Saints’ $54m Man Jairus Byrd done for Year (Meniscus)

jairus-byrd-new-orleansAlready dealing with a rough 1-3 start, the New Orleans Saints got some terrible news as they found out that safety Jairus Byrd tore his lateral meniscus ligament and will miss the rest of the season.

The injury happened in Thursday’s practice as Byrd caught what reports describe as an acrobatic interception. He then got up and tried to run, but tore the meniscus in his knee. Byrd has been placed on injured reserve while high-paid backup Rafael Bush will take his place.

Big things were expected from the ex-Buffalo Bills player since he signed a 6-year, $54 million deal in the offseason – more money than any other free agent. $26.3 million of this money is guaranteed, with much of the contract being backloaded. The latter was key because the Saints needed to backload money to stay under the salary cap.

Unfortunately, they also needed to dump a number of key players to stay under the cap as well. Here’s a look at some of the notables who were let go by New Orleans this offseason:

RB Darren Sproles – The longtime safety valve for Drew Brees was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a mere 5th-round pick.

S Malcolm Jenkins – Also went to the Eagles after signing a three-year, $16.5 million deal. He’s already racked up three interceptions and a touchdown for his new team.

S Roman Harper – Signed with Carolina and has started all four games thus far while scoring a touchdown.

WR Lance Moore – Plays for Pittsburgh now and is working into prominent role after coming off an injury.

jairus-byrd-new-orleans-1As you can see, the Saints let two good safeties go in an effort to make way for a higher-paid safety. And Jenkins wasn’t really playing up to his contract in the early going anyways. The three-time Pro Bowler was struggling to fit into Rob Ryan’s defensive scheme, and he missed some key tackles.

Byrd will play a key role in New Orleans’ foreseeable future. But at the moment, his previous struggles and season-ending injury will have many Saints fans scratching their heads over the $54 million deal. Furthermore, it’s already looking like New Orleans could miss the playoffs this season – a huge blow to a Drew Brees-led team that expects to compete for a Super Bowl every year.

Over 90% of Top NFL Free Agents don’t collect on Long-Term Contracts

javon-walker-long-term-dealWe’re smack dab in the middle of the 2014 NFL free agency period. Some big deals have already been signed, with DE Michael Johnson signing with Tampa Bay for 5 yrs/$43 million, S Jairus Byrd signing with the Saints for 6 yrs/$54 million and CB Alterraun Verner signing with Tennessee for 4 yrs/$26.5 million.

These deals are just the tip of the iceberg, though, because there have been several other big contracts, and there figure to be plenty more before the 2014 offseason ends. But interestingly enough, the large majority of these huge, multi-year deals mean very little in the long run.

As The Big Lead discovered from looking at the top 50 free agents each year from 2005 to 2010, only 8% of contracts with five years or more reached the end of the deal. Many NFL fans are probably well aware that long-term deals have essentially become worthless in a league that only guarantees a portion of contracts. But to know that over 90% of these deals end well before the agreed terms is a little mind-boggling.

drew-breesThe handful of players who actually completed their deals were Drew Brees, Charles Woodson, Adam Vinatieri, Derrick Mason, Reggie Hayward and Justin Smith, provided he makes next year’s San Francisco roster as expected. The Big Lead (TBL) broke the average contract length down with the following:

5-Year Deals – The average player lasts 2.9 years with their team
6-Year Deals – The average player lasts 3.1 years with their team
7-Year Deals – The average player lasts 3.7 years with their team

So not only are these guys not reaching the end of their contracts, but they are falling well short of the deals’ duration. TBL provided further information on this subject in the form of how well each position does with meeting most years of their contract length. Kickers and punters lead the way by lasting 17 of the 21 years (81%) they collectively signed for. Quarterbacks (72%) and defensive ends (70%) also do fairly well with making their deals last. At the lower end of the spectrum are wide receivers (46%), safeties (44%) and offensive tackles (42%).

Based on this data, TBL concludes that the offensive tackle position just doesn’t age well, with many teams looking to get good, young tackles early in the draft. The article attributes the low duration of receiver and safety contracts to teams frequently cutting overpaid players at these positions.

2013 NFL Wild Card Predictions (Jan. 4-5)

wild-card-colts-chiefsThis weekend kicks off the most exciting time in every football season: the NFL Playoffs! This is especially the case if you plan on betting on the 2013 Wild Card matchups. Looking at GTBets‘ NFL Wild Card lines, three out of the four spreads are separated by 2.5 points or less. With such close matchups, it’s definitely worth doing some in-depth analysis on each game.

