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NFC power rankings: Never count out the Saints as long as Brees has time to breeze

Drew Brees

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Every week during the NFL season, will present our conference power rankings. The AFC will be on Tuesday, the NFC on Wednesday.

We begin in the NFC by congratulating the New Orleans Saints for having Drew Brees on their team.

1). New Orleans Saints

Ok, so they put a scare into their fans in the final minute by letting Deshaun Watson’s fly down the field for 75 yards and what looked like the game-winning touchdown. Problem was, the Houston Texans gave Drew Brees 37 seconds to set up Will Lutz’s 58-yard field goal. That’s like five minutes for mortals. Fate owes the Saints.

2). Dallas Cowboys

They gave Ezekiel Elliott only 14 touches, but there was no need for more. Dak Prescott turned in a show-me-the-money day (158.3 passer rating) and Jason Witten came down from the Monday Night Football booth to score another TD. Let’s see Booger McFarland beat that!

3). Los Angeles Rams

You can put to rest the concerns about Todd Gurley’s knee. He looked fine, especially in the second half when he gained 89 yards against a pretty good Carolina defense. If you ask us, we’d be more concerned about Jared Goff. There’s still something about him that makes us very nervous. You know, sometimes we see Kellen Clemens in him.

4). Green Bay Packers

Let’s focus on the three points they allowed in Chicago, instead of the 10 points they scored. At this point in the evolution of Aaron Rodgers’ window of opportunity, having a stellar defense is of much more importance. It’s been a long time since he had someone other than a left tackle watching his back.

5). Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings pay Kirk Cousins way too much money to limit him to only 10 passes for 98 yards, which is what he produced on Sunday against Atlanta. Come on, get the ball to Adam Thielen. Maybe the temptation was too great to re-introduce Dalvin Cook to the offense. He looked great scoring two TDs and gaining 111 yards.

6). Philadelphia Eagles

Oh man, the Eagles fans weren’t very happy on Sunday while Washington was building a 17-point lead with 10 minutes to play in the first half, especially after the ancient one, tight end Vernon Davis, leapfrogged defenders on his way to the end zone. But everything turned out all right and Carson Wentz looked healthy.

7). Seattle Seahawks

If you watched the NFL pregame shows on Sunday, and really, who does, you’d have heard all the analysts say the Seahawks were destined to pound lowly Cincinnati. Well, the Bengals made them sweat and if it wasn’t for Russell Wilson, the Seahawks would be a lot lower in the power rankings.

Christian McCaffrey

(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

8). Carolina Panthers

We understand all the commotion about Cam Newton. He’s the QB, the fulcrum, the big man on campus. We get it. But there is only one indispensable player on the Panthers offense and it’s running back Christian McCaffrey. He did what he could against the Rams, rushing for 128 yards and two TDs and catching 10 passes. We love the guy.

9). San Francisco 49ers

The Niners beat Tampa, so we’ll do our best not to overreact to one win. But you can see this team slowly evolving, particularly on defense. They produced two pick-sixes, had four takeaways. Maybe that will take some of the pressure off our guy, tight end George Kittle – the new Gronk.

10). Washington Redskins

The Redskins had a real negative vibe by deciding not to dress a healthy Adrian Peterson. That really upset his teammates. Coach Jay Gruden said it had to do with bolstering his special teams personnel. Blah, blah, blah. Hey Jay, how many yards did Derrius Guice gain? We’ll tell you – 18.

11). Chicago Bears

Well, at least we know their defense is still formidable. They held the Packers to 213 yards, which is not easy to do. The problem was on offense. The offense is led by QB Mitch Trubisky. And here is his stat line from the opener – 26 of 45, 228 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception for a 62.1 rating. QB coach Dave Ragone told the media he’s working on it.

12). Detroit Lions

Coach Matt Patricia looks like a contractor on the sidelines with his bushy beard, ample belly and Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil over his right ear. Truth is, he’s got a lot of building still to do with his team. You can’t allow the Arizona Cardinals to score 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Matthew Stafford threw for 385 yards. Don’t blame him.

Jameis Winston

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

13). Tampa Bay Buccaneers

We are happy Bruce Arians is now Tampa’s coach. The guy is full of energy and good ideas and he’s a huge upgrade from what they had before. But here is Arians’ problem: Jameis Winston is his quarterback. There’s a reason Ryan Fitzpatrick started last season. Winston is problematic as if throwing three interceptions (two returned for TDs) isn’t self-explanatory.

14). Atlanta Falcons

This is probably too harsh. They have too much talent to sit this low in power rankings. But frankly, they played an awful game in Minnesota. The offensive line allowed Matt Ryan to be sacked four times and if that continues he’ll need body armor by Thanksgiving. Come on, guys. Wake up.

15). Arizona Cardinals

Admittedly, Kyler Murray provided a lot of excitement in the fourth quarter by rallying the Cardinals against Detroit. It was cool to see him connect with Larry Fitzgerald, the future Hall of Famer, who is likely thrilled that Josh Rosen isn’t the QB anymore. But this team is a work in progress and Kliff Kingsbury can only hope Murray doesn’t get too hurt or discouraged after a few weeks.

16). New York Giants

Question: Who is the best player on the Giants? Answer: Saquon Barkley. So why did the Giants give him only 15 touches in Dallas, especially after he ripped a 59-yard gain on New York’s second play from scrimmage? Two things are clear: The defense stinks and it won’t matter a bit when Daniel Jones takes over for Eli Manning. This is 3-13 all over again.