Down goes No. 1, and up rises a new king of the mountain, at least for this week. With a 10-1 record and four wins by 23 or more points, Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks are this week’s top team. Unlike most teams, Seattle seems to have it rolling at all times on both sides of the ball. They couple the league’s 3rd ranked defense with the 4th ranked offensive unit to form a balanced attack able to take down anyone, and that includes Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Now, with the addition of Percy Harvin, Seattle might be built for a championship.
There wasn’t too much change other than the Chiefs move down a step for the first time in awhile. KC will get a chance in two weeks to climb back up the hill when they get their rematch with Denver. The biggest struggle week in and week out in the rankings is it seems the teams ranked from about 10th to 16th lose every week. I guess that’s how I should know which teams to bet against.
Biggest Rise: Giants +9
Biggest Fall: Redskins -6
1. Seattle Seahawks (10-1, LW: 3): The Stat: 10-1. The Seahawks better take caution from here on out. They’re 10-1, the best record in the NFL, but that hasn’t been a guarantee of playoff success in the recent past. The last five teams with the best record through 11 weeks (Texans and Falcons – 2012, Packers – 2011, Patriots and Falcons – 2010) all fell short of the Super Bowl.
2. Denver Broncos (9-1, LW: 2): The Stat: 7. Peyton Manning is playing his 15th season in the NFL, and many players that are in it that long never have a chance to get off to a 9-1 start. It’s just commonplace for Manning, though. This is the 4th time in those 15 years that he’s been either 9-1 or 10-0, and if you add three more 8-2 starts, that makes seven times in 15 years that he’s blazed out of the gate. Coming up, though, is what he’s always had the most trouble with, that kick to the finish.
3. New Orleans Saints (8-2, LW: 4): The Stat: 183. A year ago, the Saints defense was historically bad. The unit was more a sieve than a blanket, and other teams took advantage of that, scoring 26 or more points 11 times in 16 games (eight of those losses). They allowed 273 points in the first ten games. This year, a total role reversal. New Orleans has allowed 183 points (5th best overall), and they’ve given up 26 or more just twice. No surprise, those two times were their two losses.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1, LW: 1): The Stat: 1. While the Chiefs defense acquitted itself pretty well against the high powered Broncos, Denver was still able to accomplish a few firsts against Kansas City. It started in the 1st Quarter when Julius Thomas caught a touchdown pass from Peyton Manning. Though he lined up in the slot on the play, it counts as the first tight end TD KC has given up this season. Denver also is the first team to score greater than 17 points against the Chiefs this year, the first with a touchdown drive of 10+ plays, and it was the first time this year they didn’t record a sack.
5. Carolina Panthers (7-3, LW: 9): The Stat: 10,099; 1,775. With his 209 passing yards against the Patriots, Cam Newton is the first quarterback in league history to top 10,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards within his first three seasons. Newton has spent most of his 2+ seasons setting records, but this one is particularly impressive. Also, from a team perspective, Newton’s Panthers generally struggle for 10 weeks then get it together, but not this year. In 2011 they started 2-8 before a 4-2 finish, then last year started 3-7 with a 4-2 stretch run. At 7-3, look out everyone.
6. New England Patriots (7-3, LW: 5): The Stat: 185. Tom Brady has put up some gaudy stats in his Hall of Fame career, but he set another record Monday night. It was his 185th start under Bill Belichick, the highest total for any quarterback under a single head coach. It speaks to his consistency as well as the success of Belichick to keep his job in New England.
7. Indianapolis Colts (7-3, LW: 8): The Stat: 74, 49. I don’t know if this is a product of Andrew Luck, his receivers or a combination of the two, but since Reggie Wayne was lost for the season Indy has mostly been a one receiver team. Luck has completed 74% of his passes to T.Y. Hilton in the past two games. To everyone else: 49%. That number will need to improve or Indy will be in trouble.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4, LW: 11): The Stat: 3.7. Andy Dalton’s team scored 41 points, but it wasn’t much thanks to him this week. He threw for three touchdowns, but that was on a total of 93 yards with two interceptions. His 3.7 total QB Rating was the lowest of any quarterback in the last three years. It comes at a bad time for Dalton. Since posting an impressive 98.9 QBR Week Eight, he’s combined for just a 34.5 QBR in the three weeks since.
9. San Francisco 49ers (6-4, LW: 6): The Stat: 3,720. If there’s something that will bring down the Niners this year, and it already has affected them to an extent, it’s their lack of explosiveness. San Francisco is dead last in the NFL with 3,720 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving and kick/punt return yards), and it’s not even that close. They trail Jacksonville by 146 in the race for last. A lot of that falls on the back of Colin Kaepernick, leader of the league’s worst passing attack. There is help on the horizon with Mario Manningham working his way back in and Michael Crabtree’s return coming soon.