Kansas City (-110) at Indianapolis (-110) on Saturday (4:35pm, NBC)

We got a preview of this matchup two weeks ago, when the Colts dominated Kansas City by a score of 23-7. Given that this contest was at Arrowhead, you’d think that Indianapolis would roll at home. However, the Colts have been very inconsistent ever since losing Reggie Wayne, so it’s tough to tell how they’ll come out each week. Additionally, they’ve struggled to find a running game all year, which doesn’t bode well against KC’s awesome defense.

So what about the Chiefs? Well, they’ll go as far as Alex Smith can take them. He looked terrible against Indianapolis before, throwing for just 153 yards, 1 interception, and losing 2 fumbles. Overall though, Smith has been pretty consistent this season, which means he should play much better this time around. However, we don’t think that Smith, Jamaal Charles and the KC defense can do enough to prevent wunderkind Andrew Luck from winning at home.

Prediction: Indianapolis beats Kansas City 20-16

New Orleans (-100) at Philadelphia -2.5 (-120) on Saturday (8:00pm, NBC)

wild-card-eagles-saintsThe Saints looked like early-season favorites to come out of the NFC. However, they faltered down the stretch amid growing defensive and road concerns. Their defense is ranked just 21st on the road, which makes their 3-5 record away from the Superdome much more understandable. However, they do have Drew Brees which always counts for something.

But will Brees see the field enough to make a difference? Philadelphia boasts the NFL’s top rusher in LeSean McCoy (1,607 rushing yds) so they should be able to move the chains, grind the clock down, and keep Brees off the field. Add in the fact that McCoy will be opening things up for newly anointed superstar QB Nick Foles, and we definitely see this one going in Philly’s favor.

Prediction: Philadelphia beats New Orleans 34-20

San Diego (-110) at Cincinnati -6.5 (-110) on Sunday (1:00pm, CBS)

wild-card-chargers-bengalsSan Diego survived a nailbiter against Kansas City’s second string last week to slip into the playoffs. Now they face a much bigger challenge in trying to become the first team to win at Cincinnati all season. They’ll be aided on this seemingly impossible quest by a number of offensive weapons, including Philip Rivers, Danny Woodhead, Ryan Mathews and Keenan Allen.

But even if the Chargers are able to put some points up on Cincy, it won’t be enough. The Bengals have crushed opponents at Paul Brown Stadium en route to an 8-0 record. Their last five victories have been particularly dominating, with margins of 17, 28, 14, 21 and 40 points. Considering that Cincinnati already holds a road victory over San Diego this year, we don’t see any chance of the Chargers moving past the Wild Card round.

Prediction: Cincinnati beats San Diego 38-17

San Francisco -2.5 (-110) at Green Bay (-110) on Sunday (4:30pm, Fox)

wild-card-49ers-packersNotice that San Francisco is the only road favorite on GTBets’ NFL Wild Card lines this week. There’s good reason for this too. San Fran is on a six-game winning streak, and they came within a play or two of winning the Super Bowl last year. Plus, they should have no trouble running the ball on Green Bay’s defense with Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore.

But the Packers won’t be total pushovers. Aaron Rodgers finally returned from injury last week and looked almost like his pre-injury self, throwing for 318 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Aside from Rodgers, Green Bay is also at home where they’ll get a big boost from sub-zero temperatures. However, we don’t see inclement weather stopping San Francisco from coming out of this one with a victory.

Prediction: San Francisco beats Green Bay 34-28

NFL Power Rankings for Week 17 (Dec. 25, 2013)

peyton-manning-broncosThe 2013 NFL regular season is rolling to a close, but much of the playoff picture is still unclear heading into the final week. Not one NFC division title has been sewn up, while there are still four teams alive for the last AFC Wild Card spot. Fortunately, the jumbled playoff mess will be sorted out this weekend through wins, losses, and a series of tiebreakers that only a computer can keep track of.

1. Denver Broncos (12-3); beat Houston 37-13, moves up one spot – No surprise here as Denver sent Houston spiraling towards their 13th straight loss. The most meaningful news to come out of this game involved Peyton Manning breaking Tom Brady’s all-time record for touchdown passes in a season (50). Manning threw for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, the last of which was the record-breaking number 51.

2. Seattle Seahawks (12-3); lost to Arizona 17-10, drops one spot – It’s been a while, but Seattle finally lost at home. And it was an ugly loss marked by several turnovers. If Seattle is truly to compete for a Super Bowl title this year, Russell Wilson needs to step his game up. He has three TD’s, three INT’s, and has been sacked 10 times in the last three games.

