- The Buffalo Bills still sit just 20th overall in the rankings, weighted down by the fifth-worst overall offense in the game. Despite the immortal Fred Jackson's typical exploits, Buffalo ranks just 25th in run success rate at 35 percent. That low mark is mostly due to C.J. Spiller's frustrating regression, as the enigmatic fourth-year back has continued floundering after a poor 2013 campaign, posting negative EPA and WPA so far.
But Buffalo seems to realize this problem, and the veteran Jackson has eaten into Spiller's snap total the past two weeks. Combined with a terrific all-around defense (fifth-highest efficiency), the one missing facet remains at quarterback, where new starter Kyle Orton has provided a dose of cautious optimism after spearheading a fourth-quarter comeback victory over the Lions.
Orton was actually dreadful for much of that game, posting a -2.9 overall EPA as the result of three poor quarters (highlighted by a pick-six). But he was solid in his lone start for Dallas last season, posting a 3.7 overall EPA and 50 percent success rate in a narrow defeat to the Eagles. In his last extended cameo as a starter, Orton was reasonably competent for a disappointing 7-9 Kansas City squad. Orton had a 48.3 percent success rate that ranked 13th in the league, though his low EPA and WPA totals reflect his low ceiling.
Nonetheless, "reasonably competent" would be reason for celebration in Orchard Park. EJ Manuel has been a bottom-five quarterback in virtually every AFA stat since entering the league last season. The upgrade from bottom-five to bottom-15 is massive, one that could end Buffalo's 21st century playoff drought.
- The San Diego Chargers have busted into the top five for the first time this season, a ranking that aligns with the mainstream perception of the Bolts. Philip Rivers' has earned plenty of deserved attention for his MVP-caliber campaign, but in reality, it's San Diego's massive defensive improvements that have spurred their rise into the league's top tier.
Last season, the Chargers' defense ranked last in both this site's rankings and FO's DVOA. The signing of Brandon Flowers, drafting of Jason Verrett and healthy return of Dwight Freeney has totally transformed a woeful unit, as San Diego now ranks fifth overall in defensive efficiency. That trio has propelled the Chargers to a tie for the most efficient pass defense in the league, along with Miami.
The AFC West race should be highly intriguing down the stretch, as the Chargers and Broncos have essentially assembled the same roster—exemplary pass offense, poor run offense, complete well-rounded (though Denver's run defense looks better given all of San Diego's front seven injuries).
Health luck is the only thing keeping the Chargers below their AFC West rivals at the moment. San Diego has already lost three centers for the season, as well as valuable role players like Danny Woodhead and Kwame Geathers. But starters like Ryan Mathews, Mant'i Teo, and Shareece Wright will eventually return, perhaps narrowing whatever gap currently exists between two of the AFC's elite teams.
- Though they occupy the rankings basement at the moment, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have seemed far from the worst team in the league over the past two weeks. In defeating Pittsburgh and narrowly losing to New Orleans in a pair of difficult road contests, the Bucs have demonstrated why many pinpointed them as preseason sleepers.
Unfortunately, Tampa's numbers are going to be skewed for a while by that historic 56-14 pummeling against Atlanta in Week 3. The pass offense in particular has found its footing under Mike Glennon the past two weeks. Despite a pass EPA/P that currently ranks 27th, it's clear that ranking stems almost entirely from the Falcons outlier:
Make no mistake, there are very real depth issues throughout the Tampa roster. With all due respect to the likes of Danny Lansanah, Louis Murphy and Scott Solomon, it is a bad sign if those players have emerged as vital pieces of the roster. The Bucs are still way too top-heavy, as they are essentially the bizarro Falcons—a team with a few All-Pro-caliber defenders carrying an otherwise underwhelming supporting cast.
But Glennon has built upon a promising rookie campaign, stabilizing the quarterback position after it became clear that Josh McCown's 2013 success was a small-sample size success story. If the second-year quarterback continues to progress, all those pundits may have simply been one year early on the Tampa Bay bandwagon.
Here are the complete team efficiency rankings after Week 5. As always, observations, questions and critiques are welcome in the comments.
|RANK||TEAM||LAST WK||GWP||Opp GWP||O RANK||D RANK|
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