing they are able to do this without Williams. Andre Johnson looked great here with 97 yards on four catches...and then went down. T.J. Yates was...well... If nothing else, you have to admire these guys toughness.

10-2, 1st NFC WEST
W 26-0 vSTL, next @ARI

Woah! Look at Alex Smith throwing like a real QB, connecting on TD throws of 52 and 56 yards, stunningly. Sure, St. Louis is not the gold standard of pass defense, but even so - Alex Smith! Holding Steven Jackson to 19 yards on ten carries is impressive - period.

8 - ATLANTA (-2)
7-5, 2nd NFC SOUTH
L 10-17 @HOU, next @CAR

The Texans are tied for second in the league in terms of conceding sacks (16), and their elite offensive line was always going to seriously challenge the Falcons much maligned pass rush. Houston won that battle (5 total hits) and consequently the war. Yates committed only one turnover, on a terrible call as a "fumble" on what was clearly an incomplete pass. Credit also goes to the Texans crowd who were super loud here, Ryan was barking all day trying to work out plays at the line of scrimmage, causing false starts and delay of game penalties. Atlanta once again proving their critics right in their inability to win consistently outside the Georgia Dome.

9 - JETS (+1)
7-5, 2nd AFC EAST
W 34-19 @WAS, next vKC

Obviously the Eagles run away with the most dissapointing trophy, but the Jets have only gone backwards in the last four weeks, despite a 2-2 record. The wins are against the Skins and Bills, who collectively are 3-13 in their last 8 combined. The scoreline here was grossly misleading - it was 16-13 to the Skins with 5 minutes left. They lost to a Denver team who can't throw the ball and were slaughtered by the Patriots. Losses by the Bills and Cincy, both of whom are fading, means they need only elbow their way past Tennessee. The Titans still must play New Orleans and Houston. Mind you, the Jets still have Miami on the schedule - does anyone really believe the Jets are better than the Fins right now? I am officially off the bandwagon, playoffs or otherwise. I was wrong, they just aren't good.

10 - GIANTS (+3)
6-6, 2nd NFC EAST
L 35-38 vGB, next @DAL

Dallas' loss gives them new life, and they have nothing to be ashamed of here. I thought their secondary in particular did a nice job, as the pass rush only got to Rodgers 8 times (2 sacks). They held Rodgers to his lowest QB rating all season (106.2) and tore it up offensively (Manning 347 yards on just 40 throws, killed them, especially deep, and even Brandon Jacobs came to the party with 59 yards on 8 carries) but, when you give Rodgers the ball last...

11 - DALLAS (-2)
7-5, 1st NFC EAST
L 13-19 (OT) @ARI, next vNYG

Blew it.

12 - DETROIT (-1)
7-5, T-2nd NFC NORTH
L 17-31 @NO, next vMIN

A coverage on Johnson (press with two defensive backs at the line of scrimmage) at first and goal epitomised the second half of his season, and how frustrating and claustrophobic his world has been of late. He has 288 yards in his last four games - excellent for most receivers, but not a single 100 yard game amongst them, and more importantly, just one TD. In his previous four he had four straight 100 yard games, 483 yards and 3 TDs. Detroit are 29th in penalties conceded and this game was no exception, with 11 for 107 yards. Can't beat the Saints doing that. At some point Jim Schwarz has to take responsibility for the lack of discipline on this team - it might cost them a playoff berth.

13 - TENNESSEE (+2)
7-5, 2nd AFC SOUTH
W 23-17 @BUF, next vNO

Do you like atrocious run defense? Boy did the NFL have the game for you here. Tennessee and Buffalo combined for 284 yards of rushing, and Chris Johnson (153 yards on 23 carries) got the lion's share. He did show some of that trademark patience in many of his runs and may be rounding back to his best. Still, don't get too excited, Buffalo and Tampa sport the 26th and 27th ranked run defenses in terms of YPC respectively.

14 - DENVER (+4)
7-5, T-1st AFC WEST
W 35-32 @MIN, next vCHI

I think I would go postal if I was a member of this Denver defense. WhatI dislike about Tebow (or the coverage of Tebow I suppose), is how unfair it is he is praised to the lack of attention to others. Here is the Denver offense in the first half - 1 first down, negative six points. The defense produced three turnovers that directly led to 17 points, including the winning field goal. And they did it without the impressive Von Miller. By the way, Von Miller has not missed a tackle all season. Or, to put another way, Tebow has not Tebowed a Tebow all Tebow.

15 - MIAMI (+4)
4-8, 4th AFC EAST
W 34-14 vOAK, next vPHI

A story of two offensive lines this one. Miami put in the most dominant performance of an offensive line I have seen since Houston played the Steelers. Even so, Reggie Bush (100 yards on 22 carries) is playing better and I really like what I've seen from Daniel Thomas (73 yards on 13) at times this season. Led 34-0 by the end of the third and dominated time of possession to the tune of 38:20 to 21:40. Miami have been one of the best teams in the NFL the last five weeks. They have outscored their opponents 139-54.