3. San Francisco 49ers (11-4); beat Atlanta 34-24, retains same ranking – The last ever game at Candlestick Park was a good one! With Atlanta driving for a potential game-winning score, NaVorro Bowman intercepted a Matt Ryan pass and took it back 89 yards for a touchdown. With Michael Crabtree now back and playing well (5REC, 102YDS), the Niners are going to be a dangerous playoff team.

4. New England Patriots (11-4); beat Baltimore 41-7, moves up one spot – Wow! New England walks into a playoff-hungry team’s den, then spanks them by 34 points! The Pats have looked inconsistent at times, but everything was working last Sunday – from the defense to the running game (34 carries for 142 yards).

cam-newton5. Carolina Panthers (11-4); beat New Orleans 17-13, moves up two spots – Cam Newton’s maturity level has greatly improved this year, and it really showed on the game-winning. With just 23 seconds left, Newton had the poise to find Domenik Hixon in the end zone from 14 yards out. Aside from Newton’s late-game heroics, the defense should be commended since they intercepted Drew Brees twice and sacked him six times.

6. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4); lost to Indianapolis 23-7, drops two spots – We’d been commending Kansas City’s offense, up until now. They looked completely terrible at home against a mediocre Colts defense. Much of the problem can be attributed to the normally steady Alex Smith. He fumbled once and was picked off twice in this rough loss.

7. Cincinnati Bengals (10-5); beat Minnesota 42-14, moves up one spot – Cincinnati remains perfect at home, thanks to 366 passing yards and 4 touchdowns from Andy Dalton. Oh, and Vincent Rey returning an interception 25 yards for a TD didn’t hurt either. The Bengals are now headed for their third straight playoff appearance.

8. Arizona Cardinals (10-5); beat Seattle 17-10, moves up one spot – You’ve got to hand it to Arizona, walking into Seattle’s home territory and actually coming out with a win. Of course, this weekend won’t be much easier because they have to beat San Francisco to keep their playoff hopes alive. We can only imagine the disappointment if the Cardinals win 11 games, yet fail to make the postseason.

9. Indianapolis Colts (10-5); beat Kansas City 23-7, moves up one spot – After a mid-season slump, the Colts are back to playing some good football. They’ve won three straight games and have held opponents to 10 points over the past two weeks. Granted, one of those opponents was Houston, but still…

10. New Orleans (10-5); lost to Carolina 17-13, drops four spots – It’s highly likely that the Saints will beat Tampa Bay at home and grab the final playoff NFC spot over Arizona. Even still, there are some pressing questions here – namely how New Orleans plays on the road. Their record away from the Superdome is only 3-5, and if Carolina wins, every postseason game the Saints play will be on the road.

lesean-mccoy11. Philadelphia Eagles (9-6); beat Chicago 54-11, retains same ranking – The Eagles deserve to move up after demolishing the Bears. But there’s not much room in the top 10 right now. Regardless, their running game was a thing of beauty as they racked up 289 rushing yards and 3 TD’s. LeSean McCoy led the way with 133 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, while Bryce Brown added 118 yards and a TD on just nine carries.

12. Dallas Cowboys (8-7); beat Washington 24-23, moves up three spots – Tony Romo led a dramatic, comeback victory against the Redskins. Unfortunately, his status for this week’s game against Philadelphia is up in the air because of a back injury. This is very bad news too because, for the second year in a row, Dallas is playing for the NFC East title in the last week of the regular season.

13. San Diego Chargers (8-7); beat Oakland 26-13, moves up three spots – The Chargers keep winning and staying in the playoff race. This time, it was Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead leading the way after combining for 151 rushing yards. Now they have to beat Kansas City again, and hope that the Ravens and Dolphins lose this weekend to reach the playoffs.

14. Baltimore Ravens (8-7); lost to New England 41-7, drops two spots – With a chance to further cement their chances of grabbing the last AFC Wild Card spot, Baltimore got embarrassed at home. Not only was their offense completely ineffective, but they also let New England run wild on them. Now they must win in Cincinnati, where the Bengals haven’t lost yet.

15. Miami Dolphins (8-7); lost to Buffalo 19-0, drops two spots – This game all came down to the rushing attacks, with Buffalo obliterating Miami. The Bills gained 203 rushing yards on 51 carries while the Dolphins tallied just 14 yards on 12 carries. Now in a tie with Baltimore for the final playoff spot, Miami is going to need some help to reach the postseason.

jay-cutler-injury16. Chicago Bears (8-7); lost to Philadelphia 54-11, drops two spots – This is the third team in a row on this list that blew a golden opportunity last weekend. Chicago could have wrapped up the NFC North division with a victory over Philly. While this was no easy task, they not only lost, but got completely embarrassed. It looks like Jay Cutler will be back in the saddle in the Bears’ all-important game against Green Bay.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8); beat Green Bay 38-31, moves up two spots – It’s amazing that Pittsburgh is even in the playoff picture this week, given that they started out 0-4. It’s interesting to think about what may have been if rookie RB Le’Veon Bell hadn’t missed several games to start the year.

