Tuesday, October 5, 2010
AFC North Power Rankings analysis
By James Walker
With just one undefeated team left in the NFL -- the Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) -- there is sure to be plenty of debate with ESPN.com's Power Rankings.
Week 4 was very intriguing in the AFC North with a pair of division games. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns came out on top.
Here is a look at how the division fared:
Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)
Cumulative ranking: No. 1
Walker's ranking: No. 2
Analysis: Pittsburgh remains ESPN.com's top team for the second straight week. For the first time in weeks, I will not claim our panel overrated the Steelers now that franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is back from suspension and the team is at full strength. Pittsburgh received one first-place vote (Paul Kuharsky) and two second-place votes (Mike Sando and I) despite Sunday's loss to the Ravens. I voted the New Orleans Saints No. 1 but have no issues with Pittsburgh getting the nod. Strangely, ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton dropped the Steelers to No. 6 after being on their bandwagon for weeks. Clayton was at the game against Baltimore Sunday, and perhaps the Steelers didn't pass his eyeball test.
Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
Cumulative ranking: No. 6
Walker's ranking: No. 4
Analysis: A quality road win over Pittsburgh moved the Ravens up two spots in ESPN.com's Power Rankings this week. Baltimore was tied with the red-hot Atlanta Falcons (3-1), who got the tiebreaker at No. 5 because they were ranked higher last week. The Ravens needed a rivalry game against the Steelers to put together their most complete performance of the season. The offense and defense played well in the victory and it could be a springboard for the rest of the season. But I think Baltimore should have been in the top 5 this week. Three members of the panel had the Ravens ahead of the New York Jets (3-1) since Baltimore won the head-to-head meeting. But Clayton voted the Jets No. 1, which inflated their ranking to No. 4.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)
Cumulative ranking: No. 18
Walker's ranking: No. 21
Analysis: This is the one AFC North team I cannot figure out, because I have no idea which Bengals team will show up. The Cincinnati team I saw in Week 2 against Baltimore is a legit playoff contender. The Cincinnati team I saw in Week 4 against Cleveland will be sitting home in January. The Bengals moved down six spots to No. 18, which seems about right. The Bengals are in the mix with a lot of inconsistent 2-2 teams. The jury is still out, but I voted them the lowest for losing to a previously winless team.
Cleveland Browns (1-3)
Cumulative ranking: No. 27
Walker's ranking: No. 28
Analysis: Cleveland finally got in the win column by beating the Bengals at home. It was a good win, but most viewed this game as a potential upset candidate with the way Cincinnati is playing. Still, Cleveland moved up three spots in the rankings this week. The Browns have a chance to really impress the panel if they can beat the Falcons at home Sunday.