2017 NFL Power Rankings, Presented By Knightfall: Week 11

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The Saints continue to surge.

New Orleans decimated Buffalo, 47-10, on Sunday to win for the seventh straight week after an 0-2 start. The result moved the Saints into the second spot in our nERD-based power ratings, trailing only Jacksonville, which continues to hold down the top spot.

Drew Brees is having another fine season, directing what our schedule-adjusted metrics have as the league's third-best passing offense, and he's getting a lot of support from a fearsome running game. We can peep that by looking at our in-house Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which you can read more about in our glossary.

The Saints are putting up 0.08 Rushing NEP per carry, the fifth-best mark in the league. In fact, New Orleans has had just one season since 2000 with better rushing efficiency, and that came when they recorded a Rushing NEP per attempt mark of 0.10 in 2011.

New Orleans' running game put on a show last week against the Bills. Mark Ingram (131 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Alvin Kamara (106 yards, 1 score) spearheaded a ground game that led the league in Rushing NEP in Week 10.

So New Orleans has a great offense -- we're used to that. What separates this Saints team from those of the past few years is that their ability to light up the scoreboard has been complemented by an ability to stop others from doing the same. New Orleans is tied for fifth in points allowed per game (18.3) and has the eighth-best defense, per our metrics.

Big plays have been somewhat of an issue, which is why they are only tied for 18th in yards per play (5.3), but they came into Week 10 tied for the 8th-lowest Success Rate allowed at 40.5%. (Success Rate measures the percentage of plays that yield positive NEP, and the league average is about 42.0%).

Here is how the other teams in the league stack up with seven weeks to go in the season.

Teams Ranked 32nd to 23rd

San Francisco got its first win, and Indianapolis hung tough against Pittsburgh, but Cleveland is actually the team that moved out of the bottom three this week.

Rank Team nERD Rec Proj W-L Playoff Odds Off. NEP Rank Def. NEP Rank Change
32 Indianapolis Colts -12.51 3-7 5.0-11.0 0.9% 25 32 0
31 San Francisco 49ers -11.88 1-9 2.6-13.4 0.0% 31 29 0
30 Miami Dolphins -10.26 4-5 6.0-10.0 4.0% 30 27 -1
29 Cleveland Browns -8.89 0-9 1.9-14.1 0.0% 26 26 +1
28 Oakland Raiders -6.23 4-5 6.5-9.5 6.6% 11 31 -1
27 New York Jets -5.41 4-6 6.0-10.0 2.9% 23 20 -2
26 New York Giants -5.32 1-8 3.7-12.3 0.0% 21 23 -3
25 Cincinnati Bengals -5.18 3-6 5.8-10.2 2.6% 24 18 -1
24 Arizona Cardinals -4.89 4-5 6.8-9.2 1.0% 29 16 +4
23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers -3.91 3-6 5.8-10.2 0.6% 17 24 +3

The 49ers narrowed the gap between themselves and the Browns in terms of average scoring margin and NEP differential, but considering the size of these gaps before the week and opponent-adjustments, Week 10’s results weren’t drastic enough to move San Francisco out of the 31st spot.

Cleveland moved up one spot thanks to Miami's fall, as the Dolphins were soundly beaten on Monday Night Football. Carolina won 45-21 and greatly outgained Miami in terms of total yardage (548 to 313) and yards per play (7.7 to 5.8).

The Browns fell apart late in the second half of their 38-24 loss but actually had the host Lions on the ropes for much of the game. They finished with a better Success Rate than their opponent (45.8% to 44.4%), with big plays accounting for much of the disparity in the scoreline.

Teams Ranked 22nd to 13th

After a lackluster stretch, the Falcons gave a performance that reminded us why they are the reigning NFC Champions.

Rank Team nERD Rec Proj W-L Playoff Odds Off. NEP Rank Def. NEP Rank Change
22 Buffalo Bills -3.75 5-4 8.1-7.9 39.3% 22 19 -2
21 Tennessee Titans -3.55 6-3 9.2-6.8 72.4% 19 21 +1
20 Chicago Bears -1.53 3-6 6.4-9.6 0.4% 28 6 -1
19 Denver Broncos -1.20 3-6 6.9-9.1 13.1% 32 2 -3
18 Dallas Cowboys -0.78 5-4 8.2-7.8 15.4% 10 28 -1
17 Atlanta Falcons 0.24 5-4 8.2-7.8 19.1% 13 17 +4
16 Baltimore Ravens 0.44 4-5 7.8-8.2 35.9% 27 3 +2
15 Houston Texans 0.89 3-6 6.8-9.2 13.7% 16 15 -4
14 Los Angeles Chargers 2.15 3-6 7.4-8.6 18.9% 12 14 +1
13 Green Bay Packers 2.37 5-4 8.6-7.4 22.0% 6 22 +1

Atlanta took down Dallas, 27-7, and held the Cowboys to just 3.9 yards per play and a 41.7% Success Rate. Adrian Clayborn dominated for the Falcons, racking up six sacks. It was an encouraging sign for a unit that has struggled badly all season and one that came into the week ranked 27th in Success Rate allowed (44.3%).

The performance actually moved Atlanta seven spots in a positive direction in terms of Defensive NEP. If they can continue to be around the middle of the pack defensively, the Falcons may actually be a good candidate to catch fire going forward.

Their offensive performance has been a far cry from last year’s heights, but Atlanta is still moving the ball better than almost anyone in the league. The Falcons are tied for third in yards per play (6.1) and came into the week with a league-high Success Rate, a number that now stands at 47.6%.

They are currently just 17th in points scored, thanks to a higher-than-average turnover rate -- Atlanta is tied for 19th in turnovers per drive. Past turnovers tend not to be predictive of future ones, so it makes sense to expect some regression here moving forward.

Teams Ranked 12th to 1st

The Falcons weren’t the only Super Bowl participant that impressed over the weekend, as the Patriots looked much closer to the team we expected them to be before the year.

RankTeamnERDRecordProj W-LPlayoff OddsOff. NEP RankDef. NEP RankChange
11Detroit Lions2.575-48.9-7.134.00%2081
10Kansas City Chiefs2.656-310.7-5.395.60%325-2
9Seattle Seahawks3.166-310.3-5.771.10%1410-2
8New England Patriots3.327-212.2-3.899.60%1305
7Carolina Panthers4.047-310.3-5.766.90%1843
6Minnesota Vikings5.617-211.0-5.086.10%9130
5Pittsburgh Steelers7.767-211.7-4.399.60%87-3
4Philadelphia Eagles8.008-112.5-3.598.60%5120
3Los Angeles Rams10.517-211.1-4.984.00%450
2New Orleans Saints11.197-211.3-4.791.30%293
1Jacksonville Jaguars14.576-310.5-5.595.00%710

New England went on the road on and throttled Denver in a 41-16 victory, gaining nearly 6.0 yards per play against a defense that is only allowing 4.9. Offense, of course, was never really the concern for this year’s incarnation of the Patriots, as they came into the week ranked first in schedule-adjusted Offensive NEP.

Defense was their area of concern in the first half of the year, and while their opponent was Brock Osweiler and the poor Broncos' offense, New England’s D had one of its better performances of the year.

The Patriots held Denver to a 38.1% Success Rate and 0.05 NEP per play (the league median is 0.03). It was New England's best performance in terms of Success Rate and second-best showing by NEP allowed per play, trailing only their victory over the Jets earlier in the season.

If our only data points were performances from this season, the 2017 Patriots look like a team that just scratches the top 10. Given Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s track record, though, this team is probably even more dangerous than that, especially if the defense continues its upward swing.