No Sleep Till Football

Like Brooklyn Except It's Football

NFL POWER 15 – FINAL 2013

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 I didn’t think Seattle was going to win the Super Bowl until they did it, and in retrospect it seems amazing to think the easiest playoff game Seattle had was beating Denver 43-8! Seattle had previously beaten New Orleans 23-15 followed by a 23-17 win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. A few things stand out about Seattle winning the Super Bowl. The first is notice that Seattle was +20 in TO margin during the regular season and +7 during the playoffs! Seattle was also 7-3 in games decided by 8 points or less & 2-0 in the playoffs in these games! That isn’t taking anything away from the Seahawks. They are a great team and the defense played OUTSTANDING football, but it does lend itself to the idea that a lot has to go right to win a Super Bowl. What will be more interesting is seeing how Seattle does when they go 3-7 in close games with a -16 in TO margin. Will it really be a different Seattle squad? Not likely, and Seattle has a chance to avoid that conundrum by playing great, ball-hawking defense while keeping their offense heavily reliant upon the running attack. Great season & Pete Carroll got his redemption!
#2 If Seattle is the best team in the NFL then it’s difficult to argue against the 49ers being the 2nd best team. They teams aren’t dissimilar given their key reliance on dominant defense & an offense that keeps the chains moving by running the football. With Seattle it’s Marshawn Lynch & Russell Westbrook. With San Francisco it’s Frank Gore & Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers almost pulled off a stunning accomplishment in the playoffs going on the road to defeat Green Bay, Carolina & Seattle. It didn’t quite happen with the loss to the Seahawks but this was a very interesting season for the 49ers. They were plagued by injuries all season long. The Aldon Smith fiasco was a disaster from start to finish and rumors swirled of players tiring of Jim Harbaugh’s antics in the locker room. You wouldn’t think a team that finished 12-4 on a 6-game winning streak would be beset by such issues yet the 49ers kept figuring out ways to win football games. That’s 3 conference championship games in 3 years for Harbaugh and one trip to the Super Bowl. At some point the 49ers have to breakout right?
#3 Peyton Manning was somewhat of a tragic figure at Tennessee. He could never quite figure out how to navigate the Vols to a national championship during his 4 years in Knoxville, yet the year after he left Tee Martin won a championship! Now in the NFL, Manning did get a Super Bowl when the Colts got by a Rex Grossman led Bears team, but against the Saints & Seahawks, Manning has come up short. Manning put up the greatest season in NFL history for a QB and he still came up one game short on the biggest stage. That’s a tough reality for Manning who has to be thinking about legacy all the time. To a degree Manning is almost a victim of his own success. In Indianapolis the Colts oftentimes didn’t care that much about defense because they figured Manning would secure an early lead that allowed Mathis & Freeney to put pressure on the opposition. In Denver, it’s the same way. While the Broncos take defense a bit more seriously than did Indianapolis, Denver ranked 22nd in the league, allowing on average 24.9PPG. Winning a conference championship and finishing 13-3 seems fantastic. In Denver, and to Peyton, the season was a bust.
#4 The Belichick & Brady team have risen standards so high in New England that nothing short of a Super Bowl will be enough. It’s been a long time since the Patriots won their Super Bowls and the two losses to the Giants didn’t salve wounds. Because of that the 2013 season is somewhat of a disappointment, but in the big picture the Patriots did a lot of great things. While it took them awhile to rebuild the defense, the Patriots ranked 10th in the league in scoring defense this year. That was more than enough for a top-flight offense and propelled New England to a 12-4 record and a convincing divisional win over Indianapolis. It did not guarantee them victory of Denver. The 23-16 final wasn’t even that close. The Broncos led 23-3 early in the 4th quarter. Manning was unstoppable throwing for 400yds while the Broncos rushed for 100. There was no answer for Demaryius Thomas. There is some thought that New England was a lot worse then they let on because their schedule is so weak. The AFC East is horrible, but you can only beat the teams you play & really the only team better than New England in the AFC was indeed Denver.
#5 New Orleans entered the playoffs going 2-3 in their final 5 games which cost them the division title and a first round bye. That meant the Saints going on the road to Philly & then Seattle to even get to the championship game. The Saints played extremely well in beating Philadelphia 26-24 in less than ideal conditions for a dome team which helped the perception that the Saints couldn’t win away from Louisiana. You can hardly blame them for losing 23-15 to Seattle in the divisional round given what Seattle ended up doing. On the whole you can’t help but be excited. Drew Brees was excellent once again while young players like Kenny Stills, Cameron Jordan & Mark Ingram all broke out to varying degrees. Something else to think about is New Orleans’ defense ranked 31st in scoring defense in 2012. Under new DC Rob Ryan, the Saints improved to rank #4 in the NFL in scoring defense in 2013! The defense could get even better! The season didn’t end with a Super Bowl or even a division title, but they did go 11-5, got a playoff win and most importantly got HC Sean Payton back on the sideline. This is a team primed to get to a Super Bowl in 2014.