16 - CINCINNATI (-2)
7-5, 3rd AFC NORTH
L 7-35 @PIT, next vHOU

Never really recovered after a Gresham TD (and then a Nugent FG) was negated by penalty; a drive that ended with a blocked field goal. It's hard to imagine a more traumatic end to an opening drive. Cincy gained 23 on their next drive and then 130 yards over the final three quarters of the game. Like the first game against the Steelers when they overpursued and lacked discipline, Cincy's immaturity killed them, giving up over 100 yards on 10 penalties.

17 - CHICAGO (-5)
7-5, T-2nd NFC NORTH
L 3-10 @KC, next @DEN

This makes me a sad panda.

18 - OAKLAND (-1)
7-5, T-1st AFC WEST
L 14-34 @MIA, next @GB

While Miami's offensive line was putting on a clinic, Oakland's gave Palmer no time whatsoever to throw (2 sacks and 5 hits, but looked much worse) and no hope whatsoever for a running game (46 yards on 13 carries and only 28 by the end of the third - the Raiders!). They also threw in a few crippling penalties for good measure (what would an Oakland game be without the penalties - 10 for 91 yards, Oakland are last in the league in penalties). While receivers were dropping passes like they were fireballs, Palmer (20/41 for 273 yards, 2TDs and a pick) actually looked OK with absolutely no help. He is definitely the best QB in the AFC West, which is like me saying I am the best Madden player in my bedroom.

19 - SEATTLE (+1)
5-7, T-2nd NFC WEST
W 31-14 vPHI, next vSTL

Seattle are not a particulary good team. But they play hard, are committed on every play, and are disciplined. They are tough. Philadelphia are none of those things. Taravis Jackson not only beat them, but beat them with a torn pectorial - while Vick sat on the bench I might add. I'm not saying that was unjustified, just that it was apt. The Marshawn Lynch TD run in the first quarter was emblematic of the difference between the teams.

20 - SAN DIEGO (+5)
5-7, T-3rd AFC WEST
W 38-14 @JAX, next vBUF

The once mighty San Diego vertical game seemed to have been humbled and become a matter of screens and pitches in a desperate attempt to avoid Rivers and the passing game destroying the Chargers hopes with turnovers. Then something happened; towards the end of the first half, the Chargers seemed to find themselves again, and began to connect with several of the bombs that made Rivers (22/28 for 294 yards and 3TDs) famous. Watching Jacksonville's "receivers" against San Diego's "secondary", trying to play football, was one of the saddest things I've ever seen. A desperately needed victory, and the AFC West is not yet out of reach.

21 - CAROLINA (-)
4-8, T-3rd NFC SOUTH
W 38-19 @TB, next vATL

Here's a weird little quirk for you - four of Carolina's five TDs were 1 yard runs. Carolina leads the league in rushing TDs with 19 - 4 more than second place (Houston, in yet another thing they are among the best in the league at). The takeover of the #1 back role continues, as Stewart (80 yards on 14 carries) outdid Williams (29 on 11) easily in this game, by over 3 yards a carry...Williams signed a five year, 43 million dollar contract in July this year. While Newton has cooled off after a hot start, give him credit for taking care of the ball at the very least - which is more than you can say for most rookie QBs. After throwing nine INTs in his first six games, he has thrown just five in his past six, which includes 4 at Detroit. He's going to be a high quality player.

22 - TAMPA BAY (-6)
4-8, T-3rd NFC SOUTH
L 19-38 vCAR, next @JAX

Man, that's a terrible defense (30th in total D, 26th in pass, 29th in run, 30th in scoring).

23 - ARIZONA (+6)
5-7, T-2nd NFC WEST
W 19-13 (OT) vDAL, next vSF

Chalk this one up to the pass rush, who sacked one of the most mobile QBs in the game five times and got to him 10 times in total. Kolb, under pressure constantly (5 sacks and ten hits of his own) was good, there is potential next year for a solid season if he can avoid injury. He had an efficient 247 yards on 25 throws, including the winning TD (albeit a 52 yard screen). Arizona have won four of their last five.

24 - BUFFALO (-2)
5-7, 3rd AFC EAST
L 17-23 vTEN, next @SD

Buffalo have receivers who can't catch, a line that can't block (their season numbers look great, conceding just 15 sacks, but seven have been in their last four games, and they have looked worse than that, also negated a Spiller TD with a hold here) a defense that can't stop...anything really (28th in PPG, and 157 points in their last five games) and their best running back is done for the season. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the biggest problem though - he's been awful. His 88 QB rating here was misleading, he had about a million tipped balls, two dropped INT's and down the stretch threw three short checkdowns (two of which were with goal to go) within three minutes. The last was forgivable but the two goal to go ones should have been thrown away and killed at least a minute of clock time. Even counting the Jets game where he threw for 3TDs (which now screams anomoly), he's had 6TDs and 7 picks in his last five games and has not averaged 7 yards a throw in any of them.

