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Thursday, 7 November 2013

November Power Rankings

A new month, a new set of power rankings. That's the TPL way.

Through 9 weeks we still have one undefeated team and two who are yet to taste victory. There have been key injuries, surprise defeats and runs of form both fantastic and horrible. So who tops our latest power rankings? Who are the big risers and fallers? You can find out after the jump!

32. (32) Jacksonville Jaguars, 0-8 (TD = 31, PG = 32, GS = 32)

While the Jags continue to be terrible (they average a 33-10 loss every week) there is at least the feeling that under first year head coach Gus Bradley things will be get better, if not this year then at least when this coaching staff get to draft their own QB in 2014. There are also bright spots on the current roster such as Cecil Shorts and emerging receiver Mike Brown and even the quarter and a bit that Luke Joeckel played at left tackle before getting injured. But for this year at least they are probably the least watchable team in the NFL thanks to their terrible run defense, bad quarterbacking and now the loss of Justin Blackmon. They're definitely the favourite to finish the year at 0-16. (TD)

31. (30) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 0-8 (TD = 32, PG = 31, GS = 31)

So close but so far for Tampa against Seattle. But outside of rookie running backs throwing TD's there isn't much to celebrate in Tampa. The relationship between head coach Greg Schiano and his team is less stable than a jelly during an earthquake, the coaches have been chewing star players out for sporting gestures such as helping up opposing players after the whistle, former Bucs have been saying how awful Schiano is as a man manager, and it's pretty obvious how poor an in-game manager he is. There is enough talent on this team even without Doug Martin and Mike Williams to get a win or two under their belts between now and 2014, but is there the desire? Pretty much this same group of players gave up whole heartedly on Raheem Morris, why wouldn't they do the same to someone they seem to dislike so intensely? (TD)

30. (24) Minnesota Vikings, 1-7 (TD = 30, PG = 30, GS = 30)

Proof eternal that having the best RB in the NFL, and arguably one of the greatest of all time, is not enough to be a good or successful team in 2013. Adrian Peterson ranks 4th in rushing yards with 711, and has found the endzone 7 times on the ground, yet the Vikings offense is 27th overall in yards gained. None of the three QBs that has started for Minnesota this year has done anything to separate themselves as worthy of keeping the job, and so the carousel will likely keep on turning throughout the year. If Minnesota want to win their first game of 2013 on US soil, they need their D to stop someone, anyone, and give AP a chance to nudge them over the line. (PG)

29. (29) Pittsburgh Steelers, 2-6 (TD = 29, PG = 28, GS = 29)

The Steelers really are terrible. Age has caught up to many of their players now, they rank a shocking 28th in defensive DVOA and the offense isn't much better either. Once again the issues stem from awful offensive line play (except David DeCastro who has improved after a shaky start). They can't protect Big Ben and they can't open up lanes for LeVeon Bell. There is still talent on this team, Antonio Brown is special, as is Lawrence Timmons and Cameron Heyward is playing very well in his first year as a starter at defensive end, but these players are too few and far between. (TD)

28. (28) New York Giants, 2-6 (TD = 28, PG = 24, GS = 27)

The Giants continue to be terrible, but they registered their first wins of the year thanks to playing the totally unprepared quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Matt Barkley in consecutive weeks. Come off their bye week they'll have home games against a potentially Pryor-less Raiders and a definitely Rodgers-less Packers. At just 2 back in the loss column to Dallas, could the Giants put on a late season charge to the post-season? I doubt it, they still have to travel to San Diego and Detroit as well as hosting Seattle. And to think they were lifting the Lombardi trophy less than 2 years ago. (TD)

27. (12) Atlanta Falcons, 2-6 (TD = 27, PG = 23, GS = 28)

It's not been a pleasant ride for the Falcons in 2013. Last year's #1 seed feels like a distant memory. The defense has been poor, but that was to be expected, the problem has been the offense. Yes, injuries have played their part; Roddy White's been hobbled all year and Julio Jones is now out for the year, but things were bad before that. They're getting nothing up front from a poor offensive line and are managing just 3.5 yards a carry this year, Matt Ryan's play has disintegrated in the last few games and their only win in the last 6 weeks is against Tampa. At least Tony Gonzalez has continued to be his usual self. (TD)

