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Thursday, 3 October 2013

October Power Rankings

4 weeks into the season and the start of another month can only mean one thing: POWER RANKINGS! This is our first set of power rankings for the year, and as every they're an average taken from each of our own set of rankings.

So sit back and enjoy them, and as ever if you disagree or would like to argue that your team should be higher or lower then you can leave a comment or get in touch with us via Twitter and Facebook.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars, 0-4 (TD = 32, PG = 32, GS = 32)

The unanimous basement dwellers of our first 2013 power rankings! Jacksonville's offense has been a disaster, scoring just 3 touchdowns in 4 games. The same amount as the Denver special teams and both the Chicago and Dallas defense. We get the joy of these Jaguars, now Eugene Monroe-less after trading him to Baltimore, this side of the pond in the 2nd International Series game at the end of the month. I don't think London is fully prepared for just how bad they will be.

31. Oakland Raiders, 0-4 (TD = 31, PG = 31, GS = 28)

There are signs of life for the purposefully awful Raiders. Terrelle Pryor has been good at QB, showing far more poise in the pocket and accuracy than he did during his college days. Unfortunately most of the guys on this roster are awful. Once the dead money clears from their salary cap they should begin a total overhaul.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 0-4 (TD = 28, PG = 30, GS = 31)

The Bucs are 0-4, but that's just the start of their problems. The childish way they've handled the transition from Josh Freeman to Mike Glennon is really disappointing to see and should be a red flag to players getting contract offers from them in the coming off-season. But that said they've been in the drivers seat in the 4th quarter of 3 games so far this year but have been unable to close out the game. If they were 3-1 things would be a lot calmer in Tampa.

29. Pittsburgh Steelers, 0-4 (TD = 29, PG = 29, GS = 29)

It's a strange world where the Pittsburgh Steelers are 0-4 and getting picked apart of defense by backup QB's. Even a healthy Troy Polamalu hasn't been able to bring any more stopping power to the defense, which has failed to create a single turnover this season. Meanwhile Ben Roethlisberger is giving the ball away like it's going out of fashion behind an offensive line that is really struggling to keep him clean. Mike Adams had a disastrous game in Wembley against Jared Allen, forcing the front office's hand into a trade for Levi Brown, who is no answer to the left tackle troubles the Steelers have had for a long time now.

28. New York Giants, 0-4 (TD = 27, PG = 28, GS = 30)

Speaking of offensive line issues... Eli Manning was sacked 7 times against the Carolina Panthers and 14 times in total. And when he's not getting sacked he's throwing interceptions. The Giants offense has given the ball away 16 times. Yes, they've had a tough schedule so far that has included the Broncos and Chiefs, and things will get easier for them, but right now it's not looking great for the G-Men.

27. Arizona Cardinals, 1-3 (TD = 26, PG = 27, GS = 27)

The Cardinals have at least been playing great run defense so far this year, and that's been without Daryl Washington who returns to the team this week. Other than that though, it's been tough sledding for the Cardinals. Their own ground game has done nothing while putting the ball on the ground far too frequently. The win against Detroit in week 2 gives cause for hope, but with Brown being shipped to Pittsburgh Carson Palmer is going to get even less time to find what is a nice set of receivers.

26. Washington Redskins, 1-3 (TD = 30, PG = 23, GS = 26)

A road win in Oakland gets them off the mark, but it's hardly something to get exciting about for a team who boasts one of the worst secondaries in football and a very rusty QB. But there are bright spots for last years playoff team; Robert Griffin III's deep passing ability looks intact, and outside linebackers Brian Orakpo (3.0 sacks) and Ryan Kerrigan (5.0 sacks) are getting after the opposing QB's. However they come out of the bye week @ Dallas in week 6, home for Chicago and then @ Denver. Ouch.

