Dallas Cowboys: Power rankings

Post-draft Power Rankings: NFC East

April, 30, 2013
You know it was coming. Yes, the draft is a seismic enough offseason event that it's worth shuffling the Power Rankings after it's done, and here they are. Let's see how the NFC East fared.

11. Washington Redskins (Pre-draft: 13). Not bad. A two-spot hop for a team that didn't have a first-round pick? The Redskins addressed needs, took some home run swings and got good value on the safeties they picked. They're a 2012 playoff team that's returning almost its entire roster intact -- assuming Robert Griffin III makes it back from his knee surgery okay. So they hang in a playoff spot in the rankings. I had them at 11. Jamison Hensley had them at 10. Mike Sando and John Clayton ranked them 15th.

12. New York Giants (14). A little bump for the G-men as well, after a standard Giants draft that saw them add pieces to the line that are as likely to help down the road as they are in the coming season. The Giants' offseason has gone well, though they do seem thin at linebacker and a secondary that didn't add much is going to have to play better than it did in 2012. I put the Giants 14th in my rankings, as did Jamison and Ashley Fox. Sando is the highest on Big Blue, ranking them 10th.

20. Dallas Cowboys (18). The near-universal overreaction to the Cowboys' draft continues, as they drop two spots. By now you know that I thought they did well, especially after the first round, and that I'm not as down on the first-round pick as everyone else is. So I have Dallas at 17, which is the highest of any of our voters. Jamison put them at 24, which is the lowest.

25. Philadelphia Eagles (26). We still don't know what to make of the Chip Kelly Eagles, and we likely won't until we see them on the field in real games come September. Their draft appears to have been a good one, and in general they've added some interesting pieces this offseason, not the least interesting of which is Kelly himself. Jamison and I put the Eagles at 23. Clayton has them all the way down at 27, and he is done with his segment.


Power Rankings: Cowboys eye rebound after drop

December, 24, 2012

Only one NFC East team left in the top 10 in this week's Power Rankings. Let's take a look at the way our division's teams stack up.

9. Washington Redskins (Last week: 8). They trade places in the rankings with the Colts, who are 10-5 and already in the playoffs while the Redskins are 9-6 and not in yet. I had them at 8 last week and kept them there (and the Colts at 9), but it's hard to argue with those who'd differ. I am one of three voters who rank them 8th. Ashley Fox has them 10th and John Clayton 12th.

14. Dallas Cowboys (10). Tied with the Texans for the week's biggest drop, the Cowboys could likely climb back into the top 10 with a win in Washington and the division title that would go with it, or finish the season in the middle of the pack where they've been all year and likely belong. I dropped them from 10 to 13 in my poll, not because I think their loss was especially bad but because I thought the Ravens, Bengals and Vikings all needed to move up. Jamison Hensley also has them 13. Clayton has them 14. Ashley and Mike Sando rank the Cowboys 15.

15. New York Giants (12). The Giants started the season at No. 3, ranked in the top 10 in 12 of the first 15 polls we did and peaked at No. 2 in Week Weeks 8 and 9. This right here is their lowest ranking of the season, and after consecutive losses by a combined score of 67-14 at the most critical time of the year, it's tough to argue. They were excellent at one point this season but now appear to be out of gas, and right now they're not a good team. John, Jamison and I have them at 15. Ashley puts them at 14 and Sando at 18.

29. Philadelphia Eagles (29). Not a lot left to say. They're trying, absolutely. They just aren't any good. Could they beat the Giants on Sunday? Sure. They almost always do. But they're going to settle in somewhere around this spot, and they've earned it. Sando and I put them 28, John and Jamison at 29 and Ashley at 30.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Power Rankings: An NFC East overhaul

December, 18, 2012

The NFC East has two teams in the top 10 in this week's Power Rankings... and neither of them is the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. Here's a look at the way our teams fared in the most recent poll.

8. Washington Redskins (Last week: 12). Well, this is new. How many of you figured before the season that the Redskins would rank ahead of the Giants, Ravens, Bears, Steelers and Saints in any Power Rankings poll this year? And yet there they are, ahead of all those teams and 19 others. The Redskins have won five in a row and look as though they could enter the playoffs as a hot team with a quarterback no one wants to face. Heck, they just won on the road with their backup. I have them 8th, up two spots from last week, and Mike Sando and Jamison Hensley put them 8th as well. Ashley Fox has them 11th and John Clayton put them 12th.