26. (31) Oakland Raiders, 3-5 (TD = 23, PG = 27, GS = 22)

Oh Oakland, just when you look to be rounding into form you go and get destroyed by Nick Foles! Last week's embarrassment aside though, the Raiders have been a pleasant surprise this year thanks to a healthy defense and the impressive play of QB Terrell Pryor who has been a better pocket passer than any thought he could ever be. He's sensing pressure, moving in the pocket and throwing with accuracy that we never saw before. It's a testament to the Raiders coaching and the work he's put in that many are saying they should stick with him through 2014 and use their picks this year to re-tool elsewhere. (TD)

25. (25) St. Louis Rams, 3-6 (TD = 24, PG = 29, GS = 19)

The Rams season was all but over when Sam Bradford landed awkwardly on a Carolina sideline and tore his ACL, ending his 2013 season. Despite some high profile off-days, like his poor showing on Week 4's TNF against the 49ers, Bradford was quietly on course for by far his best statistical season of his still young career. 14 TDs vs only 4 INTs, and a clear improvement in his pocket presence - standing tall even with pressure all around him to find his (again) retooled receiving corps. But that's ancient history in NFL terms. Even with their D-line putting in dynamic performances against Seattle and then Tennessee, Brian Schottenheimer and Kellen Clemens have conspired to make sure the Rams have dropped to 3-6 after back-to-back defeats that should have been wins. With a tough month of fixtures ahead, don't expect the Rams to do anything but consolidate their spot at the bottom of the NFC West. (PG)

24. (26) Washington Redskins, 3-5 (TD = 26, PG = 21, GS = 21)

Robert Griffin III is starting to look more like his old self, but he's not all the way back just yet. Meanwhile the ground game is just as potent as ever. Alfred Morris is going at over 5 yards a carry, even if he's now getting his TD's vultured by everyone as Mike Shanahan continues to laugh at Fantasy Football. Defensively the big worry is that Brian Orakpo simply isn't the guy he used to be. While Ryan Kerrigan continues to impress on one edge, Orakpo has begun to disappear on the other. (TD)

23. (27) Arizona Cardinals, 4-4 (TD = 25, PG = 19, GS = 24)

The return of Daryl Washington from suspension has given the Cardinals defense a different dimension. He's the best blitzing linebacker in football and isn't too bad at the other aspects of the position. Throw in the playmaking ability of rookie Tyrann Mathieu, the coverage of Patrick Peterson and the brutality they possess up front thanks to Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell and you can see why football outsiders has them as the top ranked defense. unfortunately things aren't so rosy on the offensive side, Carson Palmer continues to suck while Larry Fitzgerald has been in and out of the lineup with lingering injuries. One note of joy though has to be the play of rookie Andre Ellington who's torn off 7.7 yards a carry in his criminally low 43 rushes. (TD)

22. (21) Buffalo Bills, 3-6 (TD = 17, PG = 26, GS = 23)

The Bills may have gone 1-3 in the absence of EJ Manuel, but those 3 losses were to Cincinnati, New Orleans & KC, who have a combined 18-5 in their other games so there's no shame there, especially when they took Cincy to overtime and didn't allow an offensive TD against Kansas. Manuel has now been cleared for practice and we'll see if he's inserted straight back into the line-up this weekend or not, I hope so because he was very entertaining to watch before his injury. Away from the QB position the Bills have been up and down. CJ Spiller has been dealing with an ankle injury but put up his first 100 yard rushing performance since week 2 in the loss to KC. The defense has been outstanding, with Mario Williams racking up the sacks and Kyle Williams playing lights out on the interior, but the big bonus has been the play of rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso who has been flying around the field (and over the centre) making plays. He's the leader in the clubhouse for defensive rookie of the year. (TD)

21. (16) Baltimore Ravens, 3-5 (TD = 22, PG = 14, GS = 25)