25. St. Louis Rams, 1-3 (TD = 25, PG = 26, GS = 24)

18 months after effectively trading RG3 to Washington and the Rams could well be in the market for a quarterback again. Sam Bradford looked completely shellshocked in thursday night's game against San Francisco, and while he's only thrown 3 interceptions to 7 TD's he's not making the plays that his contract says he should be. Tavon Austin has looked electric for the Rams with the ball in hand, but Brian Schottenheimer insists on keeping his targets very close to the line of scrimmage, which is severely impacting his ability to influence the game and move the chains. At least Robert Quinn has had a magnificent start to the season at defensive end.

24. Minnesota Vikings, 1-3 (TD = 24, PG = 24, GS = 22)

Off the mark with a win in London that saw Adrian Peterson rip off big runs and featured Matt Cassel under centre. Cassel's big advantage for keeping the starting job is that he didn't throw any interceptions, something that has plagued Christian Ponder this season. The Vikings won't make anything official until next week, but we'd be surprised to see Ponder back any time soon if Cassel can keep the football and AP gets going again.

23. New York Jets, 2-2 (TD = 19, PG = 25, GS = 23)

Geno Smith's performance has more ups and downs than your average roller coaster, and the offense around him is no great shakes. What's been keeping the Jets competitive is a fearsome run defense, lead by rookie DT Sheldon Richardson and 3rd year DE Muhammad Wilkerson. Not only are they the foundation for a defense that's giving up just 3.0 yards per carry, but they're getting after the quaterback too, combining for 4.5 sacks so far. This team may have a lot of issues, but the defensive line looks set for some time to come.

22. Philadelphia Eagles, 1-3 (TD = 23, PG = 22, GS = 21)

The revolution that Chip Kelly had apparently begun in week 1 has since been put on hold. Sure, they can still move the ball and score quickly, but Michael Vick is giving up the football too much (2 picks & 3 fumbles) and the defense just can't play with this fast offense. The Eagles have the worst Time of Possession in the NFL at 24:58. That's asking too much of an already stretched defense. Maybe in a year or two the Eagles can put out a defense that can keep pace, but until then Chip Kelly needs to slow it down and perhaps lean a bit more on an outstanding ground game.

21. Buffalo Bills, 2-2 (TD = 20, PG = 19, GS = 25)

Another up and down rookie QB. EJ Manuel has shown flashes of having everything you could want in a modern NFL quarterback, but he's just lacked the consistency. But what's more worrying for the Bills fans is what's going on with CJ Spiller. His production has nose-dived from 6.23 yards per touch in 2012 to just 3.45 this year. A lot of that has to do with usage, and particularly play selection. Spiller has very rarely had any play call that gets him the ball in space, or creates space for him. Most of his runs have been straight ahead into heavy boxes. This is no way to use one of the most elusive running backs in the NFL.

20. Cleveland Browns, 2-2 (TD = 21, PG = 21, GS = 20)

So much for punting the season! Since trading Trent Richardson the Browns have gone 2-0 on the back of some stellar defense and Brian Hoyer's burgeoning relationship with Jordan Cameron. Sure, the running game hasn't been great. But Richardson was only going at 3.4 yards a carry for them anyway, and they've gone at 4 yards a carry in the last 2 games, thanks to some explosive carries. This current incarnation of the Browns offense has Cleveland hoping, we'll see how they do against Buffalo in primetime tonight.

19. Carolina Panthers , 1-2 (TD = 22, PG = 20, GS = 14)

Tough to get a handle on a team who's only played 3 games, but so far things are looking good for the Panthers defense at least. Allowed just 12 points to the Seahawks in week 1 before shutting out the Giants in week 3. Luke Kuechly is being ably assisted this season by rookie DT Star Lotulelei among others while DeAngelo Williams is having a renaissance year, going at 4.7 yards a carry so far this season.

18. Cincinnati Bengals, 2-2 (TD = 18, PG = 18, GS = 19)

The Bengals were the sexy AFC North pick this year, and they might still be able to compete in the weak division, but it's not been the outstanding start to the season many foresaw. Yes, the win against Green Bay was great, but they got handed a 14-0 lead and allowed 30 unanswered points before clawing their way back. Just 6 points against the Browns speaks to the issues they have when they can't run the ball consistently. They're a good team, but they'll only go as far as Andy Dalton can take them, and that's probably not very far.