18. Green Bay Packers (7-7-1); lost to Pittsburgh 38-31, drops one spot – There’s talk that Aaron Rodgers might return for the final regular season game. And this would be a huge lift since Green Bay can still win the NFC North by beating Chicago. But on a down note, they’ll probably be without Clay Matthews and Eddie Lacy.

19. St. Louis Rams (7-8); beat Tampa Bay 23-13, moves up one spot – St. Louis continues to improve and offer hope for next year. It looks like they’ve definitely found a star running back in Zac Stacy, who again had a big day with 104 rushing yards and a touchdown.

20. New York Jets (7-8); beat Cleveland 24-13, moves up one spot – Geno Smith had his first game with two touchdown passes since October. The embattled rookie also iced the game with a touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately this win won’t save Rex Ryan’s job, who already informed his team that he’s gone after this year.

21. New York Giants (6-9); beat Detroit 23-20 (OT), moves up one spot – The Giants tried to give this game away, with Eli Manning throwing an interception towards the end of regulation, and Andre Brown fumbling on the opening possession of overtime. But they were able to hold the Lions and allow Josh Brown to kick a game-winning 45-yard field goal.

22. Detroit Lions (7-8); lost to New York Giants 23-20 (OT), drops two spots – The Lions’ miserable slide continues and they’re now officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Detroit fans grew angry when coach Jim Schwartz elected to run out the clock in regulation, despite having two timeouts left and 23 seconds. With the Lions on their own 25, it’s not entirely ridiculous that Schwartz decided to play conservatively. However, he made things worse by yelling something back at the crowd when they were booing.

23. Tennessee Titans (6-9); beat Jacksonville 20-16, retains same ranking – Tennessee finally stopped a three-game slide. Nate Washington had a huge game as he caught 6 passes for 117 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown from 30 yards out.

cj-spiller24. Buffalo Bills (6-9); beat Miami 19-0, moves up two spots – As a team with nothing really left to play for, Buffalo definitely gave a nice effort in this contest. Their run game was especially killer to the Dolphins, with Fred Jackson racking up 111 yards and CJ Spiller adding 77 yards.

25. Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1); lost to Cincinnati 42-14, drops one spot – Adrian Peterson returned from a foot injury suffered last week, but it really didn’t matter. Matt Cassel suddenly remembered that he’s Matt Cassel, completing 13-of-27 passes for 114 yards, 1 TD, and 3 interceptions.

26. Atlanta Falcons (4-11); lost to San Francisco 34-24, drops one spot – Overall, this is definitely a year to forget for Roddy White and the Falcons. But he at least finished the season strong, catching 35 passes for 411 yards over the past four games.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11); lost to Tennessee 20-16, retains same ranking – Jacksonville was actually in a position to take the lead late in this game, but Maurice Jones-Drew got stuffed on a fourth-and-1 run with 5:21 left.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11); lost to St. Louis 23-13, retains same ranking – The Buccaneers pass protection was bad, as they gave up seven sacks to the Rams. This fact alone made it very difficult for QB Mike Glennon to move the Bucs downfield.

29. Cleveland Browns (4-11); lost to New York Jets 24-13, retains same ranking – Cleveland has now lost six straight games, and they also lost star tight end Jordan Cameron to a concussion in this game.

30. Oakland Raiders (4-11); lost to Kansas City 56-31, retains same ranking – The latest controversy to emerge from Oakland involves Terrelle Pryor’s agent saying that the decision to start him in the finale is a conspiracy. The logic is that Allen wants Pryor to fail against Denver, thus making it look like starting Matt McGloin for the past six games was a good decision. Maybe this isn’t quite so far-fetched, but the fact that Pryor’s agent aired it publicly is baffling.

31. Washington Redskins (3-12); lost to Dallas 24-23, retains same ranking – Pierre Garcon continues to have a monster season, catching 11 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown in this game. For the season, he has 107 catches for 1,290 yards and five touchdowns.

