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We have a new No. 1 team in the ESPN.com Power Rankings and it’s from the NFC South.

Yes, the division whose fans often feel like they get no national “respect’’ is getting some. The Atlanta Falcons are No. 1 for the first time this season.

The best news of all is I didn’t have to make a single call to lobby the voters. Three out of the four voters put the Falcons at No. 1. Also, a little bit of perspective -- we've been doing the Power Rankings since 2002. This is the first time in history the Falcons have been No. 1.

You can talk all you want about “respect,’’ but the purest way to get it is to go out and earn it. That’s what the Falcons did Thursday night when they went out and beat the previous No. 1 team, Baltimore, and showed the AFC might not be so dominant this year after all.

With the New Orleans Saints at No. 9, the NFC South has two top-10 teams and barely missed having a third. The 6-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are No. 11, one spot behind the once-mighty Indianapolis Colts.

There is a flip side to all this, though. With the Buffalo Bills winning their first game, the NFC South now has the No. 1 and No. 32 team. The Carolina Panthers took Buffalo’s spot at No. 32. But, hey, you can’t say the Panthers haven’t earned it.

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