10. Chicago Bears (6-4, LW: 10): The Stat: 1836. Matt Forte has been a game changer at running back ever since he came to Chicago. He’s successful running the ball and catching it out of the back field, but he’s never done it at the rate he’s at now. Forte’s best season statistically was his rookie year in 2008 when he touched the ball 379 times for 1,715 yards and 12 TDs. At his current pace, he’ll finish 2013 with 358 touches for 1,836 yards and 13 scores. That’s more than a half yard per touch gain from his best year.
11. Detroit Lions (6-4, LW: 7): The Stat: 746. AJ Green got a lot of attention for having five straight weeks with 100-yard receiving games, but no one can top Big Play CJ. Calvin Johnson’s 746 receiving yards in the last four games is the highest total in league history. Another positive is that CJ is getting his yards while the Lions are running the ball more than at any time in the Stafford era. The run opens things up for the pass.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5, LW: 14): The Stat: 9.9. Just how good has Nick Foles been running Chip Kelly’s fast paced offense? Not only does the 2nd year starter have 16 touchdown passes against no interceptions, he’s throwing a touchdown on 9.9% of his passes, the best total in the league. The only QB even close to that number is Peyton Manning at 8.3%. Following him is Russell Wilson, all the way down to 6.9%.
13. Arizona Cardinals (6-4, LW: 13): The Stat: 419. Carson Palmer is one of the most consistently inconsistent players in the NFL, and this week the Cardinals got good Palmer. He threw for 419 yards, the highest total Arizona has seen since 2008. The reason Palmer’s in the desert is to take the Cardinals back to the playoffs for the first time since Kurt Warner did it in 2009, and right now they’re the first team out in the NFC playoff picture.
14. Dallas Cowboys (5-5, LW: 16): The Stat: 77.0. It wasn’t a great Bye week for the Boys since Philly overtook them for the division lead, but the hope is that a week off helped heal what ails their struggling run game. Dallas and Tony Romo have been great through the air this year, but the rushing attack is averaging just 77.0 yards per game, 28th in the league. If DeMarco Murray can stay healthy, eat some clock, and keep the league’s worst pass defense off the field, Dallas could sew this division up.
15. San Diego Chargers (4-6, LW: 17): The Stat: 59. Tony Gonzalez is the best tight end of all time, but Antonio Gates has had himself a pretty decent career himself, and Sunday he nabbed a record Tony G didn’t have. He caught his 59th career touchdown pass from Philip Rivers, the largest total of any QB-TE tandem in NFL history.
16. New York Giants (4-6, LW: 25): The Stat: 3. The Giants are only the 3rd team to win four straight games after starting at least 0-6. The other ones were the 1978 Cardinals and 2009 Titans. The Cards started 0-8, then rallied to 4-8 before finishing 6-10. The Titans started 0-6, improved to 5-6 and finished 8-8. One big reason: offensive turnovers.The offense turned the ball over 23 times in their six losses and just six times in the four wins.
17. Green Bay Packers (5-5, LW: 12): The Stat: 9. With Aaron Rodgers out of the lineup, former back up QB Scott Tolzien is actually holding his own other than a couple untimely interceptions. The real problem with Green Bay is that the Defense isn’t helping the cause…at all. Green Bay is 28th in the NFL with just nine takeaways this season. Even worse, since losing Rodgers they’ve caused just two turnovers. If the Defense doesn’t help the young QB, the team can’t win, and they aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.
18. New York Jets (5-5, LW: 15): The Stat: -85. The Jets are 5-5, and the stat everyone knows is that they’ve alternated wins and losses every week this year. Bigger than that is that this is a .500 team, but they either win close or get blown out. The Jets have a -85 point differential this year with a score of 131-112 in their five wins, but 156-52 in the five losses.
19. Cleveland Browns (4-6, LW: 18): The Stat: 43. Just how bad has the Browns’ running game been this season? Chris Ogbonnaya broke a 43-yard run in the 1st Quarter Sunday, the longest of the year for Cleveland. A good friend, Connor Kiesel, pointed out that Heidelberg’s Cartel Brooks ran for 465 yards in Berea (training site of the Browns) Saturday. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s NFL team rushed for just 468 all season before Sunday’s game.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6, LW: 23): The Stat: 37. Need a good reason for why the Steelers are starting to pick up the pieces? That once fearsome defense is starting to cause turnovers again, and Ben Roethlisberger and the offense are turning those takeaways into points. The first six games of the season the Steelers caused just two turnovers and didn’t turn those into any points. The last four games Pittburgh has turned eight takeaways into 37 points.