32. Houston Texans (2-13); lost to Denver 37-13, retains same ranking – The depleted Texans dropped their 13th game in a row, and they’ll try for a win one last time at Tennessee.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 11 (Nov. 13th, 2013)

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans SaintsThis past week was a big dividing line in the playoff hopes of many teams. The Chargers, Dolphins, Titans and Redskins all had realistic postseason chances going into last week’s games; but they all missed huge opportunities to legitimize their hopes of making the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals, Eagles, Lions, Panthers and Ravens all took big steps forward in trying to win a postseason bid. There’s still a lot of time left in the season, but keep an eye on these five teams as we move forward. Now let’s look at the Week 11 NFL power rankings.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-0); bye week, retains same ranking – Despite their undefeated ranking, many still question the Chiefs billing as the NFL’s top team. They have a huge opportunity to put these questions to rest as they travel to Mile High to face Denver.

2. Denver Broncos (8-1); beat San Diego 28-20, retains same ranking – The Broncos weren’t caught looking ahead as they were able to beat a tough San Diego team on the road. Peyton looks to be handling his ankle issues well after throwing for 330 yards and four TD’s. Now he faces KC in what will be a true test of offense vs. defense.

3. Seattle Seahawks (9-1); beat Atlanta 33-10, retains same ranking – After narrowly grabbing a win two weeks ago against Tampa Bay, the Seahawks looked themselves again in Atlanta. The offense really seems to be clicking, with Russell Wilson throwing for 287 yards and 2 TD’s, and Marshawn Lynch adding 145 yards and a score on the ground.

4. New Orleans Saints (7-2); beat Dallas 49-17, moves up two spots – New Orleans showed why nobody wants to play them in the Superdome after manhandling the Cowboys. Drew Brees (392PYDS, 4TD) looked like he was passing on a JV team, while Mark Ingram had his best game as a pro with 145 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries.

5. New England Patriots (7-2); bye week, moves up two spots – With a healthy team, improved passing game, and the two teams above them losing, New England moves up two spots. Now they travel to take on a red-hot Panthers team in Charlotte.

6. San Francisco 49ers (6-3); lost to Carolina 10-9, drops one spot – Given how good Carolina is playing, it’s not a shame to lose to them. However, what is shameful is the way that the Niners offense played. Colin Kaepernick has got to get more going if this team is to make a deep postseason run.

 andrew-luck-rams7. Indianapolis Colts (6-3); lost to St. Louis 38-8, drops three spots – It’s still tough sorting out what happened with this game. A team with wins over Denver, San Francisco and Seattle loses to the Rams by 30 at home!? Andrew Luck had what may be his worst game ever after throwing for 353 yards, 1 TD and 3 INT’s. And the running game was absolutely nonexistent for the Colts.

8. Detroit Lions (6-3); beat Chicago 21-19, moves up one spot – Detroit took advantage of a hobbled Jay Cutler and grabbed a good road victory. Now in sole possession of first in the NFC North, the Lions are in great shape to win the division, given their closest competitors’ injury struggles.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4); lost to Baltimore 20-17 (OT), drops one spot – The Bengals looked pretty bad in this game, namely because of a ton of penalties. Even still, they got a second chance when Andy Dalton’s Hail Mary pass was tipped into the hands of AJ Green. Still, they couldn’t capitalize after failing to score in overtime and allowing Baltimore to drive down for a game-winning field goal.

10. Carolina Panthers (6-3); beat San Francisco 10-9, moves up four spots – Is it time to believe in the Panthers? Maybe so after Carolina’s defense pitched a second-half shutout and stopped San Francisco’s five-game winning streak. This team gets no time to celebrate, though, since they face New England at home.

11. Arizona Cardinals (5-4); beat Houston 27-24, moves up two spots – Few would’ve predicted that, with the season over halfway done, the Cardinals would be a game behind Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West. Arizona has another very friendly matchup as they travel to Jacksonville this week.

12. Dallas Cowboys (5-5); lost to New Orleans 49-17, drops two spots – The Cowboys lived up to the “boys” part of their name after being dominated by the Saints. The big story following this game was how Jerry Jones publicly regretted getting rid of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who’s completely transformed New Orleans’ D.

jay-cutler-injury13. Chicago Bears (5-4); lost to Detroit 21-19, drops two spots – Marc Trestman rolled the dice on starting an iffy Jay Cutler and lost big-time. It was plain to see that Josh McCown would’ve been the better option after he came in for the limping Cutler and led a late-game scoring drive. However, a missed two-point conversion sealed this loss.

14. Green Bay Packers (5-4); lost to Philadelphia 27-13, drops two spots – The backup QB couldn’t even stay healthy as Seneca Wallace left early on with a groin injury. This meant Scott Tolzien was left trying to win this very important game. He performed fairly well with 280 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT’s, but it wasn’t enough as Green Bay falls into a tie with Chicago for second in the division.