17. Tennessee Titans, 3-1 (TD = 17, PG = 17, GS = 18)

The Titans have surprised a lot of people. Their defense has looked far better than expected, while Jake Locker has strung together 4 very nice games, completing 62.2% of his passes and throwing 6 TD's to 0 interceptions. It's not quite Peyton Manning but it's a very encouraging sign for a franchise that must have been worrying about having to dip back into the QB market soon. Unfortunately a hip strain is going to keep him sidelined for a few weeks, thrusting the offense into Ryan Fitzpatrick's hands. Unfortunately the investment in offensive line talent has done little to reinvigorate Chris Johnson so he'll have no help there.

16. Baltimore Ravens, 2-2 (TD = 13, PG = 16, GS = 17)

The defending champs find themselves exactly middle of the pack. They've managed to score just 3 offensive touchdowns in the last 2 games. Part of that is the injury to Ray Rice, who missed a week 3 victory against Houston and might as well have missed the loss in week 4 to Buffalo after touching the ball just 5 times. Speaking of which, the game against Buffalo had the eerie feel of a Cam Cameron called game. Just 9 rushing attempts in a game that was never once out of hand and Joe Flacco threw 5 interceptions. The Ravens need to keep feeding the ball to Rice and Bernard Pierce if they're to have success, because they don't have the talent on the outside of the offense to succeed if Flacco is passing 50 times a game. The trade for Eugene Monroe will help for the rest of this season, but he's no long-term addition as the Ravens will be unable to re-sign him thanks once again to Flacco's monster contract.

15. Dallas Cowboys, 2-2 (TD = 12, PG = 15, GS = 16)

Once again Miles Austin is injured, but that hasn't hurt Dallas too much as they've scored the 9th most points in the NFL. Some of that is the 3 touchdowns the defense has produced, but the rest is Tony Romo and his 8 TD's (and just 1 INT), half of which have gone to Dez Bryant. On the defense Sean Lee is healthy and playing like the stud that he is, but elsewhere they're struggling. Bruce Carter and Morris Claiborne were benched last week, which isn't a good sign going into a game against Denver. Fortunately for them the rest of the NFC East is pretty horrible.

14. San Digeo Chargers, 2-2 (TD = 10, PG = 12, GS = 15)

Welcome back Philip Rivers! 11 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions and a ridiculous 73.9% completion rate. Wow. Some of this is down to the changes new head coach Mike McCoy has made in adjusting to the poor offensive line they have. Rivers is getting the ball out quicker and not having to sit and wait for downfield targets to open up. Throw in the play of Danny Woodhead out of the backfield (6.1 yards per touch) and this offense is suddenly interesting again. If they can improve a struggling run defense that's allowing 5.2 yards per carry then the Chargers are suddenly an interesting wildcard proposition.

13. Indianapolis Colts, 3-1 (TD = 16, PG = 11, GS = 9)

Sure, 3 wins at this stage are great for what were the leading regression candidates going into this season. And the win in San Francisco was fantastic. But the other two wins have come against our bottom two teams, Jacksonville & Oakland. Their up coming schedule of vs. Seattle, @ San Diego and vs. Denver is going to show us just how competitive the Colts are this year. New signing Trent Richardson has been even worse on a yards per carry basis (2.9) than he was in Cleveland (3.5), but that should improve as he gets used to the offensive system. More importantly he's a better pass protector than most of the backs Indy were using, and protecting Andrew Luck is the most important thing going forward.

12. Atlanta Falcons, 1-3 (TD = 11, PG = 14, GS = 10)

Losses to the Saints, Dolphins and Patriots by 7 points or less are nothing to cry over, and they should be able to get fat on their up coming schedule of vs. Jets, Bye, vs. Bucs and @ Arizona but this season is not going to be an easy one for the Falcons. Their offensive line has had some issues, and injuries to Roddy White and Steven Jackson hav slowed the offense, while their defense has no pass rush what so ever and they're starting multiple rookies in the secondary. That easy road back to the NFC Championship Game is looking a lot more difficult.