21. Baltimore Ravens (4-6, LW: 19): The Stat: 420. Just how tough are the times right now for Ravens running back Ray Rice? It’s taken Rice nine game in 2013 to total just 420 yards on the ground, just 46.7 per game. Since taking over as Baltimore’s top back in 2009, it’s taken him exactly six games to reach 420 yards every year except this one. In fact, last season he needed just a single yard to reach 420 in the 6th game.
22. Miami Dolphins (5-5, LW: 24): The Stat: 534. Mike Wallace was brought to Miami in the offseason to blow the cap off defenses and give the Dolphins a deep threat they could team up with Ryan Tannehill. So far, that hasn’t been the case. Wallace, making $1,000,000 this season, has 534 yards, an average of $1,872.66 per yard. He’s also caught 44 passes, just two ahead of tight end Charles Clay. He’s pulling in $22,727.27 per catch. Let that sink in for a moment.
23. St. Louis Rams (4-6, LW: 20): The Stat: 53.1. Many people assume the Rams resurgent running attack came about because of Sam Bradford’s season ending injury. While that didn’t hurt, it actually started two weeks earlier when Zac Stacy became the team’s lead back. Before Stacy took over in the backfield, St. Louis was running the ball just 28.5% of the time. Since then that number has ballooned to 53.1%.
24. Oakland Raiders (4-6, LW: 28): The Stat: 11.0. Oakland isn’t the worst team in the league at getting their quarterback sacked (that’s Miami), but the Raiders do see their QB go down at a higher rate than anyone else in football. Oakland signal callers are sacked on 11.0% of drop backs, an absurdly high amount. That’s a key reason why Terrelle Pryor has missed time with injury twice already this season. With him under center the number rises to 11.5%.
25. Buffalo Bills (4-7, LW: 27): The Stat: 37. When this Bills defense is cranked up it can truly be a nightmare for opposing offenses. Buffalo sacked Geno Smith four times in the win Sunday, taking over the NFL sacks lead from Kansas City. The Bills already lead the NFL in interceptions with 16, and they recovered a fumble too, increasing their takeaway total to 20.
26. Tennessee Titans (4-6, LW: 22): The Stat: 14. The Titans are a team that presented itself as a running squad that uses an efficient passer to keep drives going. Jake Locker is gradually turning into that guy under center, but Chris Johnson hasn’t held up his end of the deal the last two-plus seasons. Johnson scored two touchdowns against Indianapolis last week, but he has just 14 rushing scores since the beginning of 2011. To put that in perspective, he ran for 14 touchdowns in 2009 alone.
27. Washington Redskins (3-7, LW: 21): The Stat: 103.7. The Skins may not be showing too many signs of life right now, but 2nd year running back Alfred Morris sure is. After a slow start that saw his team rely heavily on the passing game, Morris has rushed for 622 yards since Week 5, an average of 103.7 yards per game. He’s the only back in the NFL with an average greater than 100 yards in that span, and his overall total trails only Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy, who has played one more game in that span. The Redskins, as a whole, lead the NFL with 155.2 yards per game on the ground.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8, LW: 30): The Stat: 0.6. Need another reason why Fantasy football is a total crap shoot? Tampa’s Bobby Rainey was the team’s 4th string running back at one point. This week, he was second in all of Fantasy football in points with 34. So who all benefited from it? In ESPN Fantasy he started in just 0.6% of leagues.
29. Houston Texans (2-8, LW: 29): The Stat: 105. Before being benched in the 3rd Quarter of Sunday’s loss, Case Keenum gave interception weary Texans fans one reason to be happy. He started his NFL career with 105 straight pass attempts without a giveaway. That’s the longest streak to start a career since Tom Brady went 162 in 2001. Keenum now has one INT on his record and a new streak of 21 straight passes without a pick.
30. Minnesota Vikings (2-8, LW: 26): The Stat: 38. Christian Ponder hasn’t exactly been known as a big play quarterback in his young career, and this stat is the perfect proof. Ponder’s 38-yard touchdown pass to Jarius Wright Sunday was the longest of his career that didn’t involve Percy Harvin. He hit Harvin for 52 and 48 yards in 2011 against Denver and 39 yards earlier that season.
31. Atlanta Falcons (2-8, LW: 31): The Stat: 1999. The Falcons are a mind boggling 2-8. This much is true. What’s also true? They are the first team to go from conference championship game to 2-8 start since 1999. The last one, of course, was the Falcons. That team didn’t have nearly the talent this one does either, even if a lot of it has been injured this year.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9, LW: 32): The Stat: 2. In their fourth game in Jacksonville this season, the Jaguars finally scored a touchdown. In fact, they went ahead and put six on the board twice. In their other three home games they’ve scored 2, 3 and 6 points. It’s not technically their first home TD of the season since they scored a touchdown in London, a designated home game for the Jags.