NFL Power Rankings: Bucs crack top 10

The Atlanta Falcons held on to the No. 2 spot in the last ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings -- barely.

The Falcons are tied with the Houston Texans (9-1) for the best record in the NFL and the majority of the voters are still giving that heavy weight. But the Falcons lost to New Orleans and barely beat a bad Arizona team in their last two outings.

At least a couple of voters are starting to see the cracks. Mike Sando put the Falcons at No. 4 and Dan Graziano had them at No. 3. Both put the San Francisco 49ers ahead of the Falcons. After watching the 49ers on Monday night, I’d tend to agree with them. At the moment at least, the 49ers look to be a better team than the Falcons. Sando even put the Green Bay Packers ahead of the Falcons at No. 3, and I don’t think I’d argue with that one either.

The Falcons still have a chance to be a very good team. They’re very talented and things could click at any moment. But the Atlanta team I’ve seen the past couple of games hasn’t been anything close to elite.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers join the Falcons in the top 10 this week. The Bucs moved up three spots to No. 10 after their comeback victory at Carolina on Sunday. This is Tampa Bay’s highest ranking of the season. The Bucs are a hot team right now and they’ve got a chance to make a big jump in the rankings if they can beat the Falcons on Sunday.

The Saints, who now are 5-5 after an 0-4 start, also jumped up three spots this week. They’re No. 13, but we’re about to find out if the Saints really are back to being anything close to the Saints of the past three years. They host the 49ers on Sunday.

Finally, the Panthers stayed at No. 29 for the third straight week, even after their collapse against Tampa Bay. The Panthers are showing no signs of improvement, but I guess the same can be said about the three teams ranked behind them.