NFL Power Rankings: NFC South

ATLANTA -- After Monday night’s victory against Denver, the Atlanta Falcons are one of the top three teams in the NFL.

That’s according to ESPN.com’s Power Rankings. The Falcons, who were No. 6 last week, jumped up to No. 3 and trailed only the 49ers and Texans.

I don’t think that’s too high a ranking for the Falcons. But I do think they’ll need to be more consistent to stay near the top. Their offense carried them in Week 1, but was relatively quiet Monday night and the defense had to carry them against the Broncos.

After the Falcons, there is a steep drop off until the rest of the NFC South teams. The Carolina Panthers, coming off a victory against New Orleans on Sunday, jumped four spots to No. 19. I think Carolina has the potential to be rated much higher, but the Panthers have to win some more games to prove that.

Despite losing to the New York Giants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stayed put at No. 21, although Tom Coughlin reportedly had them at No. 33 on his ballot. Seriously, Tampa Bay’s effort in a road game against the Giants came up short, but it got the attention of a lot of people.

Finally, the New Orleans Saints are the lowest-ranked team from the NFC South. That’s the first time I can remember that happening.

The Saints fell eight spots to No. 24. The Saints still have enormous talent and it’s hard to imagine them being ranked so low. But that’s what happens when you start off 0-2.