NFL Power Rankings: Saints back in top 5

Back in the preseason, a lot of people were talking about how the NFC South might be the best division in football.

Well, we’re right about the midseason point, and the latest ESPN.com Power Rankings don’t support that argument. Twelve teams go to the playoffs, and there’s only one NFC South team in the top 12. One other is very close to the top 12. The other two are not.

The New Orleans Saints continue to be the division’s marquee team. They jumped back into the top five after Sunday’s win against Tampa Bay. They went from No. 6 to No. 4.

The Saints are third among NFC teams. Green Bay is No. 1, and San Francisco is No. 2. I can’t argue with either of those rankings. But I will say that when the Saints are on, like they were against the Buccaneers, I think they can beat San Francisco and at least give Green Bay a game.

The problem is, if things keep going the way they are, the Saints might have to go on the road to San Francisco or Green Bay in the playoffs, and that’s not nearly as easy as playing in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

I’m a little curious about how the voters handled the rankings of the next two NFC South teams. The Atlanta Falcons are No. 13. That’s down one spot from last week. The Falcons went up to Indianapolis and won easily.

I know the Colts aren’t what they used to be in the Peyton Manning days, but I don’t think the Falcons should be dropping in the rankings. They won on the road, and they’re now on a three-game winning streak. If the Falcons can win against the Saints on Sunday, I think you have to start talking about Atlanta as one of the best three teams in the NFC.

It’s also a little strange that the Buccaneers actually moved up one spot after their loss to the Saints. The Bucs now are No. 18. I thought voters might have sold the Bucs a bit short when they were at No. 19 last week. But I was at Sunday’s game and saw nothing that would make me think the Bucs should rise in the rankings.

The Carolina Panthers, coming off a bye, dropped from No. 26 to No. 27.