NFL Power Rankings: Saints stay No. 2

The New Orleans Saints enter the final week of the season as the No. 2 team in the latest edition of the ESPN.com Power Rankings.

That’s the same spot the Saints were in last week and there’s no way you could have expected them to jump over the Green Bay Packers, who are 14-1. But the 12-3 Saints are exactly where they belong. They’ve won seven in a row and have wrapped up the NFC South. Although the Saints are red hot, you can’t put them ahead of the Packers right now.

Green Bay defeated New Orleans in the opener and has a better record. There’s a way the Saints eventually can move ahead of the Packers. That’s to beat them in the playoffs.

The Atlanta Falcons lost to the Saints, 45-16, on Monday night. But that didn’t cost the Falcons anything in the rankings. They’re No. 8, the same spot they were in last week. The Falcons had been on a roll, but Monday night threw them off track. Still, they could have some extra motivation if they end up facing the Saints in the playoffs. Some of the Falcons thought the Saints were out of line by continuing to throw and let Drew Brees set the single-season passing record, long after the game was out of hand.

The Carolina Panthers climbed three spots to No. 21 after routing Tampa Bay on Christmas Eve. Amazingly, the Bucs didn’t fall, despite their ninth straight loss, which might have been the ugliest yet. They’re No. 29.