Power Rankings: No. 4 New England

A weekly examination of the Patriots’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 6 | Last Week: 5 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Patriots' No. 4 ranking represents their highest spot of the year. They've been as low as seventh.

When looking closer at the voting breakdown, it came down to the Patriots and Saints for the No. 4 spot, with New Orleans getting one more third-place vote to barely edge New England.

If things hold true this week -- the Patriots hit the road to face the Bengals, while the Saints visit the Bears -- it will set up a potential No. 3 versus No. 4 matchup between the Patriots and Saints on Oct. 13 at Gillette Stadium. If the weather cooperates, that could turn out to be a true gem, because from this viewpoint, there's not much better than high-level NFL football played on a perfect New England day.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves.

First up for the Patriots is a test against the Bengals, who dropped from sixth to 11th in ESPN's Power Rankings.

As for the No. 1 (Denver) and No. 2 (Seattle) teams in the Power Rankings, no arguments here. They deserve it and my sense is that most Patriots followers would agree, while also acknowledging that what the picture looks like today isn't always what we'll see when it counts in November and December.