#6 The NFC is pretty interesting from a contrast perspective. Carolina & New Orleans represent both ends of the continuum. On the one hand are the people saying guys like Cam Newton, Russell Wilson & Colin Kaepernick are elite QBs and that to me is more of a knee jerk response to QBs who can run while their teams win football games. In my mind that doesn’t necessarily equate to elite. On the other you have teams like Green Bay, New Orleans, and even Dallas and the NY Giants to a lesser extent where the reliance is upon a traditional elite QB throwing passes. At this point it’s hard to argue that the running QBs aren’t winning the battle given that the 49ers and the Seahawks have won the last 2 NFC championships, but I think that is overlooking just how reliant these teams are in having outstanding defenses and very solid running games. Carolina ranked #2 in scoring defense & #11 in rush offense. Seattle ranked 1st in scoring defense & 4th in rush offense. San Francisco ranked 3rd in both scoring defense & rush offense. Carolina had a great year but just ran into a better version of themselves in their 23-10 loss to San Francisco.
#7 Nobody expected Philadelphia to win the NFC East and most prognostications had the Eagles dead last in Chip Kelly’s first season as HC. That looked like a foregone conclusion with the Eagles started the season off 3-5, but then the Eagles won 7 of their next 8 games to finish 10-6 & NFC East champions behind the brilliant play of new QB, and Arizona product, Nick Foles. Everyone thought going into the season that Michael Vick was a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s offensive system because of his scrambling ability but who knew that the QB to thrive best was a 6’5/245lbs behemoth of a pocket passer! All Foles did as a starter is guide Philly to an 8-2 record while completing 64% of his passes & tossing 27TD passes to just 2 picks! The 26-24 loss to New Orleans is a tough pill to swallow considering the Saints needed a last second FG to get the win but the Eagles gave up a good KO return to Darren Sproles and couldn’t quite get New Orleans off the field on 3rd down on that final drive. All in all a great year for the Eagles. The expectations won’t be quite so low in 2014, but the Eagles should live up to them anyway!
#8 After watching Mike McCoy develop an offense to make Tim Tebow a playoff winning QB and then turn around and develop and offense that allowed Peyton Manning to be his usual self, you had a feeling that Philip Rivers was about to do some amazing things in San Diego. Rivers didn’t disappoint having the best year of his career throwing for 4478yds while completing 70% of his passes including 32TD! From a macro perspective, the Chargers are a good team to look when considering the little things that go wrong. In close games the Chargers were 4-6. That’s a lot of close losses and their final 9-7 record could have easily been 13-3. Remember that the Chargers lost to the Texans, Titans, Redskins & Raiders! Going 5-1 in their last 6 gave SD the final playoff spot in the AFC. They dispatched Cincinnati rather easily 27-10, but came up just short against Denver 24-17 in the divisional round. It was a great year especially for guys like Rivers, Keenan Allen & Ryan Mathews. The one knock on SD was their defense but it got better. In their last 7 games including the playoffs, the Bolts only allowed 17.4PPG. This is a very good & dangerous team.
#9 The NFC West was a brutal division and while Arizona didn’t even make the playoffs they finished 10-6. I almost feel bad putting Arizona this low. The Cardinals got off to a slow start with a 3-4 record but finished up 7-2 with those two losses coming by a combined 6 points on the road to both Philadelphia & San Francisco. Down the stretch Arizona humiliated Indianapolis 40-11 and was the only team to beat Seattle in Seattle! By season’s end Arizona was playing as good of football as any team in the league. They might not have made the playoffs but in my estimation they finished as the 5th best team in the NFC, but was punished by playing in a division that includes the 49ers & Seahawks! If a fanbase was ever pining away for being back in their old division, Arizona fans were dreaming of being back in the NFC East! The only downside I can see for Arizona this past year was QB Carson Palmer. He did an OK job I guess and the Cardinals did win 10 games but that 24:22 TD:INT ratio looks terrible. The Cardinals must decide of Palmer is the QB that can push them over the top. It won’t be easy in that division.
#10 The evolution of Andrew Luck continues in Indianapolis with the Colts benefiting with one more playoff win in Luck’s 2nd year than in his 1st. Luck will never get rid of the Peyton Manning comparisons because of the team he plays for so it’s a natural comparison. Luck holds up rather well. Through their first two seasons, Luck has completed 57.0% of his passes for 8196yds & 46TD. Manning in his first 2 seasons completed 59.3% of his passes for 7874yds & 52TD. In these 2 years Luck is 1-2 in the playoffs. Manning was 0-1. Indianapolis was a solid team in 2013 if not spectacular. They took advantage of a decimated AFC South and a Texans team that completely tanked. They needed some Luck heroics to escape Kansas City 45-44 in Lucas Oil Stadium before being hammered by New England 43-22. The amazing thing about Indy this past season is who they beat. Those teams include the 49ers (12-4), Seahawks (13-3), Broncos (13-3), & Chiefs (11-5). They beat the Chiefs twice! Those are incredibly strong wins! Manning & Brady can’t play forever. When they finally retire, Luck will be primed to take over the AFC.