10. Dallas Cowboys (13). Also surging into the top 10 are the Cowboys, who just won two straight against a pair of AFC North teams that went 6-0 against the rest of the division this year. Dallas has won five of six overall, and it appears likely they'll get a chance at the division title in Week 17 in Washington. They haven't ranked this high since Week 2, when they were No. 10 after beating the Giants in their season opener. I have them at 10, up three spots from where I had them last week. Mike and Jamison each ranked them No. 9. Ashley has them at 12 and John has them at 13.

12. New York Giants (7). Biggest drop in the poll, and why not after a 34-0 shellacking at the hands of the Falcons in Atlanta? No one knows what to do with the Giants, who have lost four out of six to give away their division lead. We keep expecting them to stabilize, but they refuse. They could finish relatively far from this spot in either direction at this point and it wouldn't be a surprise. I have them at No. 11, and it's the first time I've dropped them out of the top 10 all year. Ashley put them 9th, Clayton 14th.

29. Philadelphia Eagles (27). Their ugly loss to the Bengals was five days ago, so the memory is fading, but we remember enough to know the Eagles are among the league's very worst teams. I don't see how they could get to 32 from there, but I guess anything's possible. I put them 29 and so did Clayton and Jamison. Sando has them 28, Ashley 30. Doesn't make a lot of difference. You don't usually hear too much complaining about this portion of the rankings.

So what do you guys think?

Power Rankings: Cowboys trending upward

December, 11, 2012
The new Power Rankings are out. Let's see how our teams did this week.

7. New York Giants (Last week: 10). Justin Tuck said after Sunday's victory over the Saints that the Giants have been on a "roller coaster," and indeed they have. Up two weeks ago after beating the Packers, down last week after losing to the Redskins, back up this week after dropping 52 on the Saints. No one knows what to make of this Jekyll-and-Hyde team, but with three weeks to go they're right where they want to be -- in front in the division and with their destiny in their hands. I had them at 8 last week and 7 this week. Ashley Fox ranks them No. 6. Mike Sando and John Clayton have them 8th.

12. Washington Redskins (14). A fourth straight win -- this one at home over the Ravens came with a bad portent in the form of a knee injury to star rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. If he has to miss games, that's a big threat to the Redskins' ranking here as well as their playoff hopes. But the Redskins are over .500 and have played very well for the past month, so their highest ranking of the season so far is no surprise. I had them 12 last week and moved them up to 10, one spot ahead of the Ravens, who they just beat. That 10 is their highest ranking among our five voters. Clayton and Ashley each have them 15, which is the lowest.

13. Dallas Cowboys (16). Another suddenly hot NFC East team on the verge of playoff contention, the Cowboy have won four out of five to achieve their highest ranking since Week 6. Can that ranking survive a tough test against the Steelers on Sunday? Can it survive the injuries that continue to batter the roster? We shall see. I ranked them No. 13, as did everyone else in our poll except Clayton, who has them 14th.

27. Philadelphia Eagles (30). A win! At long last, the Eagles get to move back up a couple of notches after breaking their eight-game losing streak Sunday in Tampa. Perhaps rookie Nick Foles can quarterback them back toward respectability before it's all said and done. I have them 27, as does everyone else but Ashley, who has them 28.

Your thoughts?

Power Rankings: Tightening East

December, 4, 2012

The new Power Rankings have hit the virtual doorsteps, so let's see how our division's teams are doing this week:

10. New York Giants (Last week: 8). The Monday night loss to the Redskins undid the gains they made by thumping the Packers the week before and dropped the Giants back to their lowest spot of the season. I personally dropped them from 7 to 8, one spot behind Green Bay, which I admit is weird considering the head-to-head result. But as appears to be the case with the rest of the voters, I simply don't know what to do with a team that one week can look like the best in the league and the next can't get out of its own way. They couldn't solve the Redskins last year, either, so maybe it's just something about that matchup and they'll rebound the next couple of weeks. But you could rank these Giants almost anywhere along a wide spectrum. Jamison Hensley joined me in ranking them 8. John Clayton has them all the way down at 13 after having them 6 not long ago. The Giants are confounding.

14. Washington Redskins (17). One of the poll's biggest movers with a three-spot jump this week, the Redskins are on a three-game winning streak and have looked good on national TV two weeks in a row now. Sunday's game against Baltimore offers a chance for another big jump next week, in addition to the real-world opportunity to move ever more seriously into the playoff picture. I have the Redskins at 12 in my poll, just ahead of Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Seattle and right behind Cincinnati. If the defense can keep holding it together with these good schemes and individual efforts each week, why aren't they a real contender?

16. Dallas Cowboys (19). Same story, pretty much, except the Redskins beat them, which explains the two-spot difference. The Cowboys also picked up three spots this week after beating the Eagles in prime time Sunday. I have them 16 on my ballot, as do Ashley Fox and Mike Sando, while the other two have them 15. Right in the middle seems to be where the 2012 Cowboys belong, though again, sitting one game out of a playoff spot means they have a chance to make a big move up in the final four weeks.

