NFL Power Rankings: Falcons new No. 1

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
1:00
PM ET
The latest ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings are out and Atlanta coach Mike Smith is not going to be a happy man.

Smith, who prefers to keep a low profile, has a team that now is ranked No. 1. The Falcons moved up to the top spot after Houston got beat by Green Bay on Sunday.

The voting was unanimous with the Falcons at the top, which makes me wonder how much the voters have watched the Falcons in their last three games. They’ve had to pull out three last-minute wins against bad teams (well, the Redskins may qualify as mediocre, but the Panthers and Raiders are officially bad).

But voters tend to follow college rules and the Falcons are an automatic No. 1, simply because they’re the NFL’s only unbeaten team.

The Falcons are good and have a lot of room for growth, but I’m not sure they’re the best team in the NFL right now. That doesn’t really matter because the voters say they are. We’ll find out over time if the Falcons really are the best team in the league.

Smith may not like the attention that comes with being No. 1. But this might be a plus for the Falcons. Knowing how to handle that attention could be helpful down the road. Knowing how to deal with distractions just might help the Falcons get their first playoff berth in Smith’s era.

As you probably expected, the rest of the NFC South didn’t fare too well in the Power Rankings. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used their victory over Kansas City to climb one spot to No. 22.

The New Orleans Saints, who were on a bye, stayed put at No. 24. The Carolina Panthers were also on bye, but they somehow managed to fall two spots to No. 28. Given the way, Carolina’s season has gone, that sounds about right.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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