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NFC power rankings: It was no Brees, but the Saints assume the top spot

Teddy Bridgewater

(Photo by Sean Gardner/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 turn to the NFC by asking those who doubted the New Orleans Saints after Drew Brees was injured what they think about it now.

1). New Orleans Saints

Congratulations to the Saints for ascending to the top spot. It seems the right thing to do after watching them beat Seattle and Dallas without Brees. We’ve seen over the last two weeks that the Saints are much more than their All-Pro quarterback. For instance, they beat the Cowboys on Sunday without scoring a TD, the first win for the team without a touchdown on Sean Payton’s clock.

2). Dallas Cowboys

The loss against the Saints was the first downer during what’s been a very upbeat season for the Cowboys. Their defense was fine. But their offense wasn’t on point. It gained only 114 yards in he first half. And Zeke Elliott averaged only 1.9 yards per carry. Oh, well. No one expected them to go 16-0.

3). San Francisco 49ers

The Niners come off their bye week and frankly it was terribly mistimed. San Francisco has been on a very nice roll and would rather have maximized its momentum. It’s been an all-around effort. Its defense has nine sacks and five interceptions and they’ve finished off their games big by scoring 63 of their 96 points in the second half.

4). Los Angeles Rams

You don’t deserve a Top 3 ranking after allowing the Buccaneers to ring up 55. That was hard to watch, embarrassing even. It’s hard to blame Jared Goff. He threw for 517 yards and two TDs, completing 13 for 164 yards to Robert Woods. But there were also three interceptions. Todd Gurley? He had only five carries for 16 yards. And why was that?

5). Seattle Seahawks

There was a reason Seattle picked up Jadeveon Clowney from the Texans. They needed a big playmaker across their defensive front and he showed the potential returning an interception for his first NFL TD. Still, it’s the ground game that helps make this team tick and Chris Carson rolled up 104 yards last week without fumbling the ball. That’s a step in the right direction.

6). Chicago Bears

What a defense! The Bears totally disrupted the Vikings by collecting six sacks and holding Dalvin Cook to 35 yards. The defense is so skilled the Bears should be able to survive the loss of Mitch Trubisky, should his injured shoulder force him to miss any games. You want a storyline for this weekend? How about Khalil Mack getting his chance for revenge against the Raiders?

7). Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles gained 176 yards rushing at Green Bay last week and their offensive line did not allow a sack. That’s great work considering the Packers had 12 sacks in their first three games. Thanks to the Cowboys loss, the Eagles are back in the mix in the NFC East.

Christian McCaffrey

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

8). Carolina Panthers

Let’s talk a little more about Christian McCaffrey:  He and Jim Brown are the only two halfbacks in NFL history to gain at least 175 yards from scrimmage and score at least one TD in three of the first four games of a season. McCaffrey also has six games with at least 10 receptions in his career, which is tied for the most in league history.

9). Detroit Lions

The Lions had the Chiefs where they wanted them, up by three (30-27) with 2:26 to play. But coach Matt Patricia, the former Patriots defensive coordinator, had seen Tom Brady take his team downfield too many times to think it was over. And it wasn’t, thanks to Pat Mahomes. We’ll say this: Kenny Golladay has turned into one of the league’s top receivers.

10). Green Bay Packers

They blew a 10-0 lead at home against the Eagles. Their special teams play was very subpar. They allowed 176 yards rushing, putting a dent in the bumper of what had been a very solid defense. It was not a good week.

11). Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs put up a franchise-high 55 points against the Rams behind 385 yards passing and four TDs from Jameis Winston, who completed 12 for 172 to Chris Godwin. But here’s the thing: Their defense allowed 518 yards. Don’t blame Shaquil Barrett. He already has nine sacks, the most after four games in the league since 1982.

(Courtesy/Getty Images)

12). Minnesota Vikings

Things were so bad against the Bears that QB Kirk Cousins felt compelled to apologize to his favorite receiver, Adam Thielen, for not being able to get him ball in the face of a pass rush that decked him five times and forced him to fumble the ball twice.

13). New York Giants

Wayne Gallman is no Saquon Barkley, but he did score two TDs in his first game in place of the great young back who will miss time with a high ankle sprain. There was a little regression in the performance of quarterback Daniel Jones, but he still was good enough to beat the Redskins. And Jones will be even better now that he has Golden Tate back from suspension.

14). Atlanta Falcons

This is franchise is in serious trouble. It fell behind by 17 points at the half against Tennessee and could not make it back in time. Matt Ryan threw for 397 yards, but he was sacked five times. Meanwhile, the Falcons defense registered no sacks. You want a highlight? Julio Jones has reached 11,000 receiving yards faster (115 games) than any receiver in NFL history.

15). Washington Redskins

After saying last week that he wasn’t in a hurry to get Dwayne Haskins into his first game, Redskins coach Jay Gruden couldn’t get him into the game against the Giants faster if he tried. Haskins wasn’t great, completing 9-of-17 for 107 yards. You just shrug your shoulders when you think about this team. Gruden is just hanging on now.

16). Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have lost three of their four games at home, which is not a good sign. They can’t score, which was expected to be one of their strong suits. They have been outscored 68-19 in the first half. Last week, Kyler Murray was sacked four times and threw a pick six. That does nothing for his confidence. At least he has Larry Fitzgerald, whose 1,326 receptions are second to Jerry Rice (1,549) in league history.