NFC South: 2013 NFL Week 8 Power Rankings

A weekly examination of the Saints' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 14 | Last Week: 3 | Power Ranking since 2002

Out of sight, out of mind? The Saints (5-1) fell two spots after their bye week, which is unusual because they fell only one spot after losing in Week 6. But it’s understandable because the new No. 2 Indianapolis Colts and No. 4 Seattle Seahawks both had impressive victories in Week 7.

A case could be made for putting the Saints ahead of the 6-1 Seahawks, which two voters did. But it's not necessary at this point. Those two teams will have ample time to jockey for position in the NFC -- including a head-to-head matchup on "Monday Night Football" in Seattle in Week 13.

The Saints will have a chance to impress the voters Sunday with a home date against the Buffalo Bills (3-4). It's the treacherous six-game stretch that follows, however, that will ultimately prove the Saints' worth (at N.Y. Jets, vs. Dallas, vs. San Francisco, at Atlanta on a Thursday night, at Seattle on a Monday night, vs. Carolina on a short week).

The Saints should be fairly healthy for the home stretch after a timely bye week. The key injuries to watch are tight end Jimmy Graham (foot), receiver Lance Moore (hand) and safety Roman Harper (knee).
A weekly examination of the Panthers’ Power Ranking:

Preseason: 23rd | Last Week: 24th | Power Ranking since 2002

Ron Rivera was asked on Monday what it means for the Carolina Panthers to have a chance to improve their record to above .500 for the first time since 2008 on Thursday night at Tampa Bay.

"That's huge," Carolina's third-year coach said. "Because we're relevant."

The Panthers (3-3) also are becoming relevant in ESPN's rankings, improving six spots to a season-high 18th. They have won their last two games and three of their last four for their best start under Rivera, whose past two teams opened 1-5.

Here are a few NFL rankings that make the Panthers relevant:
  • Third in total defense -- fourth against the run and fifth against the pass.
  • Tied for sixth in takeaway-giveaway ratio at plus-5.
  • Second in points per game allowed (13.8).
  • Seventh in run offense.
  • Quarterback Cam Newton ranks 10th in the league in passer rating at 95.0.
  • Newton ranks second in the NFL in third-down rating behind Peyton Manning at 114.3.

There are more, but you get the point.

And if Carolina gets to 4-3, it will become more relevant.

"We're a young team that has gotten to the point now where we're doing the things we're capable of doing," Rivera said. "It's a great opportunity for us, this team, this city to make a mark. We have to go out and do that."
A weekly examination of the Falcons' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 4 | Last Week: 23 | Power Ranking since 2002

Finally, the Falcons moved up in the rankings, jumping three steps to No. 20 following Sunday’s 31-23 triumph over the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Many wondered how Matt Ryan would perform without top receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. Instead of overusing tight end Tony Gonzalez, Ryan spread the ball around while also establishing a connection with Harry Douglas (seven catches, career-high 149 yards). Ryan had a career-best passer rating of 148.4.

The defense helped the cause with Thomas DeCoud’s 30-yard touchdown return off a fumble recovery to start the scoring. William Moore said going into the game that the defense needed to carry the load for the offense. Indeed, the defense was much improved thanks to an array of blitzes. It still needs much work, though, to contain some of the league’s top offenses, with the 49ers, Packers and Seahawks remaining on the schedule.

Is it too early to jump back on the bandwagon? Based on the vibe around the city, folks aren’t convinced the Falcons (2-4) can fully recover from a 1-4 start. Ryan has engineered a couple of eight-game winning streaks himself, but that’s asking a lot of him without one of the league’s top receivers in Jones.

The Falcons need to have more balance in the coming weeks against the Cardinals (No. 24), Panthers (No. 18) and Seahawks (No. 4). If, somehow, they are able to sneak above .500 following those games, then the playoffs once again become reality.

Power Rankings: No. 31 Tampa Bay

October, 22, 2013
A weekly examination of the Buccaneers' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 19 | Last Week: 30 | Power Ranking since 2002

The latest rankings are out and the good news is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t the worst team in the NFL or even the worst team in Florida.

The bad news is they’re as close as they can get on both counts. The Bucs came in at No. 31 in the latest rankings. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars are worse.

Tampa Bay and Jacksonville appear to be on a collision course for the first pick in the 2014 draft. Logic says the Bucs and Jaguars are bound to win some games because it’s difficult to go winless through an entire season.

But if you’ve watched how the Bucs have consistently found ways to lose games, it’s difficult to imagine them winning any game. The Jaguars might be worse, but the Bucs seem to be doing their best to close the gap.