This ain't your Superbowl winning Ravens. After throwing 11TD's & 0 INT's in their 4 playoff wins, Joe Flacco has just 10 TD's and 9 INT's in 8 games this year. The ground game isn't in any better shape either, the Ravens can only muster 2.8 yards per carry, and the worst thing is that there isn't just one culprit. Right guard Marshal Yanda has played well this year, but those around him are really struggling. Ray Rice looks sluggish, Gino Gradkowski has been a poor replacement for the retired Matt Birk and the trade for Eugene Monroe has not improved things. Fortunately the defense is looking much better than last year, other wise their record would be even worse. The D, 8th in DVOA, has been lead by Daryl Smith at linebacker and a healthy Terrelle Suggs coming off the edge and is looking better off for not having Ray Lewis and Ed Reed there. (TD)

20. (7) Houston Texans, 2-6 (TD = 20, PG = 20, GS = 20)

The Texans haven't won a game since September 15th. Which is staggering given their status as AFC challengers in 2011 & 2012. A lot of that has to do with the struggles of Matt Schaub, who seems to have been deposed by the exuberance of rookie Case Keenum but injuries to Brian Cushing and Arian Foster haven't helped. Since Keenum has come in they've run the Chiefs and Colts close, and you get the feeling that wins are just around the corner, even if the playoffs might not be. Teams have done a good job of scheming around JJ Watt to some extent this year and committing to double-teaming him on nearly every down, but while it's resulted in a dent of his stat line his level of play is still amazing. He's crushing QB's, making plays in the backfield and even added a blocked field goal to his resume against Indianapolis. He probably won't win defensive player of the year again in 2013, but he'd be deserving of it. (TD)

19. (22) Philadelphia Eagles, 4-5 (TD = 21, PG = 22, GS = 17)

Nick Foles is now in the NFL record books. What a crazy sport this is! The Eagles continue to be more perplexing than most teams, one week their offense is clicking, the next it's no where to be seen. At 4-5 they're not out of the division race by any means, but they need to find more consistency. On defense they're improving as the season progresses which is good to see, Fletcher Cox continues to be a menace on the inside while Trent Cole has handled the switch to 3-4 well. (TD)

18. (20) Cleveland Browns, 4-5 (TD = 18, PG = 25, GS = 15)

This could go down as something of a "what if" year for Cleveland. With the Steelers and Ravens struggling they had a chance to ride a great defense and electric skill position players to a good record and maybe a division title. But they've started Brandon Weeden at QB in 4 games and lost them all as he stunk it up. What if they'd started Brian Hoyer from week 1? What if he hadn't gotten injured against the Bills? What if they'd have drafted Ryan Tannehill instead of Trent Richardson? Poor Browns fans, nothing ever goes right for them. But maybe things are turning around, the Richardson trade is looking like a stroke of genius from Mike Lombardi, even if the Colts 1st round pick ends up being in the late 20's. (TD)

17. (10) Miami Dolphins, 4-4 (TD = 19, PG = 12, GS = 26)

Firstly, let's just say that we'll stay away from the off-field happenings here until the story becomes a lot clearer. What we do know is that the Dolphins, who have fallen away since a 3-0 start, have lost 2 members of a starting offensive line that was already struggling to keep Ryan Tannehill upright. That's only going to hurt them moving forward. Speaking of Tannehill, I think he's further along than many draft-niks thought he would be at this point in his career. He certainly doesn't look like a guy who was playing wide receiver as recently as 2009. On the defense the D-Line continue to look impressive. Jared Odrick, who was flirting with the "bust" tag for a while, has been very good this year, and Cameron Wake has recovered enough from injury to rack up his first sacks since week 1, including getting a game winning safety against Cincy. The Dolphins are an outside bet to sneak a wildcard spot but they've got a tricky run coming up after their monday night game against Tampa; Vs. San Diego, Vs. Carolina & @ New York isn't going to be easy, if they can come away from that at or above .500 then they'll be feeling confident about getting into the play-offs. (TD)

16. (17) Tennessee Titans, 4-4 (TD = 15, PG = 16, GS = 26)

