- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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A weekly examination of the New Orleans Saints' ESPN.com Power Ranking:
Preseason: 14 | Last Week: 6 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002
The Saints (11-5) finished the regular season in style, with one of their most dominant victories of the entire year -- a 42-17 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But they didn't move a notch on the ESPN.com power rankings.
That makes sense, because we really didn't learn anything new about the Saints on Sunday. They're dominant at home, and at times their offense is as potent as any offense in the NFL. That's why they were ranked so high on this list to begin with, even though they wound up as a No. 6 seed in the NFC.
However, the Saints have been too inconsistent this season to crack the top five -- especially when it comes to their road performances. To wind up earning their place among the NFL's elite tier, they're going to have to prove they can win the kind of big road game that they weren't able to win in December.
It's worth noting that the Saints finished five spots ahead of Saturday's playoff opponent -- the Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) -- who weren't exactly a model of consistency themselves this season. Both teams have high ceilings, though, and either one is capable of outperforming their ranking when they get hot.
And as we've seen over the past three seasons, getting hot at the right time is the most important quality for a Super Bowl champion -- not a regular-season power ranking.