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NFC power rankings: The Saints still reign, but the 49ers are bringing the pain

San Francisco 49ers

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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

This week in the NFC, the New Orleans Saints held serve, but the San Francisco 49ers appear to be nipping at their heels.

1). New Orleans Saints

There should be no more doubts about Teddy Bridgewater’s capacity to keep the Saints afloat. He is 3-0 as a starter,  and since he’s just 26 years old, he’s likely to strike it rich as a free agent after this season as a starter somewhere else in the league. He was 26-of-34 for 314 yards and four touchdowns against Tampa Bay, 11 of those completions to Michael Thomas (182 yards, two TDs). Hey, who is better than Teddy?

2). San Francisco 49ers

The Niners are 4-0 for the first time since 1990 and lead the NFL in point differential (+70). Their convincing win over the Browns last Monday night was a great sign. They limited Baker Mayfield to eight completions, 100 yards and a QB rating of 13.4. Big game coming on Sunday against the Rams. Joe Montana is very excited.

3). Green Bay Packers

Without Davante Adams there were some reservations about how effective the Packers offense would be in Dallas. It was all wasted energy. Aaron Jones more than compensated by scoring four TDs, gaining 107 rushing and another 75 receiving. Still, there were problems on defense. The Cowboys gained 563 yards and Dak Prescott threw for 463. That is not sustainable.

4). Seattle Seahawks

What a start for Russell Wilson! Las Vegas now lists the odds of him winning the NFL’s MVP as 5-1. He has thrown 12 TD passes without an interception this season. Last Sunday, he threw for four TDs with a QB rating of 151.8. Now, here’s a guy that’s actually worth the money he’s being paid.

5). Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have lost two straight, so the bloom has come off the rose after a 3-0 start that had their fans thinking Super Bowl. Heck, it’s even money now they even hold off the Eagles to win the NFC East. Prescott’s 463 yards passing (226 to Amari Cooper on 11 receptions) was certainly noteworthy. But so were the three INTs he threw. No sweat. Here come the Jets.

6). Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles beat the Jets, so what we’re about to say comes with five or six grains of salt. Philadelphia became the first team in NFL history to collect at least 10 sacks and score two defensive TDs in the same game. There’s only one problem: The offense gained only 265 yards.

Los Angeles Rams

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

7). Los Angeles Rams

Rams fans will blame their loss to Seattle last Thursday night on kicker Greg Zuerlein, who missed a 44-yard field goal with 11 seconds to play that sealed their 30-29 loss. We take exception to that. Wilson blitzed the Rams defense over and over again. Jared Goff threw for 395 yards, but can someone tell us what’s become of Todd Gurley (15 carries, 51 yards).

8). Minnesota Vikings

After Kirk Cousins publicly apologized to Adam Thielen last week for abandoning him, you knew the big priority against the Giants would be to re-establish Minnesota’s passing attack. Well, Cousins threw for over 300 yards for the first time in 10 games, connecting with Thielen seven times for 130 yards and two TDs. The Vikings gained 351 yards – in the first half!

9). Detroit Lions

The Lions are coming off their bye week and ready to get back at it in the NFC Central by playing in Green Bay on Monday night. You’ll recall how well they played in their loss to the Chiefs two weeks ago. Matthew Stafford threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns and Kerryon Johnson had 125 yards on the ground. If only they could have stopped Pat Mahomes on that final drive. Wouldn’t it be nice if they were still relevant by Thanksgiving?

10). Chicago Bears

Turns out that the Raiders couldn’t have cared less about playing against Khalil Mack. The linebacker was a non-factor against his former team in London last week. The Bears fell behind 17-0 at the half and managed only 236 yards (42 rushing) against a banged up Oakland defense. Chase Daniels is a fine game manager, but maybe they miss Mitchell Trubisky more than some suspect.

Christian McCaffrey

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

11). Carolina Panthers

We enjoy sounding like a broken record – Christian McCaffrey is the best offensive player in the NFL. He currently leads the league in rushing (587 yards). McCaffrey has 604 total yards and five TDs in his last three games. He blew past Jacksonville’s secondary on his 84-yard TD run. Say what you will about Cam Newton, but McCaffrey is the guy they can least afford to lose.

12). Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs had a great opportunity to build upon their big win over the Rams, the one in which they scored 55 points. But they fell short against New Orleans. Knowing what we already know about this team, can you imagine them playing a game that Mike Evans catches no passes and Shaq Barrett registers no sacks? Well, that’s what happened against the Saints.

13). New York Giants

Daniel Jones may turn out to be the best rookie QB in the league, but the Giants are going nowhere until they figure out how to fix their defense. The Vikings destroyed them, especially in the first half when they threw for 278 yards. Next up? The Patriots. And the Giants may have to deal with them without Sterling Shepard, Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram. This ain’t a Super Bowl, so the Patriots will win.

14). Atlanta Falcons

Team owner Arthur Blank runs Home Depot. But not even he can find the tools to fix this team. Blank came out this week in support of coach Dan Quinn. Still, you have to wonder how much listlessness the boss can take before he takes action. Atlanta’s 53-32 loss to Houston was distressing on many levels, especially considering it fired all three coordinators after last season. They suck.

15). Arizona Cardinals

Someone had to win their first game last week when the Cardinals played at Cincinnati. And Kyler Murray made sure it was Arizona. The defending Heisman Trophy winner led his team to 514 yards of offense by throwing for 253 and rushing for another 93. He was at his best on the game-winning drive when he completed a 24-yard pass to David Johnson and picked up another 24 with his feet.

16). Washington Redskins

The firing of Jay Gruden probably lifted a great weight off his shoulders. Injuries, holdouts and poor QB play have turned the Redskins into the NFC’s only winless team. New coach Bill Callahan says the team has no plan to rush rookie QB Dwayne Haskins into action. And even if it did, whose to say they can even beat the pitiful Dolphins on Sunday?