It's hard to know whether Chris Johnson really is back or not. Sunday saw his first rushing TD and first 100 yard game of 2013 against the hit and miss Rams D, but is this a sign of things to come? The investment that Tennessee made in their interior OL during the off-season was a welcome sight for everyone here at TPL Towers, with these three positions being consistently forgotten even over their relatively more glamorous OT counterparts. The hope was that this would rejuvenate CJ2K, who spent much of 2012 blaming his blockers for his running troubles, but there were no real signs of this until week 9. With a visit from the Jaguars in week 10 and a trip to Oakland in week 12, Johnson has some favourable matchups ahead that he'll need to take advantage of if the Titans want to keep in the running for that 6th seed in the AFC. (PG)

15. (14) San Diego Chargers, 4-4 (TD = 16, PG = 15, GS = 18)

The Chargers had a chance to go 5-3 by being aggressive on their 4th & goal attempt at the end of their game in Washington, but instead opted for overtime and didn't touch the ball again. Realistically they needed that win because with 4 games against Denver & KC still to come the playoffs now look like a very long shot. But they've become relevant again under Mike McCoy which is really all you could have asked in his first year. They still need help on the offensive line but Phil Rivers has returned to form, Danny Woodhead continues to be a nightmare for defenses. Unfortunately their own still needs a lot of work. (TD)

14. (23) New York Jets, 5-4 (TD = 13, PG = 18, GS = 14)

The Jets are one of the biggest Jekyll & Hyde teams in the NFL. They have wins over both the Saints and Patriots where they looked like the better team for the majority of play but they've been turned over by the Titans and lost to the Steelers, they've yet to win back to back games and have comfortably the worst set of receivers in the NFL. However their defense has been spectacular, particularly up front. Rex Ryan has invested his last 3 1st round picks in the defensive line and it's showing, Muhammad Wilkerson has become an exceptional player and is being ably supported by Quinton Coples and rookie Sheldon Richardson. They've given up a league-best 73.8 rush yards per game and are causing havoc against the pass as well. (TD)

13. (8) Green Bay Packers, 5-3 (TD = 14, PG = 17, GS = 12)

We're all about to find out how important Aaron Rodgers is to the Packers offense. A fractured collarbone will keep the star QB out for a minimum of 4 weeks, by which time Green Bay could be all-but-out of the playoff hunt. The current three-way tie atop the NFC North looked like the Packers for the taking before MNF, with Cutler's groin injury keeping him out another week or two, and the Lions only scraping a win when Calvin Johnson records more receiving yards than some teams manage in a fortnight. One drive into the matchup with the Bears and everything looked very different. Seneca Wallace under centre hardly strikes the same fear into the opposition, and with the Pack's receiving corps banged up too, the team will have to rely on its oft forgotten running game to put points on the board. Eddie Lacy and James Starks have performed well so far - can they keep this team alive while Rodgers heals? (PG)

12. (15) Dallas Cowboys, 5-4 (TD = 12, PG = 11, GS = 13)

Nothing is ever simple in Dallas. Their 4 losses have been by an average of 3.5 points, which is just cruel. But what's crueler is that no matter how crap the defense is, how ever many games they give up 400+ passing yards or how many points they score, all the blame gets heaped on Tony Romo's shoulders. Truth is he's been great this year, again. Romo's put up a 100.0 QB rating with 20 TD's to just 6 INT's, and all that's with getting just 3.7 a carry from the ground game. But Romo's not been the only big player for Dallas. Dez Bryant, while not being Calvin Johnson, has been very good and Sean Lee is playing unbelievably well, tackling everything in sight and picking off 4 passes. Unfortunately the rest of the defense has been terrible. (TD)

11. (11) Chicago Bears, 5-3 (TD = 11, PG = 13, GS = 11)

Despite an injury to Jay Cutler and a crumbling defense the Bears stay in 11th place. Why? Well Marc Trestman has been great in developing this offense. With Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey they've got two enormous receivers to help out Josh McCown while he's playing and their offensive line has been much improved, mostly due to the performance of first round selection Kyle Long. There's a chance Cutler will be back this weekend, but even if he's not they have a good chance of winning this division despite a defense that either creates turnovers or gives up touchdowns with very little in between. (TD)

