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Dogfight in Charlotte
The Saints proved Monday night that they can survive an old-fashioned defensive slugfest.
  • None of the last six opponents have scored more than 17 points on the Saints. Carolina's TD came on a trick play, McCafferty tossing to the TE on 4th-and-short. Comparing the 2018 D to 2009, they both excel at creating turnovers but overall this year's D is much more solid and consistent than the Super Bowl-winning crew. The '09 team couldn't have won a game like Monday night's when the offense was thwarted.
  • Much has been made - rightly so - about the improvement in talent on the field because of outstanding recent drafts, trades, and free agent acquisitions. But more credit should be given to the coaching staff. The Saints have steadily improved throughout the season, especially on the defensive side of the ball. As a case in point, look how Eli Apple, acquired from the Giants, has been worked into the secondary and has improved in his coverage skills.
  • Drew Brees didn't have a sensational night by any means. But he led his offense to enough points against a solid, fired-up defense to win the game and, at the end, to control the clock so that, despite the silly turnover by Tommylee Lewis (why put the ball in his hands in the red zone when you have Kamara and Ingram?) the Panthers didn't have enough time to drive for the tying FG. Defense allows you to win ugly games.
  • One way to look at the game is this: The Saints won because they have Drew Brees at QB and the Panthers have Cam Newton. True, Cam is suffering from a shoulder injury, but he made throws Monday night that showed he still has the physical ability to get the ball to receivers. But he's a frontrunner. If he and the team start strong, he can put up impressive numbers. But late in close games, he often falters, as he did Monday night. Seeing Cam in action makes you appreciate even more how consistent Brees is and how much better a leader he is for his offense and entire team.

Two issues concern me going forward. Both affect the offense.

  1. The health of the offensive line.
    As they typically do, the Saints went into the Carolina game with seven O-linemen. They needed every one of them.
    C Max Unger, the captain of the O-line, went out because of concussion protocol (after what looked like a cheap shot by a D-lineman after the whistle).
    LT Jermon Bushrod, who has done an admirable job replacing Terron Armstead, also exited with an undisclosed injury.
    Cameron Tom, an undrafted free agent last year, filled in at C and Brother Martin's Will Clapp, a 7th-round pick this season who was active for the first time in his NFL career, slid in at LG, with Andrus Peat moving to LT. So the Saints played the last part of the game with only two of the five starting O linemen in their usual positions. "I felt like they stepped in and did a great job," said Brees. "That's a tough situation."
  2. Lack of depth at wide receiver
    The incomparable Michael Thomas leads the league with 109 receptions. Alvin Kamara has 77 catches and often lines up like a WR. Then the numbers drop off sharply to TE Benjamin Watson (32) and Tre'Quan Smith (24). Smith had what we thought was a breakout game against the Eagles with 10 receptions for 157y. But he has caught only two passes, both against Carolina, since then. Keith Kirkwood caught three balls in the 48-7 rout of Philly but only six since, although several have been crucial 3rd down conversions. The Saints showed how desperate they were to improve the receiving corps when they signed two has-beens - Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall - and released both before they played a down.
Golden NFL Rankings - after 15 Weeks
Saints back on top. LA charging up the ladder.

# Team Avg. Total Win Loss Opp.
Wins
Opp.
Losses
Margin
Value
Last
Week
1 New Orleans 19.08 267.06 12 2 78 15 10.56 2
2 Los Angeles 18.51 259.19 11 3 72 13 5.19 1
3 Kansas City 18.07 253.00 11 3 64 11 6.73 3
4 LA Chargers 17.96 251.50 11 3 65 14 4.71 6
5 Chicago 17.50 244.98 10 4 59 29 6.48 5
6 Houston 17.32 242.50 10 4 63 26 4.38 8
7 New England 17.14 240.00 9 5 67 37 3.81 7
8 Seattle 17.13 239.83 9 5 51 29 4.33 4
9 Pittsburgh 16.68 233.50 8 5 49 31 4.03 11
10 Dallas 16.57 232.01 8 6 52 36 0.01 9
"Opp. wins" means the total number of wins by the teams the ranked team defeated.
"Opp. losses" means the total number of losses by the teams that defeated the ranked team.

Complete Golden NFL rankings

NFC South drops again with three teams losing Sunday.

Division Rankings
Rank Division Average Last Week
1 AFC West 16.527 1
2 AFC South 16.205 2
3 AFC North 16.205 5
4 NFC South 16.092 3
5 NFC North 15.878 4
6 NFC East 15.658 8
7 AFC East 15.571 7
8 NFC West 15.367 6

Overall: NFC 15.749 AFC 16.127
Beware the Panthers!