15. New York Jets (5-4); bye week, moves up one spot – The Jets actually have a solid shot to win a Wild Card berth if they take care of business the rest of the way. But this playoff push starts with a tricky road game against division rival Buffalo.

16. San Diego Chargers (4-5); lost to Denver 28-20, drops one spot – San Diego played well against a superior Denver team, but not good enough. We said it before: their loss last week to Washington probably killed their playoff chances. After all, a road game at Mile High and two contests against the Chiefs still await.

17. Cleveland Browns (4-5); bye week, moves up two spots – The Browns’ season has been a true odyssey, with Brandon Weeden starting at QB, then Brian Hoyer, then back to Weeden, and now Jason Campbell. The latter has definitely provided the best results for Cleveland recently.

18. Baltimore Ravens (4-5); beat Cincinnati 20-17, moves up two spots – Baltimore isn’t totally dead yet this year. Sure the running game is still busted, with Ray Rice gaining just 30 yards on 18 carries. However, the Ravens still have a strong defense, and decent passing game behind Joe Flacco. The next few games are all winnable too, assuming Baltimore plays up to their potential.

nick-foles-eagles19. Philadelphia Eagles (5-5); beat Green Bay 27-13, moves up three spots – Give this team credit for winning two straight games behind Nick Foles and climbing into a first-place tie with Dallas in the NFC East. Many think that Foles has played well enough to keep the starting job, even when Michael Vick does get healthy.

20. Tennessee Titans (4-5); lost to Jacksonville 29-27, drops three spots – Not only did Tennessee lose to the worst football team in the NFL, but they also lost Jake Locker for the rest of the season. A fairly capable Ryan Fitzpatrick will start the rest of the way.

21. Miami Dolphins (4-5); lost to Tampa Bay 22-19, drops three spots – It wasn’t a good day for 4-4 teams since Miami also lost to a winless team. You have to wonder if the bullying scandal has dismantled a once-promising season.

22. New York Giants (3-6); beat Oakland 24-20, moves up two spots – Eli Manning (140PYDS, 1TD, 1INT) still looked bad with a soft matchup staring him in the face. But Andre Brown gave the Giants a big boost in his first game of the season after rushing for 115 yards and a touchdown.

23. Washington Redskins (3-6); lost to Minnesota 34-27, drops two spots – With Washington, it’s just a case of a team that can’t get over the hump. Every time they look ready to jump into the NFC East race, they drop a winnable game.

24. Oakland Raiders (3-6); lost to New York Giants 24-20, drops one spot – The excitement that Terrelle Pryor brought earlier has now been deflated. He had his most anemic game of the season after throwing for just 122 yards and an interception.

25. St. Louis Rams (4-6); beat Indianapolis 38-8, moves up four spots – ‘Wow’ is the only word that describes this one. Tavon Austin emerged as a star in this game after returning a punt for 98 yards, then adding two long touchdown catches for a combined total of 138 yards.

26. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6); beat Buffalo 23-10, moves up two spots – All the talk about CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson taking advantage of the Steelers weak run defense meant nothing. Pittsburgh looked like their old selves with a dominant defensive performance.

27. Atlanta Falcons (2-7); lost to Seattle 33-10, drops two spots – It’s pretty clear that this has been a busted, injury-plagued year for Atlanta. Maybe they can get a spark going and win a few games to build momentum for next season.

28. Houston Texans (2-7); lost to Arizona 27-24, drops two spots – Give Houston credit for playing hard a week after their coach was hospitalized. Much like Atlanta, Houston has just suffered too many injuries to play at the level they were at last year.

29. Buffalo Bills (3-7); lost to Pittsburgh 23-10, drops two spots – EJ Manuel’s return meant very little as Buffalo managed just 227 total yards. The Bills’ biggest mistake this season has been letting CJ Spiller play game after game with a high ankle sprain.

30. Minnesota Vikings (2-7); beat Washington 34-27, retains same ranking – It was a good day for the bottom of the league. Minnesota grabbed their second win on the strength of John Carlson’s breakout performance (98YDS, 1TD).

