NFC South: 2013 NFL Week 3 Power Rankings

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

Preseason: 14 | Last Week: 8 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The New Orleans Saints held steady at No. 8, which is fitting after they squeaked out a 16-14 victory at Tampa Bay. It was a good win -- but not exactly a pretty one. And for the second week in a row, the No. 8 ranking seems just about right for a 2-0 Saints team that is still trying to prove it is back among the upper echelon of NFL contenders.

A strong case could be made that the Saints should be ranked ahead of the No. 6 Atlanta Falcons, since they beat them head-to-head in New Orleans in Week 1. But I don’t have a problem with the Saints being ranked behind three 1-1 teams (No. 3 San Francisco, No. 5 Green Bay and No. 6 Atlanta). The Saints haven’t been overwhelmingly good enough to move ahead of those proven contenders just yet.

It’s a scary thought for the rest of the NFC, though, that the Saints are already playing with a lead (including a 2-0 record in the division) while their high-powered offense hasn’t even found its rhythm yet. If what we’ve seen so far from the Saints’ defense is legitimate, they’ll only continue to move up this list.

If the Saints take care of business over the next two weeks in back-to-back home games against the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins, they could easily be a top-five team by the end of the month.

Power Rankings: No. 6 Atlanta Falcons

September, 17, 2013
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A weekly examination of the Falcons’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

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

The Atlanta Falcons somehow managed to win a game, but dropped two spots in the rankings. I guess the voters weren’t all that impressed with the victory over the St. Louis Rams.

But a win is a win, and the Falcons got the job done on a day when a bunch of guys were banged up. That’s a sign of a team that belongs in the top 10.

But there may be trouble on the horizon after season-ending injuries to defensive end/linebacker Kroy Biermann and fullback Bradie Ewing. Those guys aren’t superstars, but they’re important role players, and the Falcons could have problems replacing them.

Power Rankings: No. 30 Tampa Bay Bucs

September, 17, 2013
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A weekly examination of the Buccaneers' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 19 | Last Week: 28 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Bucs dropped two spots after their 16-14 loss to New Orleans. A No. 30 ranking seems just about right for a team that’s giving off every sign that it’s in disarray.

The Browns and Jaguars are the only teams ranked lower than the Bucs. You could make a case that the Bucs deserve a better ranking after losing two games by a total of three points.

But, if you’ve seen those two games, you should understand why the Bucs came in at No. 30. Although they have plenty of talent, the Bucs are not a good football team right now.

They’ve been undisciplined and penalties have cost them dearly. The passing game has been dreadful. The defense and running back Doug Martin have had some bright moments, but that hasn’t been enough to overcome all the other problems.
A weekly examination of the Panthers’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 23 | Last Week: 24 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Carolina Panthers are one of eight NFL teams with an 0-2 record, so they should feel fortunate ESPN's No. 27 ranking puts them ahead of three of those winless teams.

Heck, they should be throwing a party in Charlotte because they are ahead of two teams -- the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders -- with a win.

No winless team is ranked better than No. 20, which happens to be the New York Giants, who Carolina plays next, so there's not much distinction between one hapless team and another.

My question: Which of the winless teams really is the worst? Figuring the combined record of opponents versus total loss margin, Carolina (3-1, six points) actually came out better than six of the eight.

Using that standard, Tampa Bay (3-1, three points) is No. 1 among the 0-2s, even though it is ranked No. 30 by ESPN.

The worst 0-2 team is not in question. Jacksonville (3-1, 36 points) was last under my unscientific system and last in ESPN's poll.

So Carolina, with a secondary in ruins due to injuries and a head coach under fire, has that to be thankful for.

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