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Saints remain unchanged atop the NFC in this week’s Power Rankings

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Week 8 of the NFL regular season is almost upon us. Here are all of the major outlets’ power rankings. So how do the New Orleans Saints rank? (change from last week’s ranking is in parentheses)

ESPN - #3 (-1)

Player who needs to step up: Jared Cook, TE

Although the Saints have been extremely successfully relying on WR Michael Thomas and his league-leading 73 catches, they need to find more reliable targets. No other Saints WR or TE has more than 20 catches this season -- an issue that was also their Achilles’ heel down the stretch last season. Cook, who joined the team in free agency this year to help address that problem, was starting to come on a little with his first two TD catches of the season in Weeks 5 and 6 but has missed the past two games with an ankle injury. The Saints could really use a second-half boost from him. -- Mike Triplett

USA Today - #2 (+/-)

Drew Brees returned with a vengeance. If Alvin Kamara can do same on other side of bye, is anyone going to stop them ... refs notwithstanding?

CBS - #3 (+/-)

With Drew Brees back, they head to their bye as one of the top teams in the league. That defense is improving by the week.

NFL - #3 (-1)

The rich get richer. The Saints had been whupping up on teams with Teddy Bridgewater behind center. Drew Brees returned to the lineup on Sunday against the Cardinals, and New Orleans promptly rolled up more than 500 yards of offense in a 31-9 win. New Orleans’ only other 500-plus yard game came in Week 1 -- not coincidentally the only other game Brees started this season. Brees and Michael Thomas (11 catches for 112 yards and a TD on 11 targets) picked up where they left off, and running back Latavius Murray continued to play like an All-Pro while Alvin Kamara works his way back from an ankle injury. Murray became only the second player in Saints history with 100-plus rushing yards, 50-plus receiving yards and both a rushing and receiving score in a single game. Throw in one of the best defenses in football, and Sean Payton’s team is a juggernaut.

Bleacher Report - #2 (+/-)

Week 8 Result: Won vs. Arizona 31-9

He’s baaaaack!

Week 8 brought with it a very welcome sight for the New Orleans Saints: the return of veteran quarterback Drew Brees. Not only was it great to see him back under center, but something even better happened.

It looked like Brees never left.

In his first action since tearing a ligament in his right thumb against the Los Angeles Rams, Brees threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns. As is usually the case, wide receiver Michael Thomas was the primary beneficiary of the quarterback’s return, but just as was the case when Teddy Bridgewater stepped in, a veteran player helped fill the void created by an injury.

With Alvin Kamara sitting out, Latavius Murray was called on to fill a larger role in the backfield. All he did was run for 102 yards and a score on 21 carries while adding 55 more yards and another touchdown on nine receptions.

The Saints are talented. The Saints are balanced. The Saints are deep.

And with Brees back on the field, the Saints are very, very dangerous.

Yahoo - #2 (+/-)

The 49ers have been very good, but the Saints still deserve the top spot in the NFC. Especially since we saw Drew Brees come back and look like he never had thumb surgery. And the Saints could get injured running back Alvin Kamara following their bye.

Sports Illustrated - #3 (+/-)

Drew Brees returned in style with a monster 34-of-43 outing, good for 373 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a 116.4 rating. The New Orleans faithful remembered to tip the cap to Teddy Bridgewater, a big reason the Saints enter the bye 7-1.

Average Power Ranking Composite: #2 (+/-)