10. (18) Cincinnati Bengals, 6-3 (TD = 9, PG = 8, GS = 9)

Injuries are beginning to ravage the impressive Bengals defense. In the pre-season they had good depth at most positions, but season-ending injuries to Geno Atkins and Leon Hall are killers, no matter how deep you are. Atkins was the monster in the middle of an epic defensive line, without him they don't look nearly as fearsome while Hall's second achilles injury leaves the secondary depleted. The good thing for the Bengals is that the rest of the AFC North looks rather weak this year and Houston, who knocked them out of the playoffs in both 2011 and 2012, don't look like getting back to the post-season this year. (TD)

9. (19) Carolina Panthers, 5-3 (TD = 8, PG = 10, GS = 8)

Carolina's last 4 opponent's have a combined 6 wins between them this season, but they did to them what good teams should; put them away comfortably. The Panthers won each of those games by more than 2 TD's, lead by an impressive stretch from Cam Newton and a newly aggressive Ron Rivera, who has whole heartedly embraced 4th down attempts, which he's long been implored to do by more sabermetricly-inclinded writers. But what's really fuelled the Panthers this year is a fantastic defense. The rookie defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short have helped to sure up the interior and given the defensive ends more favourable looks when rushing the passer, they've also served to keep blockers off the majestic Luke Kuechly, who continues to be a ball-seeking missile at middle linebacker and a threat to the "best linebacker in football" dynasty that Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman have been building for the last few years. (TD)

8. (9) Detroit Lions, 5-3 (TD = 10, PG = 9, GS = 6)

Is there anyone, or anything, that can stop Calvin Johnson? Sure, his yardage total isn't quite as ridiculous as it was last year, but he's found the endzone 7 times and continues to make defenses look ridiculous. And while he's roaming down field Reggie Bush is doing his thing underneath and causing a nuisance of himself. This is all possible because Matthew Stafford has been sacked just 10 times so far this year thanks to both his quick release and his occasional sidearmer, but also the play of Riley Reiff, who has been a better left tackle than I thought he was capable of being when drafted. On defense Ndamukong Suh continues to be a pain to both the Lions PR and opposing QB's, but the big surprise is the impact rookie Ziggy Ansah is having. He was considered a project when drafted, as someone who wouldn't have much impact immediately, but he's already producing good pressure as a situation rusher, with 3 sacks this year. If he can keep going, and Stafford can be the one NFC North QB who stays healthy, the Lions might just snag themselves a division title. (TD)

7. (4) New England Patriots, 7-2 (TD = 6, PG = 4, GS = 10)

Tom Brady has not played like Tom Brady this year. Or at least, he hadn't until a week 9 demolishing of Pittsburgh. So is Brady and the Pats offense back or was this just a flash in the pan? And what about that weird swelling on his throwing hand we saw against Miami? Who knows. But a lot will rest on the health of Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola. For now they're fit, and along with the improvements rookie Aaron Dobson is making they could be poised to make a return to the world-beating offenses of the last few years. The defense however, is another issue. The loss of Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo has crippled the run defense while Aqib Talib can't come back soon enough, he was playing like the best corner in football earlier in the season, shutting down AJ Green, Julio Jones and Jimmy Graham. If he can stay healthy during the stretch then the Patriots pass defense could be a troublesome thing for their opponents. (TD)

6. (3) New Orleans Saints, 6-2 (TD = 7, PG = 5, GS = 7)

We told you they'd be good. The return of Sean Payton, the arrival of Rob Ryan, and the consistency of Drew Brees have combined to push the Saints to a 6-2 record that has them leaders of the NFC South. An unexpected loss in the battle of the Ryans in week 9 aside, the Saints have looked dominant in 2013, even looking like beating the Patriots for 99.9% of their week 6 loss. The real key to the fate of this team will be weeks 14-16, when they play their main rivals the Panthers (5-3) twice, either side of visiting St Louis. If they can come through their frankly horrible schedule between now and then (vs DAL, vs SF, @ATL, @SEA) with a 2-2 record or better, you'd be hard pressed not to back them for a return to the playoffs. (PG)