31. Tampa Bay (1-8); beat Miami 22-19, retains same ranking – While Tampa Bay lost another running back for the season in Mike James, they did pick up their first win. However, it’s still surprising that it took this long to win for a team that spent so much offseason money.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8); beat Tennessee 29-27, retains same ranking – The Jaguars took advantage of four Tennessee turnovers, and turned these into 17 points. They thankfully avoided the embarrassing 0-16 mark that many thought they were headed for.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 9 (Oct. 31st, 2013)

matt-staffordNo game last week was more exciting than the 1-point thriller between the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys. With just 42 seconds left, Matt Stafford led an 80-yard, game-winning drive that was capped off by his 1-yard QB sneak. Stafford used some trickery to pull off this sneak since he yelled that he was going to stop the clock, then called hike and put the ball over his lineman’s head for the go-ahead score. Oh yea, and did we mention that Calvin Johnson also tallied the second-most receiving yards ever with 329 in this game?

Unfortunately, none of the other games from Week 8 were this dramatic, but several contests had a large impact on our power rankings. That said, here are the rankings for Week 9.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-0); beat Cleveland 23-17, retains same ranking – This was far from Kansas City’s best performance of the year. After all, they let journeyman quarterback Jason Campbell pass for 293 yards and two touchdowns on them. But on the bright side, Alex Smith had a pretty good game against a tough Browns D as he threw for 225 yards and two scores of his own. Plus, the most important thing is that KC won yet again.

2. Denver Broncos (7-1); beat Washington Redskins 45-21, retains same ranking – The final score of this game certainly doesn’t tell it all. The red-hot Redskins were actually winning by a score of 21-7 in the middle of the third quarter. However, the Broncos came stomping back by scoring the final 38 points of the game. Denver overcame three interceptions by Peyton Manning to turn this contest into a route.

3. Seattle Seahawks (7-1); beat St. Louis 14-9, retains same ranking – Seattle’s game against the Rams was a little close for comfort. They made a goal-line stand after stuffing Daryl Richardson on 3-and-1 and forcing Kellen Clemens to throw an incompletion on 4-and-1. There were some concerns on offense for the Seahawks too since they only gained 135 yards of total offense. But they still got the important road win.

4. New Orleans Saints (7-1); beat Buffalo 35-17, retains same ranking – Not surprisingly, Drew Brees was able to pick apart the Buffalo defense as he finished with 332 yards and five touchdowns. Plus the defense played its role by sacking Thad Lewis four times, intercepting him once and forcing the beleaguered QB into two fumbles.

5. Indianapolis Colts (5-2); bye week, retains same ranking – The Colts got a week to rest after an incredible first half of the season, where they beat Denver, Seattle and San Francisco. Based on their resume, we can’t see moving them down during a bye week.

6. San Francisco (6-2); beat Jacksonville 42-10, retains same ranking – It may be the middle of the regular seasoncolin-kaepernick, but this game had the feel of a preseason blowout. Most of the starters were resting in the fourth quarter, and Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore both split four touchdown runs.

7. Green Bay Packers (5-2); beat Minnesota 44-31, retains same ranking – The Packers ran a rare run-heavy attack against the Vikings and it worked to perfection. Eddie Lacy saw the bulk of these carries after rushing for 94 yards and a TD on 29 attempts. One interesting side note here is that Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson tied an NFL record with a 109-yard kickoff return.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2); beat New York Jets 49-9, moves up one spot – Cincinnati’s defensive line harassed rookie QB Geno Smith all day, before he was finally benched in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand. Marvin Jones turned in his second stellar performance in a row after catching eight passes for 122 yards and four touchdowns. Thanks to Jones, Andy Dalton threw for a career-high five TD passes.

9. New England Patriots (6-2); beat Miami 27-17, drops one spot – The Patriots had an anemic first half that saw them down 17-3 to the Dolphins at home. However, they got the running game working in the second half and halted Miami from doing anything else on offense. The only reason they move down is because Cincinnati blew out the team that the Patriots lost to last week.

10. Detroit Lions (5-3); beat Dallas 31-30, moves up two spots – Maybe it’s just euphoria following that incredible comeback, but it feels like the Lions should move up a couple of spots. With weapons like Reggie Bush and Johnson, they have the ability to score on any possession.

11. San Diego Chargers (4-3); bye week, retains same ranking – Few people expected San Diego to have a winning record after last season’s disaster. Now they travel to Washington in what’s a very important game for their Wild Card playoff hopes.

12. Dallas Cowboys (4-4); lost to Detroit 31-30, drops two spots – It’s amazing how dez-bryantclose the Cowboys were to being 5-3 and holding a commanding two-game lead over the NFC East. They’re still in control of the East, but it can’t feel good after how they lost. Plus Dez Bryant’s sideline outbursts aren’t helping matters either.

13. Chicago Bears (4-3); bye week, retains same ranking – Chicago comes out of the bye week and into a tough matchup with Green Bay. And next week, they face off against Detroit in another critical division game. Things don’t look good with Jay Cutler out for a while!

