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Saints inch higher in Week 14 Power Rankings

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NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Week 14 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 - #4 (+1)

Who’s under fire: Ted Ginn Jr. and Tre’Quan Smith, WRs

New Orleans’ biggest problem from late last season remains its biggest problem heading into this December -- a lack of reliable wide receivers outside of Michael Thomas. Neither Ginn nor Smith has had more than two catches in a game since Week 3. The Saints badly need one or both to step up in the playoffs. Regardless, they’ll be looking for an upgrade this offseason. -- Mike Triplett

USA Today - #2 (+2)

They’d never won consecutive division titles prior to arrival of Sean Payton and Drew Brees. They’re now three-time defending NFC South kings.

CBS - #3 (+2)

They have a big test this week against the 49ers, a game that will go a long way in deciding home-field advantage in the playoffs. The defense impressed last week in beating the Falcons.

NFL - #5 (+1)

The Saints didn’t play their cleanest brand of football in November, but they executed well enough to achieve their first major goal of the season. A 26-18 win over the Falcons made the Saints the first team to clinch a playoff spot. The NFC South champs now set their sights on the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC. Last Thursday night will be remembered for the relentlessness of the front seven, which made Matt Ryan’s life miserable in a nine-sack assault. Cameron Jordan led the charge, finishing with four sacks, including the game-clinching takedown in the final minute. Jordan is up to 13.5 sacks on the season -- 3.5 shy of the team single-season record of 17, set by La’Roi Glover in 2000. Speaking of the No. 1 seed, the Saints will put themselves on the inside track if they can take out the 49ers on Sunday.

Bleacher Report - #4 (+/-)

Week 13 Result: Won at Atlanta 26-18

The New Orleans Saints are headed back to the postseason.

After downing the Falcons in Atlanta on Thanksgiving night, the Saints are the first team in the NFL to lock up a division title. As things stand now, the Saints would earn a first-round bye and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

However, there’s cause for at least a modicum of concern in the Big Easy ahead of this week’s big game against the San Francisco 49ers. It’s been a while since the Saints put forth a complete effort. Against the Falcons, the defense was lights-out, piling up nine sacks of Matt Ryan. But the offense was rather scattershot, managing fewer than 300 yards of total offense and converting just two of 10 third downs.

”When playing to their potential, the Saints are as good as any team in the NFL,” Davenport said. “They might just be the most balanced team in the league. But the Saints haven’t been playing to their potential of late. New Orleans is going to have put forth a much more complete effort next week against San Francisco if it wants the NFC playoffs to run through the Superdome.”

Sobleski is not as concerned, largely because of the defense.

”Since a surprising loss to the Atlanta Falcons nearly a month ago, the Saints handled their business in the subsequent three contests (including Sunday’s rematch with the Falcons). New Orleans is now 10-2 with an opportunity to prove it’s the NFC’s best squad during an upcoming showdown with the San Francisco 49ers,” he said. “The Saints are capable of earning that distinction if their defense continues to play as well as it has in recent weeks.”

Yahoo - #4 (+/-)

Saints vs. 49ers next week is a fascinating game. If the Saints win that, they’ll hold wins over the Seahawks and 49ers and would be an overwhelming favorite to get a bye and likely the No. 1 seed. It’ll be a fun showdown in the Superdome.

Sports Illustrated - #6 (+/-)

Sean Payton looked primed for an aneurysm after the Falcons’ third onside kick, but it didn’t come back to bite the Saints. Still, that’s two shaky outings in a row for New Orleans ahead of their showdown with the Niners. Two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) for Taysom Hill helped cover for sluggish (by their standards) outings from Brees, Thomas and Kamara.

Average Power Ranking Composite: #4 (+1)