The Eagles' upset of the Rams last night means the Saints need win only two of the remaining three games to clinch the #1 seed in the NFC.

  • How will the Saints react to that good news? Will they lose some of their edge because the Rams' loss makes their job easier? Or will they bear down all the more to avoid what happened to L.A. last night?
  • The Panthers are on the prowl after the Saints swept them last year in the regular season and the playoff game. Scam Newton still remembers how Cam Jordan and some other defenders rubbed it in after the playoff victory, sending him brooms. Carolina also wants to end their five-game losing streak.
  • ESPN thought this would be an important game for the NFC South title, but New Orleans clinched that last week. Carolina is not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but their chances are on life support at best. But the clash still affects the seeding in the NFC and ESPN has been advertising the game as a must win for the Saints..
  • The Panthers can play loose with the pressure off them. The Saints need to start fast and take a lead and dash any hopes the opponent has of an upset.
  • Still, I WON'T BE SURPRISED IF THE PANTHERS WIN. Fortunately, the Saints would still control their own destiny if that happens thanks to the Rams suffering their third loss last night since we own the tiebreaker thanks to our victory over them in October.
Did You Notice? NFL Week 14
  • This Week's Crazy Stats Game
    First downs: Panthers 22 Browns 12
    Total plays: Panthers 69 Browns 45
    Total yards: Panthers 393 Browns 348
    Yards per play: Panthers 5.7 Browns 7.7
    Possession Time: Panthers 33:50 Browns 26:10
    Turnovers: Panthers 1 Browns 2
    Score: Browns 26 Panthers 20
  • Belichick Berated
    It's a rare day when the Patriots coach makes a bonehead decision, but that's what he did in the final seconds against Miami with his team trying to protect a 33-28 lead. New England kicked off after Stephen Gostkowski booted a 22y FG with 0:16 left to force the Dolphins to score a TD. Kalen Ballage returned the kickoff 16y to the 31 - surely not far enough out to allow a Hail Mary to the EZ. Yet someone on the Patriot staff sent out the Hail Mary defense team, which included 6'6" TE Rob Gronkowski in the back. You probably know what happened next. (Watch the video. On the same page, watch the Dolphins practicing the play the day before at half speed with the head coach commenting.) Gronkowski stumbled as he tried to go after Kenyan Drake, who ran the final yards for the TD. Belichick took the blame for his team's inability to stop the final play. "It starts with me. We have to play better situational football. We'll work to try to achieve that." Asked why the Hail Mary team was on the field, Belichick admitted, "It was a little too far to get to the end zone" but added "certainly a deep pass in that situation is a possibility." The Pats remain two games ahead of the Dolphins atop the AFC East but the loss realistically ended their chance of gaining the #1 seed in the AFC since they are two games behind the Chiefs with the three and tied with the Texans for the #2 seed. New England owns the tiebreaker due to their victory over Houston in Week 1.
  • Speaking of AFC Playoff Spots ...
    Indianapolis ended Houston's nine-game winning streak 24-21 to create a four-way tie for the final playoff spot when Baltimore lost to KC in OT. The Dolphins, Ravens, Colts, and Titans all have 7-6 records.
  • Packers Haven't Packed It In
    Green Bay showed more life than they did in their listless performance against Arizona the week before that cost Coach Mike McCarthy his job. The Pack sent the Falcons spiraling to their fifth straight loss 34-20.
  • Rushing Record
    Buffalo's rookie QB Josh Allen became the first QB in the Super Bowl era to run for at least 100y in back-to-back games. He has also run for more yards over a three-game span than anyother QB in NFL history. But the Bills lost both games in part because Allen had a Passer Rating of just 44.4 in the 27-23 loss to the Jets Sunday. They did win the game against Jacksonville three weeks ago 24-21 when he ran for 99y.

Question of the week: Which NFL QB said this after his team's victory last Sunday? "There's no quit in me and there's no quit in this team."

