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NFL Power Rankings: Buccaneers Climb To No. 11 In ESPN Voting

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won three straight games to improve to 3-1, tying the New Orleans Saints for supremacy in the NFC South. However, not all pundits are singing their praises just yet. Yes, the Bucs' 24-17 win against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday proved enough for ESPN's panel of power rankings voters to move them to a season-high No. 11, but ESPN is still the only outlet we've surveyed not to have the Bucs in the top 10. Mike Sando provides ESPN's blurb for the Bucs this week:

The Bucs aren't lighting it up, but they've quietly gone 3-1 for the fourth time in the past five seasons.

That first point is probably what's holding Tampa Bay back in ESPN's rankings: it's simply not an explosive or overwhelming club. Through four games, the Bucs have outscored their opponents by just seven points. While there's something to be said for a young team battling to win close games, and the Bucs' defense stands as among the league's best, but surely Tampa Bay would rank more highly if its differential were more impressive. For example, the Saints have outscored their opponents by 29 points. Perhaps it's a bit too early to play the disrespect card, if anyone's bothered to play it at all.

Interestingly, the Bucs host New Orleans on Oct. 16. What will happen when the Saints' unstoppable force meets the Bucs' immoveable object? And how will that affect the NFC South landscape? We'll find out soon enough, but not before the Buccaneers visit the San Francisco 49ers (3-1) this Sunday.

Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.