NFC South: 2013 NFL Week 11 Power Rankings

Power Rankings: No. 31 Buccaneers

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
2:00
PM ET
A weekly examination of the Buccaneers' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 19 | Last week: 31 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally won a game Monday night (22-19 against Miami), but they didn’t gain any ground in the latest ESPN.com Power Rankings. They held tight at No. 31, one spot ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who also got their first win of the season in Week 10.

The Bucs and Jaguars stayed put because they're tied for the league's worst record. But I think the Bucs might be a little better than No. 31 right now. I'd like to see the Bucs play some of the teams ranked just ahead of them.

That chance is coming. The Bucs host the No. 29 Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, and that could provide Tampa Bay an opportunity to move into the 20s for the first time in more than a month.
A weekly examination of the Falcons' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 4 | Last Week: 26 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

Not to sound repetitive, but 3 seems to be the Atlanta Falcons' unlucky number.

For the third straight week, they've fallen three spots in the ESPN.com Power Rankings, down from No. 26 to No. 29 after a 33-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks -- their third straight defeat. Now, the 2-7 Falcons hope to earn their third victory of the season this Sunday at Tampa Bay.

OK, enough with the play on numbers. What the Falcons have to worry about is playing better against a Buccaneers team they struggled against in Week 7 before pulling out a 31-23 home win. The playoffs shouldn't even be a part of the discussion despite whatever optimism still exists inside the Falcons locker room. The last seven games should be more about building toward next year. And that doesn't necessarily mean playing the young players. Some veterans should be playing with a sense of urgency considering their futures with the team remain uncertain.

Right now, the Falcons deserve to be considered among the league's worst teams. They have failed to find consistency on offense and can't stop anybody on defense. It's pretty telling when the highest ranking in terms of any league statistical category is sacks allowed (fourth), and that number is skewed by Matt Ryan taking shorter drops and releasing the ball quicker.

If the Falcons lose on the road to a team that just won its first game of the season, then they probably deserve to drop three more spots -- to dead last in the Power Rankings, even behind the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.

Power Rankings: No. 6 Carolina Panthers

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
2:00
PM ET
A weekly examination of the Panthers' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 23 | Last Week: 12 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

"The Panthers seem to be the 'it' team right now, and there are plenty of reasons why. They have playmakers on offense, a stout defense and one of the NFL's best coaches."

Those were words on ESPN.com's Power Rankings before the 2006 opener, when the team was ranked No. 2.

They just as easily could be the words for the 2013 team that moved up six spots to No. 6 after Sunday's 10-9 victory over the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park.

The Panthers have won five straight games and six of their past seven to improve to 6-3 heading into a "Monday Night Football" showdown with AFC powerhouse New England (7-2).

They have done it with playmakers such as quarterback Cam Newton, wide receiver Steve Smith and running back DeAngelo Williams on offense. They have done it with a stout defense that ranks second in the league against the run, in total yards allowed per game and in points allowed.

It's way too premature to compare Ron Rivera to the best coaches in the NFL, considering less than two months ago there was speculation he might not make it past the bye week, but he certainly is in the running for 2013 Coach of the Year.

And this team is trending upward. The 2006 team lost its first game and finished 20th.

You might be wondering where No. 6 ranks for the Panthers in recent rankings history. It is their highest ranking since 2008, when they were ninth after Week 9 and fourth at the end of the regular season.

They started 20th that year, similar to this season when they began 23rd.

They also got to No. 4 in 2005 and were third during their 2003 Super Bowl season after Week 7.

A MNF win over No. 5 New England would thrust them into the top five, and as Rivera said Monday, it would take them from being relevant to "very relevant."
A weekly examination of the New Orleans Saints' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 14 | Last Week: 6 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The New Orleans Saints (7-2) surged back up into the No. 4 spot with a dominant 49-17 victory Sunday night over the Dallas Cowboys. It was an easy choice for the ESPN.com panel to move up the Saints, because the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers both suffered losses to drop them down in the rankings.

The Saints' victory over Dallas, which was equally impressive on offense and defense, proved that they have as high a ceiling as any team in the NFL when they're on their game. But they still need to show more consistency if they want to move ahead of the top three teams, all of whom have firmly established themselves this year (Kansas City, Denver and Seattle).

New Orleans will certainly get an opportunity to impress the voters. Over the next four weeks, the Saints will face No. 8 San Francisco, No. 29 Atlanta, No. 3 Seattle and No. 6 Carolina. The Saints will need to keep up their improved play along the offensive line against several physical defenses.

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