Intriguing Numbers - Week 14
2010 Last time the Bengals lost five in a row.
210 Receiving yards by 49ers TE George Kittle in the first half against Denver and his total for the game
2009 Last time the Chargers won ten games in a season
4 Defensive TDs given up by the Vikings this season, including a fumble return by the Seahawks Monday night
180 Games since Minnesota was last shutout, including the Seattle game when the Vikings finally scored with 1:10 left
0 Vikings wins against teams with winning records this season
72 Passing yards by Russell Wilson against the Vikings, a career low
3 Rushing yards by the Saints in the first half against the Bucs on nine carries
27 Points by the Chiefs against the Ravens, KC's lowest total of the year
13 Penalties against Atlanta for 101y against Green Bay
500+ Yards thrown by QB Baker Mayfield in his last six quarters as the Browns have won three of their last four.
2015 Last time the Giants scored 40 points in a game before last Sunday's 40-16 shellacking of the free-falling Redskins
4 Q4 comebacks led by Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold
0-4 Ben Roethlisberger's record in Oakland
238 Yards rushing by Tennessee's Derrick Henry against Jacksonville
Golden College Rankings after 14 Weeks
Final Golden College Rankings for Regular Season
Team Avg. Points Win Loss Opp
Wins
Opp
Losses
Score
Value
Opp
Opps
Road
Win
Home
Loss
Last
Week
1 Alabama 17.90 232.7 13 0 80 0 20.18 387 1.0 0.0 1
2 Clemson 17.56 228.2 13 0 79 0 17.58 341 1.5 0.0 3
3 Notre Dame 17.50 210.0 12 0 77 0 12.37 347 0.5 0.0 2
4 Georgia 16.88 219.5 11 2 70 3 14.89 327 2.0 0.0 4
5 Central Florida 16.76 201.1 12 0 65 0 12.64 274 1.0 0.0 5
6 Oklahoma 16.59 215.7 12 1 74 4 10.60 328 1.0 0.0 7
7 Michigan 16.33 196.0 10 2 58 1 11.89 265 1.0 0.0 6
8 Ohio State 16.26 211.4 12 1 69 6 9.51 322 1.5 0.0 8
9 Fresno State 15.28 198.6 11 2 56 9 9.94 191 1.5 0.0 11
10 LSU 15.12 181.5 9 3 49 7 7.73 206 0.5 0.0 10
  • "Opps. wins" is the number of victories by the teams the ranked team defeated.
  • "Opps. losses" is the number of losses by the teams that defeated the ranked team.
  • "Opp. opps". is the number of victories by the teams the defeated teams beat.
  • "Score value" is a measure of the margin of victory in relation to the defeated team's number of wins coupled with the margin of defeat in relation to the victorious team's number of losses.
  • "Road win" and "Home Loss" haven't kicked in yet because opponents have to win at least six games to earn a bonus for beating them on the road and opponents have to have six losses before you loss points when they defeat you at home.

Toughest schedule: UCLA
Easiest schedule: North Texas
Biggest jump this week from previous week: Virginia Tech
Biggest drop this week from previous week: Marshall

The rankings below now include the Army-Navy game.

Conference Rankings
  Conference Avg. Last
Week
1 SEC 13.907 1
2 ACC 12.726 4
3 Big 12 12.703 2
4 Big 10 12.696 3
5 PAC 12 12.442 5
6 America Ath. Conf. 11.990 6
7 Mountain West 11.760 7
8 Sun Belt 11.508 8
9 MAC 10.879 9
10 CUSA 10.758 10

Avg. means the average score of the teams in the conference (with 12 being the starting point for each game and going up/down depending on whether the team wins/loses).

View complete Golden Rankings ...

