Power Rankings: No. 4 New England

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

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

The Patriots improve two spots after their thrilling 34-31 overtime win over the Broncos, but it isn't enough to leapfrog Denver (No. 3) in this week's Power Rankings.

That could be debated, but considering the game could have gone either way, can anyone really argue? If the voters could have said 3A and 3B, they probably would have.

A couple of other thoughts:

1. Mental test as much as physical this week: Sunday's opponent, the 2-9 Texans, has fallen on hard times. Houston is last in the Power Rankings after losing to the Jaguars at home. So the Patriots, after two big-time games against the Panthers and Broncos, take a step down. Does their performance step down with it? It's a natural letdown situation. This game sort of reminds me of last year's late December trip to Jacksonville.

2. A feel for the remainder of the schedule: Lining up the Power Rankings of the Patriots' remaining opponents -- Texans (32), Browns (25), Dolphins (21), Ravens (18) and Bills (24) -- shows that all are currently in the back half of the league. Anything can happen in any game, but the Patriots should be favored the rest of the way.

3. Monday night -- Seahawks vs. Saints: I know this is an all-things Patriots blog, but if you're a football fan like me, consider this a reminder to clear the schedule for Monday night. It's the Saints (No. 2) at Seahawks (No. 1) on ESPN's "Monday Night Football." Seattle, to me, has the best home-field advantage in the NFL and a Seahawks-Saints game looks like it could be one of the games of the year.