The New Orleans Saints have quietly put up fearsome stats here in 2013, their performances overshadowed so far by the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs, the dazzling Denver Broncos and the punishing Seattle Seahawks.
But the Saints should frighten any team that considers itself a contender, at least here as we enter the bewitching hour of Halloween and pass the halfway pole of the 2013 season.
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has returned from his year of exile on the Island of Dr. Goodell. And the team has revamped its historically inept defense of 2012 under new coordinator Rob Ryan.
The result is a 6-1 team that boasts a two-game lead in the NFC South, that would enjoy a first-round bye if the season ended today, and that, more importantly, has shot up rapidly in recent weeks in our Quality Stats Power Rankings.
New Orleans enters Week 9 No. 2 overall, just a shade behind the all-around statistical powerhouse Seattle Seahawks, and with a very winnable game at the New York Jets on the docket.
The Saints enjoy a Top 10 ranking in 17 of 23 Quality Stats and rank in the Top 5 league-wide in 15 of those indicators.
The Saints are scary good, folks.
Here’s a look at the Top 10 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings. You can see how all 32 teams size up in our Quality Stats Power Rankings here.
1. Seattle Seahawks (7-1) – Seattle struggled to put away the Rams Monday night. Hell, they held on for dear life. But they remain No. 1 in Defensive Passer Rating and the most statistically proficient all-around team in football.
Fear this Fact: Most importantly, Seattle remains No. 1 in Passer Rating Differential, the Mother of All Stats.
2. New Orleans Saints (6-1) – The Saints are No. 3 in Real Quarterback Rating; No. 3 in Defensive Real Quarterback Rating and No. 1 in Real Quarterback Rating Differential. These numbers bode extraordinarily well for the Saints’ Super Bowl hopes.
Fear this Fact: Teams that win the Real QB Rating battle are 104-16 (.867) this year; while the top 67 performances this year in Real QB Rating Differential have produced a nearly perfect 66-1 record, according to our Big Boards at CHFF Insider.
3. Carolina Panthers (4-3) – The Panthers are certainly the great statistical curiosity so far this year. They’ve put up the numbers of a 6-1 team, but sit there barely above sea level at 4-3 where it counts most. Credit a soft schedule: Carolina has faced just one Quality Opponent so far this year, and lost that game (Week 1 vs. Seattle).
Fear this Fact: The Panthers face four Quality Opponents in the final nine games: San Francisco, New England and New Orleans (twice). They should soon lose their lofty spot in our Power Rankings and reach statisitcal equilibrium.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-0) – The NFL’s only undefeated team has statistically stubbed its toe with a pair of narrow wins in recent weeks, including a two-spot drop this week in our Quality Stats Power Rankings. They’ve also dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 in three key measures of pass defense: Defensive Real Passing YPA, Defensive Real QB Rating and Defensive Passer Rating.
Fear this Fact: The Chiefs remain No. 1 in Bendability (defensive efficiency) and No. 1 in Relative scoring defense (+8.05 PPG).
Fear this Fact: Kansas City is the only team in football that has yet to face a Quality Opponent.
5. Indianapolis Colts (5-2) – Don’t sleep on the Colts, folks. Sure, they’ve suffered two losses. But they’ve also faced four Quality Opponents in seven games and enjoy a league-best three Quality Wins (tied with Cincy in each case), while outscoring those four Quality Opponents by an average of 5.5 PPG.
Fear this Fact: The Colts are right now the most statistically balanced team in the AFC.
6. San Francisco 49ers (6-2) – Nothing like a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars to soothe a team’s wounded statistical pride. The 49ers shot up three spots in our Quality Stats Power Rankings after their overseas 42-10 hatchet job on the Jags. They still have a long way to go to create the profile of a true contender.
Fear this Fact: San Francisco is a mere 19th league-wide in Total Team Yards Differential.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) – Andy Dalton is finally starting the show the statistical profile of the great young gun he was alleged to be over his first two seasons: Cincy is No. 5 in Real Passing YPA; No. 7 in Offensive Passer Rating; and No. 8 in Real QB Rating.
Fear this Fact: The Bengals are No. 4 in Passer Rating Differential (+19.6), the Mother of All Stats, and have done it against a tough schedule (league-high three Quality Wins, tied with Indy).
8. Denver Broncos (7-1) – The Pigskin “Pundits” are trying to tell us that the 2013 Broncos are an unstoppable force. The more sober and realistic Cold, Hard Football Facts tell us that they’re a largely unbalanced and overrated 7-1 team. Denver lost its only game this year against a Quality Opponent (39-33 at Indy). And despite the cushy soft schedule, the Broncos remains No. 22 in Bendability, No. 24 in Defensive Real Pass YPA and No. 27 in Total Team Yards Allowed.
Fear this Fact: Denver is also 29th league-wide in Relative scoring defense (-7.04 PPG).
9. Green Bay Packers (5-2) – The Packers are the NFC version of the Broncos: sexy team with a great quarterback that will ultimately dig its own grave with a bad defense.
Fear this Fact: The Packers are No. 26 in Defensive Passer Rating (96.1). The worst DPR by any champion in history belonged to the 2011 Giants (86.1).
10. New England Patriots (6-2) – The punchless Patriots have survived behind the best pass defense the team has fielded since 2006. New England is No. 3 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 4 in Defensive Real QB Rating and No. 4 in Defensive Passing YPA.
Fear this Fact: New England is 29th in third-down conversion rate (32.2%). Only the Cardinals, Rams and Jaguars are worse.