2013 NFL Grades, Week 5: Are Saints secretly NFL's best?

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

All due respect to the other undefeated teams out there -- and even a team like Seattle at 4-1 -- but the Saints might secretly be the NFL's best team. It's not a huge "secret" per se, because New Orleans is 5-0. But they weren't a heavy Super Bowl favorite coming into the season. They should be now.

New Orleans conquered their biggest fear (or my biggest fear for them anyway) by going on the road, outdoors and manhandling a physical, defensive contender. The Bears defense isn't the same as it has been in years past, but it's still quite good. Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are one of the better cornerback pairs in the league.

Drew Brees didn't care and Jimmy Graham lit up the soft Cover-2 defense Chicago drew up as they carved up Chicago and pushed the Saints to 5-0.

Brees was a ridiculously efficient 29-for-35 for 288 yards (82.8 completion percentage, 8.22 YPA), while he and Sean Payton continued to improve on their rapport. Speaking of rapport, Graham and Brees have a pretty good one, huh?

I've been highlighting his on-pace stats and I realize it's early but he's averaging 118.6 receiving yards per game. While that number might seem large in general, remember that Calvin Johnson averaged 122.8 yards per game last year. In other words, in a contract year, Graham at least has 2,000 yards in his sights. (Related: the Saints should just pay him now.)

The defense is what makes this team so dangerous, well-rounded and gives them a shot at being the best team in the NFL. Cameron Jordan keeps pouring it on, picking up a fumble recovery on Sunday. Eight of the Bears points came in garbage time. The Saints kept after the quarterback Sunday, too, picking up three sacks against the Bears.

And New Orleans actually has games on record against quality teams. The Falcons, Bears and Dolphins all look like quality victories at this point in the season, whereas a Broncos win over someone like the Giants doesn't look quite as dominant after Week 5.

The Saints definitely had close calls in the first two weeks. But they've been rolling since then. And if Payton and Brees have keep their mojo going they could lay claim to the best team in the NFL.

