- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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The New Orleans Saints pretty much picked up right where they left off at the end of last season in ESPN's post-draft Power Rankings. They're ranked No. 5 after finishing the 2013 regular season at No. 6.
The team they leapfrogged New Orleans is the NFC South rival Carolina Panthers, which makes sense after Carolina lost so many quality starters in free agency this year.
But I have no problem with the Saints being ranked behind Seattle, Denver, San Francisco and New England. All four of those teams were ranked ahead of the Saints at the end of the regular season, and then all four went on to reach the conference championship games.
The Saints will be bona fide Super Bowl contenders once again this year. And the best part of their outlook for 2014: They only have to face one of those four teams this year -- the 49ers -- and they get them at home inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
So even if the Saints aren't considered the best team in the NFC in power rankings like these, they still have a solid chance to wind up with the best record in the conference -- and the all-important home-field advantage that comes with it.
Also noteworthy from the rankings: The Panthers are ranked 11th. The division rival Atlanta Falcons made the biggest leap of any team, climbing 12 spots to No. 14 now that receiver Julio Jones is back from injury and they made some solid offseason additions. And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are up four spots to No. 23.