11. Chicago Bears, 3-1 (TD = 9, PG = 10, GS = 12)

So "Bad Jay" made his long awaited season debut against Detroit at the weekend, throwing 3 interceptions and losing a fumble. But outside of that the Bears offense has had a lot of positives. Their rookie right side of first round pick Kyle Long and 5th rounder Jordan Mills has looked very good in both run and pass blocking. Having a legitimate player at tight end is opening more options up for Cutler in the passing game and giving them another red zone target. Meanwhile the usual amount of turnovers and touchdowns are there for the Chicago defense, but they've become surprisingly easy to move the ball on, and that's not something that's going to get any better with Henry Melton now out for the year.

10. Miami Dolphins, 3-1 (TD = 15, PG = 8, GS = 8)

A big loss to New Orleans on monday night shows that the Dolphins might not be quite ready to play with the big boys yet, but they're certainly getting there. Ryan Tannehill continues to improve in his 2nd season, while Mike Wallace is helping open up things for other receivers. The loss of players like Sean Smith and the changes at linebacker are clearly affecting the defense at this early stage, but up front with Paul Soliai, Randy Starks and Jared Odrick they continue to be a pain to try and run against while Cameron Wake is just killing offensive tackles once again.

9. Detroit Lions, 3-1 (TD = 8, PG = 9, GS = 11)

What a difference the addition or Reggie Bush has made. With a threat on the ground as well as out of the backfield the Lions have been able to ease back on the passing attempts and balance up their offense, meaning less pressure on Stafford to be THE guy and less pressure on the pocket when he drops back. As a team they're turning over the ball too much (7 so far) but the defense has done a good job taking it away. However the relatively soft schedule so far is about to crack, with trips to Green Bay and Cleveland coming before a home stand against the Bengals & Cowboys. It's going to be a dog fight for the NFC playoff spots and some good teams are going to miss out so they need to pick up some of these big games, and also try to control the penalty yardage that is already stacking up (285, 6th most).

8. Green Bay Packers, 1-2 (TD = 6, PG = 7, GS = 13)

The Packers have flip-flopped between brilliant and average so far this year. Their run defense shut down San Francisco's ground game, but they let Colin Kaepernick throw all over them, Rodgers torched Washington but then they couldn't close out the game against Cincinnati. Still, the Packers remain one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL thanks to Aaron Rodgers, an improved ground game with rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. They can outscore anyone on their day, and up coming games against Detroit and a trip to Baltimore will tell us more.

7. Houston Texans, 2-2 (TD = 14, PG = 6, GS = 6)

The early season worries about Arian Foster look to have been swept away for now, but in there place are issues at quarterback. Matt Schaub has thrown 3 pick 6's already this year (along with 3 other interceptions that weren't taken back) and the mood around Houston is that he just can't cut it anymore and they need to get a new guy who could get them over the hump. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen, but one thing that's for sure is that with the return of Brian Cushing this Houston front 7 is fearsome. JJ Watt continues to do JJ Watt things (3.5 sacks, 6 TFL's, 3 Pass defenses) while Cushing is flying over the field making plays and Whitney Mercilus adds some bite off the edge.

6. San Francisco 49ers, 2-2 (TD = 4, PG = 13, GS = 7)

Losing in Seattle is understandable, but losing at home to the Colts is not. Was it an aberration or something that may happen more regularly? Well the issues in that Colts game really stemmed from the injuries they've suffered at receiver. With Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham out all of the receiving threat really lies with Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. Davis missed the Colts game and the offense simply couldn't get over that. Otherwise though it looks like the same old 49ers. Hard-nosed defense, tough running game and Kaepernick Kaepernicking.