TeamGradeAnalysis
Raiders 27, Chargers 17
D+Danny Woodhead's probably going to want to forget this game ever happened after his 9-carry, 13-yard performance. Oh and he fumbled a ball that was returned for a pivotal touchdown. Philip Rivers' three interceptions didn't help things either.
B+The Raiders played an A+ first half and then did just enough in the second half to not lose the game. Terrelle Pryor was an amazingly efficient 18 of 23 for 221 yards. Although most of the country missed his performance because the game ended at 2:38 a.m. ET.
49ers 34, Texans 3
FDisaster. Desperately needing to come out and make a statement after a crippling loss last week, the Texans were routed on the road. Matt Schaub threw a pick six on his first throw and everything kept spiraling downhill from there.
A-Always nice when you can throttle an AFC contender at home in prime time huh? The 49ers throttled the Texans from the start and never let up. Sunday night was an absolute bloodbath.
Broncos 51, Cowboys 48
B+What a fun game. Peyton Manning was masterful again, even if he did throw his first interception. The Broncos have to be a little worried about the way their defense played. Dallas made a single mistake and Denver made them pay for it.
B+It stinks that Tony Romo threw for 506 yards, probably played the game of his life and all we'll remember is the final interception he threw. Such is life in the #narrative. Questions continue to abound over the Cowboys defense, specifically the secondary. This offense can play with anyone though.
Cardinals 22, Panthers 6
D-An unimaginative offensive gameplan put the Panthers in a bad spot and Cam Newton had perhaps the worst 300-yard passing game ever. Steve Smith dropped a ton of balls and Brandon LaFell had a few big whiffs too. Luke Kuechly had a strong game but the defense couldn't hold with the offense providing nothing.
C+Strong defensive effort including a great pick from Daryl Washington who just returned from suspension. Carson Palmer threw three picks and Andre Ellington was the only bright spot offensively for this team.
Bengals 13, Patriots 6
D-Nice enough defensive effort from New England but what a putrid offensive day. Tom Brady had a 5.18 yards-per-attempt average against the Bengals. It would've been worse if the Pats hadn't recovered three of their own fumbles.
B-Some questionable decision-making from Andy Dalton and Jay Gruden on offense but what an effort from that defense to bottle up the Pats. Really nice effort for Giovani Bernard before his fumble too.
Packers 22, Lions 9
C-Calvin Johnson is pretty important, especially when you pair him with Nate Burleson and take him out of the Lions lineup. Matthew Stafford and Reggie Bush were both ineffective and the Lions couldn't slow down Aaron Rodgers after halftime.
BGreen Bay got the run game going with Eddie Lacy (99 yards) and Randall Cobb ( 72 yards). James Jones blew up in the passing game and Aaron Rodgers was dominant after a slow first half. They've never lost to the Lions at Lambeau.
Colts 34, Seahawks 28
C+Seattle ran all over the Colts -- both Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch had 102 rushing yards -- but it was the defense that couldn't contain Indy's O. Give Seattle's defense an early 12-0 lead on the road and more than 200 rushing yards and they should come away with a win.
B+Huge home win for Indy that featured the explosive combination of Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton. Hilton got loose for a pair of long scores and Luck simply wouldn't let his team lose. Trent Richardson was pedestrian again but had a very nice 10-yard run late in the game to help seal things.
Ravens 26, Dolphins 23
BHuge road win for Joe Flacco and Co. Ray Rice was finally more involved and scored twice. The defense was all over the Fins, and Terrell Suggs dominated Jonathan Martin to the tune of three sacks.
C-Ryan Tannehill was sacked a ton again and the Dolphins receivers -- notably Mike Wallace -- committed a ton of drops. Miami only attempted 11 rushes all day. The defense couldn't take advantage of a limited Ravens offense.
Saints 26, Bears 18
AA masterful performance by Drew Brees, who efficiently carved up the Bears defense. Jimmy Graham had yet another monster outing and he's legitimately making a run at 2,000 yards. Saints defense continues to be underrated.
C+Nice breakout game for Alshon Jeffrey, who caught 10 passes for 218 yards and a score. The Bears need a second viable weapon. But they needed defense on Sunday: Chicago couldn't do anything to stop Drew Brees from moving the ball.
Eagles 36, Giants 21
BImpressive job by Nick Foles, who stepped in for Michael Vick and promptly led the Eagles to 20 points (a field goal before halftime and 17 after) and a victory. DeSean Jackson had a big, deep day and the one of the worst secondary's in the NFL picked off Eli Manning three times.
FThis was an unmitigated disaster. The Giants can't block for Eli Manning, Eli can't stop making mistakes, they can't generate any running game and the defense got shredded by two different teams. If it weren't for the Jaguars, the Giants would be the worst team in football.
Chiefs 26, Titans 17
B-Very nice road victory for Andy Reid to push the Chiefs to 5-0. This wasn't Alex Smith's best performance but Jamaal Charles got the offense going nicely. The defense bottled up Chris Johnson save one big touchdown catch and they picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick twice and sacked him another three times.
C-Not a very impressive offensive day, even if Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't have very big expectations. Zero points in the first half is no good. And Tennessee struggled to execute down the stretch in the loss.
Rams 34, Jaguars 20
D+Jacksonville kind of made it a game on the road so they deserve some credit? The Jaguars still lost by two touchdowns and saw first-round pick Luke Joeckel go down to a season-ending injury. Justin Blackmon's return provided a little boost but Blaine Gabbert continued making mind-bending mistakes. This is a one-of-a-kind team.
BNice bounceback from last week, I guess, although it should be concerning that Jacksonville kind of hung with the Rams. Sam Bradford's completion percentage wasn't great but he had a trio of scores. Zac Stacy finally provided a semblance of a running game before dealing with an injury.
Browns 37, Bills 24
CLosing EJ Manuel hurt bad and Jeff Tuel just wasn't able to get the job done. The defense did a great job of stuffing the Browns offense early but then special teams broke things open and Cleveland started picking up chunks of yardage when it mattered. C.J. Spiller showing a sign of life was quite nice.
B-Not a perfect evening but the Browns are in first place in their division. It just feels weird to say. Travis Benjamin was a monster in special teams. Brandon Weeden struggled early but then stepped up late. Josh Gordon made some nice catches, including a big third down late in the game. The defense didn't have its best effort and the offensive line should be a concern.
 
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