By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Power Upper
Apparently we have a power team here in 2010 after all. The Patriots are ... well, they're pretty flipping impressive. To wit:
- They are the only team to top 75 rushing yards vs. Pittsburgh ... and they rushed for 104.
- They are the only team to score more than 31 points against the Rex Ryan Jets in 2009 or 2010 ... and they scored 45.
- They are the only team to score more than 26 points against the Bears ... and they scored 36.
- They have won the turnover battle 25-5 in their last 10 games.
- They have averaged 39.2 PPG over their last five, four of them against Quality Opponents.
- Scrap-heaper Danny Woodhead has 862 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.
- Scrap-heaper BenJarvus Green-Ellis is on pace for 967 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns and 4.3 YPA.
- Deion Branch produced 549 receiving yards in his last 18 games with Seattle. In nine games with New England, he's got 648
- According to pro-football-reference.com's rankings, the Patriots have the fifth-toughest schedule in the league. The other 11-2 team, Atlanta, has the No. 20 schedule.
- According to us, they've won seven straight vs. Quality Opponents. The record for Quality Wins in one season is seven.
- They have 455 yards of fumble and interception returns, most in the league.
- Tom Brady hasn't thrown a pick since Nixon resigned (actually since the first half of Week 5 (Oct. 17) against Baltimore).
Now, the Patriots still aren't perfect. This is a team that allowed five straight games of 400+ yards Weeks 8-12. But in this season they're as close as we're going to get to a premier power team. And considering their near-lock on the AFC home-field advantage and 8-1 all-time home record in the playoffs, a fourth Super Bowl title in 10 years is looking more probable than not.
On to the rankings!
1. NEW ENGLAND (11-2)
Last week: 36-7 win at Chicago
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Patriots have played three bad games this year – their two losses, to Cleveland and the Jets, and their weird win over San Diego. The common denominator? They were the only games where New England's offense was held under 100 yards rushing.
2. ATLANTA (11-2)
Last week: 31-10 win at Carolina
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Falcons gave up 150+ yards rushing two weeks in a row; they're 27th in yards per carry allowed (4.62). And they're being outgained on a per-play basiS, 5.7 yards to 5.1 YARDS. So why are they so good? Plus-11 in turnover margin explains a lot.
3. NEW ORLEANS (10-3)
Last week: 31-13 win vs. St. Louis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: With 79 more yards and one more TD, Marques Colston will have surpassed 70 catches, 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in all four of his full seasons; he was right on pace for another in an injury-shortened 2008. Not bad for a seventh-round pick.
4. PHILADELPHIA (9-4)
Last week: 30-27 win at Dallas
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Eagles' "triplets" (Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy) combined for 367 of Philly's 429 net yards of offense Sunday.
5. PITTSBURGH (10-3)
Last week: 23-7 win vs. Cincinnati
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Since Ben Roethlisberger's return, the Steelers have outgained seven of their nine opponents and lost the turnover battle only once. Going into Monday night's action, they were third in turnover margin, fourth in points differential and sixth in yardage differential.
6. N.Y. GIANTS (9-4)
Last week: 21-3 win "at" Minnesota (in Detroit)
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Wow. If Ahmad Bradshaw had just managed three more yards in Week 13, the Giants would have had twin 100-yard rushers in back to back weeks. If Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs were one back, they'd have 344 carries for 1,809 yards and 16 touchdowns. And if our Aunt Clara had a beard, she'd be our Uncle Larry.
7. BALTIMORE (9-4)
Last week: 34-28 win at Houston
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: With a Week 17 home game vs. Cincinnati in their pocket, the Ravens practically clinched a playoff spot Monday night in Houston – they're two up on the wild-card hopefuls, and have a tiebreaker vs. the Jets and Dolphins if they need them.
8. GREEN BAY (8-5)
Last week: 7-3 loss at Detroit
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn't help Sunday, but neither did a remarkably unproductive day for Donald Driver. He was thrown to nine times and caught only two for 12 yards. Rodgers and back-up QB Matt Flynn each threw one pick.
9. SAN DIEGO (7-6)
Last week: 31-0 win vs. Kansas City
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Darren Sproles had a nice day for the Chargers with 100+ yards from scrimmage But he's got more fumbles (3) than touchdowns (2) on the season despite 150 all-purpose touches.
10. CHICAGO (9-4)
Last week: 36-7 loss vs. New England
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Over their last three games, the Bears gave up an average of 391.7 yards and 27.3 points, which isn't going to cut it when you're a bottom-10 offense in both categories.
11. JACKSONVILLE (8-5)
Last week: 38-31 win vs. Oakland
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: When the Jaguars lost back to back games vs. Tennessee (by 27 at home) and Kansas City (by 22 at KC), they were 3-4 and left for dead. Most of their success since has been thanks to rush offense. But their rush D has stepped up as well. They held Marion Barber/Felix Jones to 38 yards, Arian Foster to 56, Peyton Hillis to 48 and Chris Johnson to 53 in wins before dropping off the pace (surrendering 123 yards to Darren McFadden) in the win over the Raiders Sunday.
12. N.Y. JETS (9-4)
Last week: 10-6 loss vs. Miami
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: New York's season is falling apart faster than the adult diaper our buddy Frankie C. wore to Oktoberfest this year.
13. KANSAS CITY (8-5)
Last week: 31-0 loss at San Diego
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Chiefs entered San Diego averaging 27.3 PPG and a remarkably good 23.9 first downs per game. On Sunday? No points, five first downs. Matt Cassel's a fair bit better than backup Brodie Croyle, but he's not that much better.
