NFL Power Rankings: NFC South

ESPN.com’s NFL Power Rankings are out for the first time this regular season and I’m mildly surprised by the treatment the voters gave the top three NFC South teams.

The Atlanta Falcons are No. 10, the New Orleans Saints are No. 11 and the Carolina Panthers are No. 22.

Let’s start with the Falcons and Saints. They’re not getting enough respect. Am I ready to argue either belongs firmly in the top five? Not yet. But I think the Falcons and Saints both should be just beyond the top five. I like both of them better than Philadelphia and Chicago and maybe even better than Houston. In this Insider postInsider, Pro Football Focus also says the Saints are underrated.

I also disagree with where the voters placed Carolina. I’d put this team in the mid-teens, somewhere above Seattle, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Buffalo. But, hey, it’s better to start low and work your way up through the rankings.

Speaking of starting low, the voters have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 25. Actually, that’s not all that horrible for a team that’s carrying the league’s longest losing streak at 10 games.