I’d like to extend my best wishes to everyone dealing with the fallout from Sandy. I’m in my fourth location in five nights, and have lost power in my building for two days, but consider myself one of the lucky ones. This has been a tragedy for many out there, and thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been harmed.
But that won’t stop me from publishing the week 8 power rankings. This week it’s time to vault Atlanta to the top of the heap. I don’t love the Falcons, but it’s hard to see them not winning 13 games this year. So why don’t I love them?
- According to Football Outsiders’ drive stats, Atlanta ranks 8th in yards per drive, 3rd in points per drive (partially because they rank 3rd in starting field position per drive and 5th in fumble rate per drive), and 4th in drive success rate. That’s great; defensively, they’re 11th in yards per drive, 6th in points per drive, and 11th in drive success rate allowed. That’s less impressive but still pretty good. As far as “net” categories go, they are 6th in net yards per drive, 2nd in net points per drive, and 4th in net drive success rate. In other words, they look like an elite team, perhaps the best in the league. Except…
- In Football Outsiders’ Rankings, the Falcons are just 8th. Aaron Schatz sums up why: “First, close wins: four by a touchdown or less. Second, its schedule so far ranks 29th in the NFL. Third, the Falcons have recovered 75 percent of fumbles.” If you ignore SOS — which the drive stats do — Atlanta looks like an elite team. Factor in the fumble luck, and it makes sense why FO does not view the Falcons as a top-five team.
- Brian Burke now has Atlanta as his fifth ranked team; he doesn’t think Atlanta’s schedule has been all that easy. That’s because Denver is his #1 team and his system loves the Panthers and doesn’t think the Raiders are that bad.
- According to the Simple Rating System, the Falcons are just the 7th best team, behind the Texans, Patriots, and Broncos in the AFC and San Francisco, New York, Chicago in the NFC.
Atlanta is a very good team, but probably not the best team in the league. My guess is on a neutral site, they’d be an underdog to at least five teams in the NFL, if not more.
|Atlanta Falcons||7-0||13||12||1||0.444||5||With 9 games left and a pretty easy schedule, the Falcons should hit the 13-win mark.|
|Houston Texans||6-1||12||12||0||0.479||4||Mario Williams comes back to Houston this week. Spoiler: It's not going to be a happy homecoming.|
|San Francisco 49ers||6-2||12||12||0||0.500||4||Better than the Falcons but 2 games behind them in the loss column and a tougher remaining schedule makes the #1 seed a longshot.|
|Chicago Bears||6-1||11||11||0||0.549||4||Didn't win over any doubters against the Panthers, but with the streaking Packers, Chicago will 'survive and advance' for as long as they can.|
|Denver Broncos||4-3||11||11||0||0.382||4||At 3-3, I thought they would go 8-2 the rest of the way. That might have been conservative.|
|New England Patriots||5-3||11||10||1||0.516||5||Hey, the Patriots are back. New England gets 4 division games in the second half, along with the Jaguars and Colts.|
|Green Bay Packers||5-3||11||10||1||0.508||4||No reason not to expect a 6-2 finish for this team. Four games left with Detroit and Minnesota don't look so challenging right now.|
|New York Giants||6-2||11||10||1||0.555||4||The schedule is starting to look easier (Bal, Phi, Cin) and the team keeps banking wins.|
|Baltimore Ravens||5-2||10||10||0||0.514||4||Baltimore's season will depend on what they do in their 2 games against the Steelers. Two warm-up games with the Browns and Raiders before round one.|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||4-3||10||9||1||0.451||5||Head to New Jersey to face the Giants in one of the games of the week. I can't seem to quit the Steelers bandwagon, and have them back at 10 wins -- for now.|
|Miami Dolphins||4-3||9||9||0||0.500||5||I really like this team. Three weeks ago I had them at 8 wins (pats back), and now 9 may be conservative.|
|Seattle Seahawks||4-4||8||9||-1||0.508||5||Could not afford to lose to the Lions last week. The 49ers, Packers and Bears are going to make the playoffs, so Seattle must finish ahead of the Vikings, Cowboys, Cardinals and Redskins. They'd be looking a lot better at 5-3.|
|Minnesota Vikings||5-3||8||8||0||0.602||3||The toughest remaining schedule in the NFL means there is no margin for error now for the Vikings.|
|Dallas Cowboys||3-4||8||8||0||0.472||5||Heartbreaking loss to the Giants but there's still a very good chance the Cowboys make the playoffs and face the Giants in the first round.|
|Indianapolis Colts||4-3||8||7||1||0.493||4||A wildcard darkhorse? I don't think the Colts are very good -- they're just 29th according to Football Outsiders -- but a win over Miami this weekend puts them in the driver's seat.|
|Philadelphia Eagles||3-4||7||8||-1||0.458||4||I can't think of anything positive to say about the Eagles right now.|
|San Diego Chargers||3-4||7||8||-1||0.465||5||I can't think of anything positive to say about the Chargers right now.|
|Washington Redskins||3-5||7||8||-1||0.469||5||I have to drop Washington in the rankings after last weekend's games. Fortunately, their receivers are comfortable with that.|
|Arizona Cardinals||4-4||7||7||0||0.578||3||Did you know the Arizona Cardinals are 11-6 in their last 17 games? Oh, and the Cardinals have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the NFL.|
|Cincinnati Bengals||3-4||7||7||0||0.521||5||With losses to Baltimore, Miami and Pittsburgh on the books, the Bengals are not in good tiebreaker shape. The next two games are against Denver and New York; if they don't win at least one, the season is effectively over.|
|Detroit Lions||3-4||7||6||1||0.590||5||You know, the NFC is really good, but really only have 5 very good teams. That means even at 3-4 in the NFC, Detroit could make the playoffs, although they have the 2nd toughest remaining schedule.|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||3-4||7||6||1||0.521||4||The same comment applies to Tampa Bay, who can get fat off of games with Oakland, San Diego and Carolina the next three weeks.|
|Oakland Raiders||3-4||7||6||1||0.424||5||Dominating the Chiefs means they're not as bad as the Chiefs. I think.|
|New York Jets||3-5||6||7||-1||0.430||3||[Comment Redacted.]|
|New Orleans Saints||2-5||6||7||-1||0.576||5||A difficult schedule and a terrible defense mean I'm ready to revise my predictions down to 6 wins for the Saints for the first time this season.|
|St. Louis Rams||3-5||6||7||-1||0.516||3||I don't want to overreact to one game, but man was that ugly.|
|Tennessee Titans||3-5||6||7||-1||0.508||4||A tough loss to the Colts, but this time wasn't going anywhere, anyway.|
|Buffalo Bills||3-4||6||6||0||0.507||5||With upcoming games in Houston and Foxboro, the Bills can turn their season around. Or officially turn the clock to 2013.|
|Carolina Panthers||1-6||5||5||0||0.479||4||One more loss and I have to drop them more, but for now, they stay at 5 wins.|
|Kansas City Chiefs||1-6||4||5||-1||0.486||4||When the Bills killed the Chiefs in week 2, I thought "man, the Chiefs might be really bad this year." Nostradamus, look out.|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||1-6||4||4||0||0.493||5||The Jaguars put up a fight against the Packers, but lack the talent to compete with most teams.|
|Cleveland Browns||2-6||4||4||0||0.523||4||The win over the Chargers says a lot more about San Diego than it does Cleveland.|