14. TAMPA BAY (8-5)
Last week: 17-16 win at Washington
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Josh Freeman's passer rating as a rookie was 59.8. He hasn't had a single game with a rating that low in any of his 13 starts as a sophomore. Why does Mark "Sanchise" Sanchez get a nickname and Freeman doesn't? Oh, right, he plays in Tampa.
15. MIAMI (7-6)
Last week: 10-6 win at N.Y. Jets
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Dolphins were notable in Tony Sparano's first season (2008) for leading the league in turnover margin. It wasn't the start of a trend: they were 26th last year and are 26th this year (-7).
16. INDIANAPOLIS (7-6)
Last week: 30-28 win at Tennessee
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Peyton Manning's bounceback game in Tennessee was right in keeping with his odd season; he's got a 100.0 rating on the road, 79.7 at home. It's also worth noting that in a season in which he has no running game or offensive line, the Colts are No. 4 in scoring (26.7 PPG).
17. OAKLAND (6-7)
Last week: 38-31 loss at Jacksonville
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: If the Raiders can squeeze out two more wins (vs. DEN, vs. IND, at KC), they'll be .500 for the first time since their 2002 Super Bowl season. If not, it's an eighth straight losing season for a team that only had seven of them from 1965-2002.
18. CLEVELAND (5-8)
Last week: 13-6 loss at Buffalo
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Enjoy a tight football game? You'll love the Browns. Their last five were decided by seven points or fewer, and they've played in nine of these nailbiters in 2010. Record? 2-7.
19. ST. LOUIS (6-7)
Last week: 31-13 loss at New Orleans
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Rams defense had been leading the charge for awhile, but they've now allowed 30+ in three of their last four games.
20. DALLAS (4-9)
Last week: 30-27 loss vs. Philadelphia.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: QB Jon Kitna has produced fewer passing yards than his opponents six weeks running – but you'd kind of expect it against Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Michael Vick. Oh, and Shaun Hill.
21. HOUSTON (5-8)
Last week: 34-28 loss vs. Baltimore
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Only the Texans could figure out a way to hang 489 yards on the Ravens ... and lose. Cue the Gary Kubiak Face.
22. MINNESOTA (5-8)
Last week: 21-3 loss vs. N.Y. Giants (in Detroit)
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Different QB, same results; Tarvaris Jackson has one INT for every 14.5 passes this season, while Brett Favre threw one every 19.5 passes. The NFL average is about 1 in 33.6.
23. SAN FRANCISCO (5-8)
Last week: 40-21 win vs. Seattle
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Niners had seven of their own first-round picks since 2005 in the starting lineup Sunday.
24. SEATTLE (6-7)
Last week: 40-21 loss at San Francisco
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: It's looking like the Week 17 St. Louis at Seattle contest will decide the NFC West. The last five Rams-Seahawks games in Seattle? All Seahawk wins, by an average score of 31-11.
25. BUFFALO (3-10)
Last week: 13-6 win vs. Cleveland
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Buffalo's three wins are all over losing teams, but not that they've played many: nine of their 10 losses are to Quality Opponents, and they've got three more left (at MIA, vs. NE, at NYJ). This is the toughest schedule since that time our cousin Albert tried to graduate from Harvard in three semesters and ended up spontaneously combusting during an Advanced Folklore final.
26. TENNESSEE (5-8)
Last week: 30-28 loss vs. Indianapolis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Most backs would take Chris Johnson's off year; he's on pace to finish with 1,399 yards, 12 TDs and 4.4 YPA. According to pro-football-reference.com's search engine, there have been 70 seasons of 1,400 and 12, and 62 of those resulted in a Pro Bowl berth.
27. DETROIT (3-10)
Last week: 7-3 win vs. Green Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Packers had to play Matt Flynn in place of Aaron Rodgers Sunday, but the Lions probably didn't have a lot of sympathy. The Packers have started two different quarterbacks since 1992: Favre and Rodgers. The Lions have started eight since 2005.
28. WASHINGTON (5-8)
Last week: 17-16 loss vs. Tampa Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Redskins have committed 14 turnovers in their last six games, losing five of them.
29. DENVER (3-10)
Last week: 43-13 loss at Arizona
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Just wondering, with the coach fired, the quarterback looking like Ryan Leaf and the organization in complete shambles, any reason that you can't let the paying customers see Tim Tebow play four quarters?
30. CINCINNATI (2-11)
Last week: 23-7 loss at Pittsburgh
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Perhaps "rhodyram1" said it best about the Bengals, on the NFL.com comments from the Bengals-Steelers game page: "Way To Go Palmer You Just Costed Your Head Coach His Job YOU SUCK... T.O. And Chad And You Can't Get Them The Ball? YOU SUCK!!!!"
Well, maybe it could have been said better, but you get the point. And the exclamation point. And the capital letters.
31. ARIZONA (4-9)
Last week: 43-13 win vs. Denver
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jay Feely (25 points, five field goals, 4 XPs, one rushing TD) had the greatest day by a kicker since Kathy Ireland's field goal in a driving rainstorm gave Texas State a 3-3 tie with Kansas in "Necessary Roughness."
32. CAROLINA (1-12)
Last week: 31-10 loss vs. Atlanta
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Will John Fox keep his job? History says no. Of the last 10 non-first-year coaches who lost 14-16 games, nine were fired. Only Mike Riley got to keep his job after going 1-15 with San Diego in 2000. Apparently the Charger brass felt bad that Riley had to put up with Ryan Leaf as his QB.