14. Arizona Cardinals (4-4); beat Atlanta 27-13, moves up three spots – Teams definitely have to take the Cardinals seriously – especially the defense. They shut down a Falcons team that figured to get a huge boost with Steven Jackson back in the lineup, and intercepted Matt Ryan four times.

15. Baltimore Ravens (3-4); bye week, moves up one spot – Will the defending champs fight back or are they down for the count? These next two weeks will tell a lot as Baltimore travels to Cleveland, then plays Cincy at home.

16. Carolina Panthers (4-4); beat Tampa Bay 31-13, moves up three spots – Carolina took care of business during a three-game stretch that included Minnesota, Saint Louis and Tampa Bay. They might be able to notch yet a fourth win in a row if they can beat Atlanta at home this week.

17. Miami Dolphins (3-4); lost to New England 27-17, drops three spots – It’s sad to see such a promising start go down the drain. The Dolphins just couldn’t put together two good halves and pull off the upset. Miami has now lost four straight games, and the bleeding might not stop since they face a super-tough matchup in Cincinnati this week.

18. New York Jets (4-4); lost to Cincinnati 49-9, drops three spots – New York follows geno-smith-jetsup a big overtime win over New England with a demoralizing loss to the Bengals. Geno Smith has truly been Jekyll and Hyde from one game to the next. He’ll try to be the former as New York hosts an even tougher New Orleans team this week.

19. Tennessee Titans (3-4); bye week, moves up one spot – The Titans have three things working in their favor coming out of the bye week. They’ve got a healthy Jake Locker (1), and both the Saint Louis Rams (2) and Jacksonville Jaguars (3) are coming up on their schedule.

20. Oakland Raiders (3-4); beat Pittsburgh 21-18, moves up six spots – Oakland dominated the ground and jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead, with some help from a record-setting run by Terrelle Pryor. He bolted 93 yards for a touchdown, which set a record as the longest quarterback TD run in NFL history.

21. Atlanta Falcons (2-5); lost to Arizona 27-13, drops three spots – Just when the Falcons seemed like they were turning the corner and moving forward, they hit a big stumbling block at Arizona. Andre Ellington lit them up for 154 yards on 15 carries while Matt Ryan threw four picks.

22. Cleveland Browns (3-5); lost to Kansas City 23-17, drops one spot – Cleveland actually isn’t a bad team when they don’t have Brandon Weeden under center. They gave a valiant effort on the road against the league’s only unbeaten team.

23. New York Giants (2-6); beat Philadelphia 15-7, moves up five spots – This game was a bore to watch, and New York kept faltering in the red zone. However, they did enough to pick up their second win in a row.

24. Washington Redskins (2-5); lost to Denver 45-21, drops one spot – Anybody who was watching this one saw a pretty competitive contest that only got away from the Redskins in the last 10 minutes or so. The defense turned in a solid effort by intercepting Peyton Manning three times.

25. Houston Texans (2-5); bye week, retains same ranking – If the Texans are hoping to stop their three-game losing streak, it’ll definitely be a tall order. They face Indianapolis at home this week and Arizona on the road in Week 10.

26. Buffalo Bills (3-5); lost to New Orleans 35-17, drops one spot – Buffalo’s season is turning sour due to some key injuries. They certainly aren’t the same team without a healthy EJ Manuel and CJ Spiller.

27. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5); lost to New York Giants 15-7, drops five spots – Michael Vick could only go four series before having to sit down and rest his ailing hamstring. Neither Matt Barkley nor Nick Foles look capable of running Chip Kelly’s read option.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5); lost to Oakland 21-18, drops one spot – The Steelers actually had a chance to put themselves in the AFC North race. However, this loss to Oakland may have put the nail in he coffin on their hopes of a division title or playoff bid.

29. Saint Louis Rams (3-5); lost to Seattle 14-9, retains same ranking – If not for Kellen Clemens’ two first-half interceptions, the Rams might have pulled out a huge win. Even with Clemens’ INT’s, St. Louis was just a yard away from a season-defining victory. Zac Stacy (134 YDS last game) actually gives this team something to look forward to.

30. Minnesota Vikings; lost to Green Bay 44-31, retains same ranking – Christian Ponder didn’t do much to dissuade the Vikings from starting Josh Freeman when he comes back from a concussion.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; lost to Carolina 31-13, retains same ranking – It seems like Tampa Bay could win a game at some point this season. But when?

32. Jacksonville Jaguars; lost to San Francisco 42-10, retains same ranking – Maybe playing the Broncos tough a few weeks ago was just a fluke.