<
>

Power Rankings: No. 5 New Orleans Saints

12/17/2013

A weekly examination of the Saints' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 14 | Last Week: 3 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

I'm not surprised to see the New Orleans Saints (10-4) drop two spots after their ugly 27-16 loss at St. Louis this past week. I thought they might plummet even further, behind teams like Kansas City and New England (which they did on one ballot).

But I am actually surprised that the Saints fell behind the No. 4 Carolina Panthers (10-4) -- just nine days after the Saints blew out the Panthers 31-13 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

That just speaks to how confounding it is for analysts to figure out the Saints this year. When they're at home, they look like the best team in the NFL. When they're on the road, they implode.

We'll find out all that we need to know about the Saints on Sunday when they hit the road again to face Carolina with the NFC South title and the NFC's No. 2 seed on the line. The Saints will face all their demons at once -- a road game, outdoors in potentially adverse weather, an opponent that can run the ball and stop the run, and the pressure of a make-or-break game.

As Saints coach Sean Payton said Monday, "I think it will be revealing for a lot of us."