Power Rankings: No. 5 New England

A weekly examination of the Patriots' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 6 | Last Week: 7 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Patriots improve two spots from last week, leapfrogging the 49ers and Colts. That's always nice for a team -- when on the bye, you improve your standing because others ahead of you lost.

My initial reaction when looking at this week's Power Rankings was how ESPN's "Monday Night Football" matchup -- 7-2 Patriots at 6-3 Panthers -- pits the No. 5- and No. 6-ranked teams. If you love the big stage, and appreciate competition between two of the best, this is a week to appreciate.

Cam Newton versus Tom Brady.

The upstart Panthers versus the old-guard Patriots.

Steve Smith versus Aqib Talib (if healthy).

The stingy, No. 2-ranked Panthers defense against an attack that put up 55 points in its last game.

Then there's this: After Monday night, the Patriots turn around and host the No. 2 Broncos in a prime-time Sunday night game in Week 12.

It's November, it's snowing in New England, and the prime-time stage awaits.

This never gets old.