For the third straight week, the NFC South is at the very top of the ESPN.com Power Rankings and at the very bottom.
Let's start with the Falcons. They lead the NFC with a 9-2 record. They've won five straight games and nine out of their last 10. They've played four straight games without a turnover and their victory against Green Bay on Sunday, along with previous victories against Baltimore and New Orleans, showed they can win the big games. No wonder that three of the four voters had the Falcons at No. 1. Paul Kuharsky had the Falcons at No. 3. I'm not sure what that's all about, but I think Kuharsky is one of those that's still buying into the antiquated notion that the AFC is the better conference this season.
Now, let's move to the Panthers. All four voters had them at No. 32. Even a one-point loss at Cleveland didn't get the Panthers any sympathy. And it shouldn't. Carolina has locked up the title as worst team in the league this year. Now, the Panthers just have to make sure they lock up the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.
The New Orleans Saints moved up to No. 6 after almost losing a Thanksgiving game at Dallas they should have run away with early. But I think this ranking is about right. In fact, I really respect the way AFC North blogger James Walker voted. Although he's an AFC guy, he had the Saints at No. 4.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell from No. 11 to No. 14 after a close road loss to Baltimore. I'm a little disappointed with the three-spot tumble. That's mainly because, the week before, Tampa Bay went out to San Francisco and shut out the 49ers and didn't move a single spot. If you don't move the Bucs up after a victory like the one against San Francisco, I don't think you drop them three spots after a loss to Baltimore.