Power Rankings: No. 4 New Orleans Saints

A weekly examination of the New Orleans Saints’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 14 | Last Week: 4 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The New Orleans Saints (8-2) already made their big move last week. So they stayed put at No. 4 after an impressive 23-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Two of the six voters on ESPN.com’s panel had the Saints at No. 3 ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs, but it’s tough to compare those teams right now. And unnecessary.

What matters most to the Saints is how they measure up against the other top teams in the NFC -- and they’ll get a chance to find out over the next month. They already survived a tough battle with the 49ers. In two weeks, they’ll play a road game at the No. 2 Seattle Seahawks. Then in Weeks 14 and 16, they’ll play home and away against the No. 5 Carolina Panthers.

I think the Saints’ patient and resilient effort against the 49ers, in which they had to come back from a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter, bodes well for their ability to handle such a rugged stretch.

But first things first: They need to take care of business Thursday night in a quick turnaround game at the Atlanta Falcons (2-8). The Falcons have had a dreadful year, but the Saints won’t take them lightly -- both because of their history and because they know every game counts in this tight NFC race.