5. (2) Seattle Seahawks, 8-1 (TD = 4, PG = 6, GS = 3)

Seattle have been squeaking out wins all year, the latest of which was their OT win against Tampa. Is this a sign that they're not as good as we thought, or that they're taking their foot off and saving something for the post-season? Who knows, but the offense is far less explosive than it was during the 2nd half of last season. Percy Harvin's imminent return should help matters. As will Russell Okung's, the offensive line has been a shambles in his absence. And incase you haven't noticed, Earl Thomas is having one hell of a season. (TD)

4. (13) Indianapolis Colts, 6-2 (TD = 1, PG = 7, GS = 5)

So why did I put Indy at number one? Well they've beaten 3 of our top 5 teams already this year plus I don't know if you've noticed, but Andrew Luck is really, REALLY good at football. Yes, Reggie Wayne is out for the season, which is terrible, and their running game sucks but Chuck Pagano has his defense playing well, Robert Mathis has been a terror off the edge and Jerrell Freeman is an emerging talent at inside linebacker. We don't know how Andrew Luck will cope as it gets colder, but the Colts schedule for the next month is pretty comfortable, if they can go to Cincinnati in week 14 at 10-2 they should have the division pretty much sown up. (TD)

3. (6) San Francisco 49ers, 6-2 (TD = 5, PG = 3, GS = 2)

San Fran have steam-rolled their way through a weak stretch of their schedule by getting back to what they do best; crushing defenses up front and letting Frank Gore carry the ball. But that easy stretch is over now, coming off their bye they host the red hot Carolina Panthers and then visit the Saints. These games will tell us more about a surprisingly embattled Colin Kaepernick. His lack of stats have been irritating many and seems to have given him the "overrated/product of the system" tag. But when you're up so quickly on weak opponents you don't need to throw the ball so much! He'll also get Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree back soon to help the passing game along as well. The 49ers season will rest on being able to beat the Seahawks at home in week 14, if they can do that and take the division title then they've got a great shot at returning to the Superbowl. (TD)

2. (5) Kansas City Chiefs, 9-0 (TD = 3, PG = 2, GS = 4)

The Chiefs traded for Alex Smith, and since then have played much like the 2011 49ers, who Smith took to the NFC Championship game; tough defense, good special teams, don't turn the ball over, lean on your running back. It's a simple formula that many have tried, but Alex Smith seems to be the master at executing it. We all knew the Chiefs roster had talent, that they'd be fairly good this year, but no one saw a 9-0 start. Yes, they've gotten lucky with some of the opponents they've faced, going against more back-up QB's already than most teams do in 5 years but their defense, lead by outside linebackers Tamba Hali & Justin Houston, have been stifling offenses all year. The real test for them comes after their bye with a trip to Denver on the 17th November. We'll seen then if they're contenders, pretenders or just another good Andy Reid team that he messes up with poor clock management and forgetting that his star running back exists. (TD)

1. (1) Denver Broncos, 7-1 (TD = 2, PG = 1, GS = 1)

So the Broncos retain their number 1 spot despite registering their first loss of the year in Indianapolis during week 7. Peyton Manning has looked a little more mortal this past month, although he's still mostly unstoppable with that group of receivers. The problem has been that all the injuries across the offensive line have caught up with them. Opponents are able to get to Manning more frequently, and he's currently playing on a pair of dodgy ankles making him even less mobile than normal. Of course, the injuries on offense have been off-set somewhat by the return of Von Miller on defense. Miller was fantastic in 2012 and has been understandably rusty since his return, but having had a bye week to help with his reintegration should be back to his dynamic best quickly, and they really need him given the issues their pass defense is having. Of course, everyone is just sitting and waiting to see if Peyton can continue his torrid pace and reclaim the single season TD record from Tom Brady. He's on pace for 58 TD's and nearly 6,000 passing yards. Yikes. (TD)

Agree, disagree? Want to make your case that your favourite team should be higher (or lower)? Leave a comment or get hold of us on Twitter and Facebook.

- The Pulling Linemen

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