NFL Power Rankings: Saints No. 2

The latest edition of the ESPN.com Power Rankings is out and we’ve got some interesting developments across the NFC South.

The New Orleans Saints have moved up two spots to No. 2. They are behind only the Green Bay Packers, a team the Saints played right down to the wire in Week 1. I’m sure there are some Buffalo and Detroit fans that will argue their undefeated teams should be ahead of the Saints.

But I think the voters made the right call on New Orleans. The Saints have had quality wins against Chicago and Houston and they were more than respectable in the loss to Green Bay. Let’s see Buffalo and Detroit do it for a few more weeks before we firmly believe in them.

The other big NFC South storyline is the Atlanta Falcons tumbling to No. 19. They fell 11 spots after a loss to Tampa Bay. Sounds about right. I still think the Falcons are loaded with talent and can turn this thing around. But, if they keep playing like they have so far, they belong in the bottom half of the rankings.

The Carolina Panthers jumped up five spots to No. 22 after their first victory of the season. There’s no doubt Carolina is a much better team than it was a year ago. But I think the voters might be getting a little caught up on Cam Newton. The rookie quarterback was outstanding in his first two games, but kind of ordinary in the victory against Jacksonville, which is not a very good team. The Panthers are an improving team, but I’m not sure they’re worthy of being No. 22 just yet.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the NFC South in this week’s rankings is that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stayed put at No. 14. That’s after a very nice win against the Falcons. In that game, Tampa Bay’s young defense really seemed to take a step forward. But it seems like the voters aren’t buying into the Buccaneers just yet. I asked NFC West colleague Mike Sando, who is on the panel, about why the Buccaneers didn’t move up. Sando had them at No. 17, lower than any other voter and he said that wasn’t really a knock on Tampa Bay. Instead, he said it’s more of a reflection of his thought that Atlanta is not nearly as good as everyone expected and that took some luster away from Tampa Bay’s win.