College Games with Biggest Point Value
These are the top ten most valuable victories in the Golden Rankings for the regular season plus the conference championship games.
# Game Losing Team Record Points
1 @Purdue 49 Ohio State 20 12-1 24.14
2 @Toledo 63 Nevada 44 7-5 23.33
3 @LSU 36 Georgia 16 11-2 22.50
4 Tennessee 30 @Auburn 24 7-5 22.48
5 Army 42 @Buffalo 13 10-2 22.46
6 Alabama 29 @LSU 0 9-3 22.07
7 Boise State 56 @Troy 20 9-3 21.76
8 @Oklahoma State 44 Boise State 21 10-3 21.74
9 @Ohio State 62 Michigan 39 10-2 21.62
10 @Ohio 52 Buffalo 17 10-2 21.56
  • In the Golden Rankings, winning teams receive points based on sesveral factors:
    -- the number of wins of the defeated opponent;
    -- the number of wins of the teams the defeated opponent beat, and
    -- the margin of victory based on the number of wins of the vanquished team;
    -- The winner can also get bonus points for a road victory depending on the wins of the losing team.
  • In most of the games listed above, the losing team had 10 or 11 victories. Where the losing team had 9 or even 7 victories, the margin of victory was large and in most of the game, the winner was the visiting team.
Did You Notice? NCAA Week 13
  • Bye, Bye Coach - Or Maybe Not
    Firings during the season or right after the last game:
    Louisville - Bobby Petrino
    Texas Tech - Kliff Kingsbury
    Colorado - Mike MacIntyre
    North Carolina - Larry Fedora
    All those moves were expected. The biggest surprises were two coaches who weren't given the boot.
    Amazingly, Illinois didn't can former Bears coach Lovie Smith (9-27 in three seasons) but instead gave him a contract extension (!) and Rutgers stayed with Chris Ash (7-29 in three seasons including 1-11 this year). Illinois is hamstrung by the $12M buyout they foolishly agreed to when they signed Smith.
    Another coach who wasn't fired after a disastrous season (see Intriguing Numbers below) is Randy Edsall of Connecticut.
  • How Far Can Oklahoma Go?
    One writer called Oklahoma's defense against West Virginia "comically bad for the most part." But the Sooners won 59-56 - the fifth time this season OU has given up 40+ points. Several factors aided the Oklahoma cause:
    --They got a defensive TD when a sack caused a fumble that was returned 48y for a TD. Another WVU turnover set up a short drive for another TD.
    --A pair of Mountaineer penalties cost them two TDs, including one in which a WR blocked a DB too far out of bounds to eradicate a 73y run.
    How will the CFP evaluate 11-1 Oklahoma? The committee had them 6th after Michigan and Georgia before the WVU game. They probably will advance them only one place following Michigan's loss to Ohio State. Or will they jump the 11-1 Buckeyes over the Sooners now that OSU has a signature win?
    If OU makes the playoff, you'd have to think Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia, or Ohio State would hold the Sooners well below their average points while scoring above their own average against the pathetic D.
  • Rotten Egg Bowl
    SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has met with the ADs at Mississippi State and Ole Miss to discuss ways to improve the sportsmanship in the annual gridiron clash between the schools. What was Greg fried about? After State scored to increase their lead to 28-9 at the end of Q3, a scramble broke out that led to the officials calling unsportsmanlike conduct fouls on every member of each team! In addition, two Rebels and one Bulldog were ejected for "flagrant personal fouls" (throwing punches really). Expect the conference to crack down on this sort of behavior. (All puns in this report were intended.)
  • Two Streaks Continued
    Virginia Tech defeated Virginia 34-31 in OT in the 100th meeting between the two schools. With the victory, the Hokies extended their 25-year bowl run and their string of victories over the Cavaliers to 15. While not equaling Texas A&M's improbable victory over LSU, the Tech streaks needed some minor miracles in a wild finish to survive.
    --Virginia fought back from a 14-0 halftime deficit to lead 28-24 with three minutes left. Then a diving INT on a tipped pass gave the Cavs the ball on the VTU 11. Score a TD and basically put the game away with an 11-point lead and under three minutes left. But three plays gained only 1y and UVa had to settle for a FG to move the lead to 31-24.
    --Shortly afterward, VTU faced 3rd & 10 at its 25 when WR Dalton Keene took the ball away from the UVa CB for a 45y completion to the UVa 30. Two plays later, RB Steve Peoples broke loose up the middle but lost the ball when hit at the 5. The pigskin squirted into the EZ right through the hands of a Cavalier before being recovered by VTU for the tying TD. Watch video of the play ...
    --Tech got the ball first in OT. On 3rd-and-10, QB Ryan Willis was grabbed well behind the line of scrimmage. If he had been sacked, the Hokies would have had to try a very long FG. But he broke free and threw the ball away to set up a 42y FG to lead 34-31.
    --After an 11y completion on UVa's first snap, QB Bryce Peoples was hit and fumbled, Tech recovering to seal the win.
Intriguing Numbers - Week 13
744 Total offense by Clemson against South Carolina
3 TD passes of 32 or more yards by South Carolina QB Jake Bentley against Clemson
4 Consecutive games in which Oklahoma has given up at least 40 points
353.7 Rushing yards per games by Georgia Tech - tops in the nation - before Georgia held the Yellow Jackets to just 103 in the first three quarters
1 Wins by Texas A&M against LSU since joining the SEC in 2012
3 Times in the last five years Ohio State has more more than 40 points against Michigan
0-4 Jim Harbaugh's record at Michigan against Ohio State
1 Coaches in Michigan history who have started 0-4 against Ohio State
318 Ohio State passing yards against Michigan's #1-ranked pass defense
97 Points scored by West Virginia in their final two games against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, both losses
17 Points given up by Arizona in the last 6:36 to blow a 19 point Q4 lead before missing a 45y FG with 11 second remaining to lose 41-40
28 Points in the last 16 minutes by Utah to overcome a 27-7 Brigham Young lead and win 35-27.
3 Times in the last five years Ohio State has more more than 40 points against Michigan
605 Points allowed by UConn, an FBS single-season record
7,409 Yards allowed by UConn, another FBS single-season record
$2K Bonus Randy Edsall, coach of the 1-11 Huskies, received because UConn was 10/19 on third down conversions and Temple was 4/8 in the Owls' 57-7 victory.
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About This Site
This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a monthly Football Magazine with stories from the past and a monthly Baseball Magazine with a similar format. During the winter and spring, there's a monthly Basketball Magazine.

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