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NFC power rankings: It might not be long before the 49ers take over the top spot

San Francisco 49ers

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/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 Saints benefitted from the return of Drew Brees, but will that be enough to hold off the mighty 49ers?

1). New Orleans Saints

As we suspected, Drew Brees didn’t skip a beat. He returned after five weeks and threw for 373 yards, the 117th 300-yard game of his first-ballot Hall of Fame career. He didn’t even need time to warm up, completing eight of his first nine passes. The Saints greet their bye week in great shape, but it’s not all about their offense. New Orleans’ defense is vastly underrated.

2). San Francisco 49ers

The Niners are 7-0 for the first time since 1990 when they began the season 10-0. These are heady days for an organization apparently back in the championship business and they proved it by thumping the Panthers by 38 points. Last week, the Niners were led by defensive end Nick Bosa’s three sacks and Tevin Coleman’s four touchdowns. We’ll see who leads them Thursday night against Arizona.

3). Green Bay Packers

The Pack continues to roll, as does Aaron Rodgers, who appears on his way to an MVP season. He continued to excel on Sunday night, still without Davante Adams for the fourth straight week. This time his favorite target was halfback Aaron Jones, who had 159 receiving yards and scored two receiving touchdowns. Jones became just the fifth running back in the last 30 years to rack up those kind of receiving stats in a game.

4). Seattle Seahawks

After building a 24-0 lead at Atlanta, the Seahawks took the foot off the gas and caused the game to be closer than it should have been. Russell Wilson threw a pair of touchdown passes to DK Metcalf, Chris Carson ran for 90 yards and a touchdown and rookie strong safety Marquise Blair picked up 11 tackles and forced a fumble near the goal line. They do what needs to be done.

5). Minnesota Vikings

Another great game from Kurt Cousins and the Vikings offense. He threw for 285 yards with a completion percentage of 88.5, going 12-of-13 in the first half. His favorite target, Stefon Diggs, gained over 140 yards receiving for a third straight game and no one has done that in Minnesota since Randy Moss. That’s four straight wins with a date at Kansas City coming up.

6). Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys spent the off-week shoring up their defense by acquiring defensive end Michael Bennett from the Patriots. The three-time Pro Bowl pick has 65 ½ career sacks and that’s certainly going to add a much-needed dimension to Big D’s pass rush. They should be on a high against the Giants on Sunday night after crushing the Eagles two weeks ago.

7). Los Angeles Rams

Can we admit now that Cooper Kupp is one of the best slot receivers in the game? He was nasty in London against Cincinnati, picking up 220 receiving yards (165 in the first half) including a touchdown on a double-reverse, flea flicker that suckered the NFL’s worst secondary. Their five sacks of Andy Dalton convinced the Bungles to bench their veteran quarterback.

8). Philadelphia Eagles

It was a big bounce-back week for the Eagles. As bad as they looked in Dallas was as brilliant as they appeared bashing the Bills in Buffalo. The best part was a running attack that gained 218 yards, 118 from Miles Sanders. The race for the NFC East is back on.

9). Carolina Panthers

Funny how football works. During his four-game winning streak, quarterback Kyle Allen seemed to have everyone convinced he was a better fit for the Panthers offense than Cam Newton. Now after one 51-13 demolition, many of those same fans are figuring this is as good a time as ever to re-insert Newton after Allen threw his first three interceptions of the season. Thanks for nothing, buddy.

Detroit Lions

(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

10). Detroit Lions

The Lions resorted to some offensive trickery to beat the Giants, which in retrospect seems like an unnecessary waste of resources. Detroit should have saved the good stuff for the Vikings or the Packers. Nevertheless, it was another great game for Matthew Stafford (25-of-32, 342 yards, three touchdowns). He and Kenny Golladay are now best friends.

11). Chicago Bears

Bears fans are rightfully flustered after another bad loss against the Chargers. If only Mitch Trubisky could have been on target more often. If only their offense was more productive in the red zone. If only Eddy Pineiro hadn’t missed a 41-yard field goal at the gun that would have won the game. If only they hadn’t renewed their season tickets.

12). Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are not going to win the NFC West, maybe not even for a long time, but they are showing a lot more fight than they did last season when Josh Rosen was running their offense. Their 31-9 loss to the Saints wasn’t their best showing, and they lost backup halfback Chase Edmonds to a hamstring injury, but at least the 49ers have something to sweat over heading into Thursday’s game.

13). Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Let’s face it, the officials blew the big call, blowing the whistle too early and thereby negating a fumble by Titans punter Brett Kern that Andrew Adams returned for a touchdown that should have won the game. The NFL is terribly sorry. But hey, Tampa’s problems are much deeper. Jameis Winston is still their quarterback.

New York Giants

(Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

14). New York Giants

This is such a bad time to be a pro football team in New York. The Giants suck, just not as much as the Jets. But that doesn’t mean fans aren’t asking for the head of Giants coach Pat Shurmur after their loss to the Lions. To his credit, Jabrill Peppers told everyone to chill, that his coach wasn’t to blame.  But the team did have a players only meeting on Monday. And that’s never a good sign.

15). Washington Redskins

Does anyone even care at this point that offensive lineman Trent Williams settled his grievances with the Redskins and ended his holdout? Kind of late to the show, buddy. Can’t be of much help now. The ship is sinking after another lethargic loss in Minnesota. Worse yet, it looks like rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins is nowhere near being ready to play.

16). Atlanta Falcons

What does the worst team in the NFC do after losing at home to the Seahawks? Fire their placekicker. So long to Matt Bryant, 13th on the NFL’s all-time scoring list, as if missed field goals from 51 and 53 on Sunday was their biggest concern. You’d think a team with three former NFL coaches as assistants could come up with a more sensible solution to 1-7.