5. Kansas City Chiefs, 4-0 (TD = 7, PG = 5, GS = 4)

Andy Reid has put a claim on Coach of the Year status already. We all knew he'd be an improvement and get the Chiefs playing well, we just didn't think it would happen quite this quickly. The Chiefs undefeated start has been thanks mostly to an extremely good defensive performance at every level. Last years first round pick Dontari Poe has been playing exceptionally well in the run game and providing some good interior push against the pocket, which has allowed the outside guys of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to go hunting. (Houston leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks; 4.5 of those came against Philadelphia when he abused rookie Lane Johnson, the other 3 were against Jacksonville & Luke Joeckel. It only stands to reason that he's giving Eric Fisher nightmares in training).

The other big addition, quarterback Alex Smith, has done a good "game manager" job and looked after the football, allowing Jamaal Charles to do his thing and letting KC milk the clock and control the game. The question of how they'll cope against stiffer competition is a serious one though. They don't play Denver until week 11, but a trip to Tennessee this week along with a game against Houston in week 7 will show us how good the Chiefs can really be.

4. New England Patriots, 4-0 (TD = 5, PG = 4, GS = 5)

It's been far from smooth sailing in Foxboro to start the year, despite the 4-0 start. Tom Brady's relationship with his young receivers has been in question since his obvious displeasure at their performance in week 2. But since then things seem to have improved. Kenbrell Thompkins has pulled in 3 touchdowns in the last 2 games and finished with 6 catches for 127 yards and a TD in his first Sunday Night Football game. With Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola coming back from injury soon the Patriots passing attack should be even more deadly, which will open things up for the ground game as well. On defense the loss of Vince Wilfork for the year is a huge blow, he's an irreplaceable piece of the Belichick puzzle. They've yet to give up more than 24 points (though Atlanta is the only half-decent offense they've played) and Wilfork was a huge part of that, but so too has been the great play of Aqib Talib and the linebacking corp. But bigger tests are to come with the Saints and Broncos waiting further down the road.

3. New Orleans Saints, 4-0 (TD = 3, PG = 3, GS = 3)

Another person with a stellar Coach of the Year resume so far is Sean Payton. These Saints look like a different team with him back at the helm. But it's not just the offense that looks invigorated, it's the defense too. The hire of Rob Ryan was a controversial one give his shaky track record, but the attacking 3-4 defense seems to be working so far. Cameron Jordan has thrived since the switch to his more natural 5-tech position, giant rookie John Jenkins has had a successful transition into the NFL and will be welcomed into the fraternity of nose tackles. These Saints look like a complete team for the moment, how long the defense can hold up is a question. They've already suffered a number of injuries in the front 7 and you can be sure that they'll be more to come during the season, but while Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles are causing other teams fits they should be ok.

2. Seattle Seahawks, 4-0 (TD = 2, PG = 2, GS = 2)

The pre-season favourites check in at 2. Seattle haven't quite found the magic on offense that they had in the second half of last season, and a lot of that is down to offensive line injuries. Their Pro Bowlers Russell Okung and Max Unger missed the Houston game and will miss a few more before it's all said and done, meaning they've had to have a complete reshuffle of the line, and it's shown in the spotty protection Russell Wilson's been getting. Fortunately for the 'Hawks he's still got the escapability that makes him maddening for the opposition. And the defense is looking as monstrous as ever, especially now Chris Clemons is back to provide a boost to the pass rush. The Seahawks have looked shaky on the road so far however, getting home field advantage through the playoffs is a must for them you feel.

1. Denver Broncos, 4-0 (TD = 1, PG = 1, GS = 1)

The undisputed number one team is, of course, the Denver Broncos. Many, many words have been written about how incredible their offense is and the ridiculous pace Peyton Manning is on (5,880 yards, 64 TD's, 0 INT). The plaudits are well deserved, but the opponents they've faced so far are a combined 3-9 in their other games. For all the excitement in Denver at the moment we have to remember that we've seen this kind of thing from Peyton Manning before. Seemingly invincible in the regular season only to fall quickly come January. Their post bye week schedule of: @ San Digeo, vs Kansas City, @ New England, @ Kansas City, vs Tennessee, vs San Diego and @ Houston will be a tough stretch for them, but at this current level of performance you can't really see anything standing between Denver and the number 1 seed in the AFC. After that though....

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