#11 What’s really amazing about Cincinnati’s season is how good it could have been. Granted going 11-5 & winning the AFC North is a good season, but Cincinnati had 3 losses by a combined 8 points! Two of those losses came in back-to-back weeks in OT on the road against Miami (20-22) & Baltimore (17-20). The Bengals also suffered a 17-6 loss to Cleveland! Those 4 games could have meant a 15-1 record instead of an 11-5. Why is that important? It’s simply about opportunity. The Bengals getting the #3 seed had them facing a BLAZING HOT San Diego team playing so loose because nobody expected them to be in the playoffs. It resulted in a loss. If Cincinnati somehow finds a way to get to 14-2/15-1 then they have the #1 seed. Which means they are likely getting the Colts/Chiefs winner which would have been a win, but it also puts Patriots/Broncos in the other divisional game. That type of set up is much preferred over hosting the Chargers in the Wild Card. Now we are talking windows of opportunity because the Bengals will be good again in 2014 but questions remain about Andy Dalton & Marvin Lewis will have a new DC & OC!
#12 The Packers are an easy team to forget about, but let’s remember that they almost upended San Francisco in the Wild Card, losing to the 49ers 23-20. If the Packers win that game then they head to Carolina in a winnable game against the Panthers. It was almost a throw away season in Green Bay given the injuries sustained by the team. Aaron Rodgers missed 7 games. Randall Cobb & Jermichael Finley missed almost the entire season. Brad Jones missed 25% of the season. Clay Matthews missed 5 games. Even the stalwart Donald Driver was now suiting up for the Minnesota Vikings! Green Bay limped into the playoffs going 3-5-1 in their last 9 games. If Detroit hadn’t completely imploded then the Packers don’t even make the playoffs. What plagued GB against SF was much the same as Philly’s loss to NO. The 49ers needed a last second FG to win the game and the Packers couldn’t quite stop that final drive even though they had a couple of 3rd & longs. A tough season but a divisional crown nonetheless. Green Bay will retool in 2014 & hope for better health. The NFC North shouldn’t be that good so opportunity awaits.
#13 Including the playoffs, Kansas City was 10-0 against teams with a .500 winning percentage or worse. Against teams with a better than .500 winning percentage, the Chiefs went a startling 1-6! The Chiefs capitalized on an extremely weak schedule early on, reeling off 9 straight wins to begin the year! In their final 7 games they’d have to face Denver twice, San Diego twice & the Colts. They lost all 5 games. Kansas City also took advantage of being +19 in TO margin! These are the little things that allow teams to win games and in those first 9 games, KC went 3-0 in close games including wins over Dallas & Philadelphia early on. If those 3 games turn the other way then an 11-5 KC team is 8-8 and out of the playoffs entirely. It would have been easy to fold up against Indianapolis too but KC made the Colts work for it, and if Kansas City wins the game they go on to New England where KC’s pass rush might have given Brady some trouble. It’s a really interesting situation in Kansas City. They need help with the O-Line, but outside of that they look solid and Andy Reid can coach. The schedule was nice but I’m inclined to think the season wasn’t a fluke.
#14 It’s easy to see these types of things in retrospect but Pittsburgh just had a season in which a lot of things didn’t go right. Early on Pittsburgh just couldn’t quite hold it together and were the antithesis of the Chiefs. The Steelers lost their first 4 games and were 2-6 through the first half of the season! The season turned completely around when they got back home on November 10th to play Buffalo. After losing back-to-back road games to Oakland & New England, Pittsburgh would win 6 of their final 8 games with the 2 losses coming by a combined 8 points. Pittsburgh was 2-5 in close games so the 8-8 could just as easily been 13-3. In those first 8 games, the Steelers were -11 in TO margin. In their final 8 games they were +7. Pittsburgh is one of the most storied franchises in the NFL so not making the playoffs is unacceptable but by year’s end the Steelers were one of the best teams in the AFC. If you look at the best 6 teams on the last day of the season they were probably DEN, NEP, SDC, PIT, IND & CIN. From a points differential perspective, this was Pittsburgh worse season since 2003!
#15 It’s sort of odd to have a 7-9 last place team rank in the Power 15, but the Rams played in the NFC West! That might be enough to get you into the Power 15 at 3-13! St. Louis went 1-5 against their divisional rivals meaning they went 6-4 against everyone else and had wins over Colts, Bears & Saints. One aspect that stands out to me about St. Louis’ 2013 season is their sack differential. It was +17 which is fantastic! There is also another unfortunate things that stands out, Sam Bradford’s health. Bradford missed the last 9 games after what was looking to be a breakout season for the 4th year starter out of Oklahoma. The good news is that Bradford has done this since entering the league where he plays 16 games in one year followed by an injury plagued year. Luckily for St. Louis, Bradford is schedule to play in all 16 games in 2014! Moving forward it would seem possible that the Rams could rise up over Arizona in the NFC West although that isn’t guaranteed. The 3rd place team in the West is a viable playoff contender so getting to that point would be amazing for the Rams. A good season even if they didn’t quite get to the .500 mark.
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July 9, 2014 - Posted by | Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, NFL Power 15, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Power 15, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams

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