30. Philadelphia Eagles (30). Can't fall much farther, so even an eighth straight loss doesn't push them down into the bottom two. Sando did it, though rating the Eagles as the absolute worst team in the league through 13 weeks. Ashley has them at 31, ahead of only the Jaguars. It's pure personal opinion when you get to the bottom of the ballot, and I have the Eagles 27th, but how can you argue right now if someone wants to tell you there's no one in the league worse? They haven't won in more than two months.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Power Rankings: Cowboys keep sinking

November, 27, 2012

Time for our weekly look at the way our division's teams fared in this week's ESPN.com Power Rankings poll.

8. New York Giants (Last week: 9). Their victory over Green Bay was more impressive than a one-spot jump would indicate, but the memory of the way they played in Cincinnati just before the bye cannot be wiped away. I had them at 8 last week and moved them to 7 this week. Each of our other four voters has them at 8. And one of the reasons I didn't move them up further was that I gave the Patriots a big jump this week from 9 to 4. I know, the Patriots play in the weaker conference. But they're just obliterating teams week after week, and I decided I'd had them too low. So the Giants moved up one for me because their Super Bowl punching bags leaped over them.

17. Washington Redskins (18). A fairly modest jump in spite of the impressive Thanksgiving Day beatdown of the Cowboys. I gave them a nice bump from 17 to 14 after two straight good-looking division wins, but everyone else has them either 16 or 17. If they can beat the Giants next Monday night, I believe you'll see a real leap forward.

19. Dallas Cowboys (16). I moved them down from 15 to 18, which is the lowest I've had them all year. The teams I bumped ahead of them are the Colts, Bengals and Redskins, again pushing up Indy and Cincinnati more as a means of correction rather than reaction to one week. Anyway, John Clayton has the Cowboys 18 as well, and the other three voters have them at 19.

30. Philadelphia Eagles (27). It ain't rock-bottom, but it's only two spots up from there. And if the season ended now, the Eagles would have the No. 4 pick, so you can't argue too much with them being third-worst. I knocked them down from 25 to 27, but I'm still higher on them than anyone else. Clayton, Jamison Hensley and Ashley Fox all have them at 30. The Eagles began the season at No. 7 in this poll and held that spot as recently as Week 5. Of course, they have not won since then.

Your thoughts?

Power Rankings: Cowboys win, but drop

November, 20, 2012

So the new Power Rankings are up. Here's a look at where our division's teams placed in this week's poll.

9. New York Giants (Last week: 10). Not bad, moving up a spot on a week in which you don't play. The Steelers appear to be the team that helped out by slipping behind them. I kept them at No. 8, where I had them last week. John Clayton's the highest on the Giants, ranking them sixth. Mike Sando's got them at No. 14.

16. Dallas Cowboys (15). An even tougher trick: Moving down a spot after winning your game. The Cowboys' win certainly wasn't impressive, needing overtime to take out the 30th-ranked Browns. And it's the resurgent Saints who have moved ahead of them in the rankings and pushed them down a spot. I kept the Cowboys at 15, same as last week. Clayton has them at 15, too. Jamison Hensley's No. 17 ranking is the Cowboys' lowest. Lots of agreement on the Cowboys.

18. Washington Redskins (21). A big victory over the reeling Eagles means a nice push up the rankings for Robert Griffin III and the Redskins, who likely get a chance to move up even further if they can beat the Cowboys on Thursday in Texas. I moved them up from 18 to 17 in my own rankings, and that's the highest anybody has them ranked. The lowest is Clayton, who has the Redskins at No. 20.

27. Philadelphia Eagles (24). Can't go a whole lot lower, though they're trying. A loss Monday to No. 29 Carolina could drop the Eagles into that range at which your ranking starts with a "3," and that ain't good. I dropped them from 23 to 25 in my poll. Every other voter has them 27th. Guess I was working off a higher starting point, but again, there isn't much room underneath the Eagles at this point for further disagreement.

Your thoughts?

Power rankings: NFC East barely in top 10

November, 13, 2012

These are difficult times for the NFC East in the Power Rankings. A look at where our teams placed in this week's poll:

10. New York Giants (Last week: 5). A five-spot drop, the biggest of any team this week. I personally dropped the Giants four spots, from No. 4 to No. 8. As good a weekend as the AFC had against the NFC, I still couldn't justify believing the Ravens and Patriots have better teams. And perhaps I'm still giving the Giants the benefit of the doubt based on the way they played at the end of last year and the beginning of this one. Everybody slumps. But they didn't play like a top-10 team in Sunday's loss to the Bengals, and that's why they're barely hanging on to that top-10 ranking. Only John Clayton (6) ranked them higher than I did. Everybody else had them 10th or 11th.