25 - WASHINGTON (+2)
4-8, T-3rd NFC EAST
L 19-34 vNYJ, next vNE

Seriously, I'm not even playing this for laughs, but literally just before Grossman threw a pick that was nullifed due to penalty (early in the second), I was thinking "you know, maybe I've been hard on Rex, he is playing fucking great at the moment and has the last few contests". No one does that hilarious, almost ironic, interception like Rexy. As it was, he threw a pick (his 14th game straight with one) in the fourth, following a sack fumble. He also went 16/41 for 150 yards (on 41 throws!) after starting in the first quarter 3/5 for 71. There was 570 yards of offense in this game and just 240 (!) in the second half. At one point, twelve drives (not including an end of half kneel down) produced...three points. There were two first downs combined in the third quarter and ten in the entire second half. Brutal.

26 - KANSAS CITY (+4)
5-7, T-3rd AFC WEST
W 10-3 vCHI, next @NYJ

Palko's completion to McCluster to end the first half with a TD (and what was ultimately the difference between the two teams) represented 25% of his total yards on the day. Nevertheless, he deserves credit for keeping the ball out of the Bears hands, and winning that battle with Hanie (3INTs) was essentially enough to close this game out.

4-8, T-3rd NFC EAST
L 14-31 @SEA, next @MIA


28 - MINNESOTA (-4)
2-10, 4th NFC NORTH
L 32-35 vDEN, next @DET

Christian Ponder (29/47 for 381 yards and a mixed day to say the least with 3TDs and a pick) was pretty great once he settled down, with plenty of havoc around him and against what is suddenly a very good pass defense. Yes, he threw the fatal INT, but I think he's shown more than Andy Dalton this year - I really do. Percy Harvin (8 receptions for 156 yards and 2TDs) was at his electrifying best, something we have not seen much of at all the last two years. Jared Allen has only one sack in his last three games.

29 - CLEVELAND (-3)
4-8, 4th AFC NORTH
L 10-21 vBAL, next @PIT

Called run just 13 times in this game. I know Baltimore has the second best run defense in the league (3.4YPC) but they have a pretty good pass rush too. They got to McCoy seven times for three sacks and just 192 yards on 35 throws with a pick.

3-9, 3rd AFC SOUTH
L 14-38 vSD, next vTB

The myth of the good Jacksonville defense I hope has now been exposed, San Diego had 433 total yards. Please enjoy this week's "Jacksonville are awful" video. I love how ESPN had the foresight to schedule not one, but two Jacksonville games on Monday night - well done boys.

31 - ST. LOUIS
2-10, 4th NFC WEST
L 0-26 @SF, next @SEA

Were held to 157 yards. For the game. That's not a misprint.

0-12, 4th AFC SOUTH
L 24-31 @NE, next @BAL

"People can say what they want about not playing hard, but I think that comeback shut that up right there" - the immortal words of Jacob Tamme. Shut the fuck up Jacob. When you win a game, perhaps then you can be self righteous about slamming your critics.


Murray said...

From an article RE Indys yardage

Finally, there appears to be a fair amount of disgust swirling around after the 31-24 win over the hapless Colts this past Sunday, as the Pats stormed out to a 31-3 lead only to allow 21 fourth quarter points. Let’s keep in mind, however, that Indy had 72 yards passing leading up to the 31-3 score, and 264 yards passing from that point forward. It’s not difficult to fathom that they probably changed some things up once the game appeared to get completely out of hand. Let’s also keep in mind that Matt Slater was the starter at safety

rich said...

Although I argue about the rankings a lot, I have to say this is pretty spot on.

::golf clap::

J.S. said...

Thanks Rich, I certainly appreciate your comments, and I find our banter quite stimulating each week!

Bengoodfella said...

Murray, that's probably a good point. Belichick did some crazy things this past week on defense.

J.S., I thought this week was excellent as well. I'm still not sure I trust Joe Flacco enough to see the Ravens that high, but they probably deserve it. The Falcons...still going to the Super Bowl this year despite the fact they can't win on the road. We'll see that theory tested when they play craptastic Panthers defense this week.

What the hell has happened to St. Louis?

Murray said...

The secindary is not great. One thing I noticed was once it was 31-3 they stopped playing zone and went exclusivly man. I think Bill knows they need to be better at man and figured it was a safe time to "practice" man against a real team

J.S. said...

It's pathetic that Indianapolis are essentially a practice squad for teams to experiment against.