NFC South in the Power Rankings

August, 9, 2011
8/09/11
3:19
PM ET
The ESPN.com preseason Power Rankings are out and there are three NFC South teams in the top 12. Coincidentally, 12 teams go to the playoffs, so that means the voters are projecting the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as playoff teams.

The Saints are No. 4, the Falcons No. 6 and the Buccaneers No. 12. I wouldn’t argue too much with that. I think you could make a case for flipping the Saints and Falcons. Atlanta was 13-3 last season, and despite a disappointing playoff loss, I think the Falcons improved themselves by adding Julio Jones and Ray Edwards.

But I don’t have a major problem with the Saints being ahead of the Falcons. As long as Drew Brees is around, anything’s possible. The Bucs at No. 12? Sounds about right. A lot of people are saying Tampa Bay might take a step back this season, but I’m not so sure. I think Josh Freeman will continue to grow and that could push the Bucs into the top 10.

The voters have Carolina at No. 30. That’s two spots up from where they were last year. I’m not ready to predict a dramatic turnaround by the Panthers, but I think they’re better than No. 30. They had talent last season and they’ve added some more. How much they improve will depend largely on the play of rookie quarterback Cam Newton.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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