15. Dallas Cowboys (18). Dallas made the third-biggest jump of any team in our poll this week, moving up three spots from 18 to 15. I also ranked them 15th on my ballot, up two spots from No. 17. John and Ashley Fox agreed, Mike Sando had them 16th and Jamison Hensley has them at No. 19. The Cowboys looked great in Sunday's fourth quarter, and as we've discussed they have a ripe-looking schedule the rest of the way. But I don't think they've done anything to prove they belong anywhere else besides right in the middle of this year's NFL pack, which is where the Power Rankings have them.

21. Washington Redskins (19). You know things aren't going well when you drop two spots in a week in which you don't even play. The Saints and Bengals are the two teams that jumped the Redskins in the rankings this week, and yes, the Redskins did beat the Saints (but lost to the Bengals!). I can't answer for other people. I had them 18th last week, have them 18th this week. I did move the Saints ahead of them after New Orleans knocked off the poll's previously unbeaten No. 1 team, but I dropped the Dolphins behind them, so the Redskins stayed the same. I continue to be the highest on the Redskins of any of our voters. Sando is the lowest, putting them 24th.

24. Philadelphia Eagles (21). And finally, the Eagles. No team has fallen more dramatically from their Week 1 ranking than have the Eagles, who began this season at No. 7 in the poll, held that same ranking in Week 5 and have dropped 17 spots during their five-game losing streak. Only the Colts, who began the season at No. 32 and are currently No. 11, have made a larger swing in either direction. The Eagles are in a free-fall and set to start rookie quarterback Nick Foles this week in place of a concussed Michael Vick. This might not be as low as they can get. I have them at 23, down two spots from last week and (ahem) 20 from where I had them to start the season.

Your thoughts?

Power Rankings: Cowboys tumble four spots

November, 6, 2012

As you may have heard, each of the four teams in the NFC East lost in Week 9. This means that none of the four teams in the NFC East were able to move up in this week's NFL Power Rankings. You may or may not think that's fair, but that's how Power Rankings roll. Here's a look.

5. New York Giants (Last week: 2). I had them at No. 2 last week and dropped them to No. 4 this week. Couldn't sink them behind the 49ers, as the memory of the extent to which they beat them in San Francisco remains in my mind. I jumped the 7-1 Texans and the 7-1 Bears ahead of them, which I feel is justified. Ashley Fox also put them fourth. Everybody else ranked the Giants No. 6 this week.

18. Dallas Cowboys (14). A road loss to the undefeated No. 1 team in the poll didn't feel like grounds for a big drop, but we're at the point in the season where I think we really have to start leaning on 2012 performance as the sole determining factor for these rankings. So my drop of the Cowboys from 12 to 17 was an adjustment based on more than one week's worth of evidence. Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, Seattle, Miami and Detroit all moved ahead of the Cowboys on my ballot, for the somewhat simple reason that they're all having better seasons. I think the Cowboys can be better than the 17th-best team in the league, but to this point I don't think they've done anything to deserve a better ranking. My 17 is still the highest ranking they received in this week's poll. Jamison Hensley's 21 was the lowest.

19. Washington Redskins (19). The Redskins got to stay put in spite of their disappointing home loss to the No. 29 Panthers. I dropped them from 14 to 18 after their third loss in a row, and again, that's the highest anyone in the poll ranked them. Mike Sando has them down at 24. I couldn't move the Saints or Chargers ahead of them, and while the Eagles may have a case, they don't really have much of a leg to stand on. Speaking of which...

21. Philadelphia Eagles (18). They started the season at No. 7. There is no team, over the past two years, that has consistently fallen shorter of external expectations. But at this point, after they couldn't even get the offense going in New Orleans of all places, we have to believe they're just a bad team. I have them at 22. Ashley has them at 18. John Clayton has them at 23. That's the range, and it's pretty far from the range in which the Eagles expected to be at this or any other point this season.

So, what do you guys think?

Power Rankings: NFC East jumble

October, 2, 2012
The new NFL Power Rankings are out, and you know what that means. Absolutely nothing in terms of the playoff race or anything else that will happen the rest of the season, but plenty of opportunity for name-calling and ridicule. Let's take a look at where our teams placed in this week's poll.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (Last week: 9). Amazing what happens when you don't turn the ball over, eh? The Eagles are 3-1 in spite of it all and on top of the NFC East, and they are the highest-ranking team in the division this week. They technically tied for seventh with the Packers but won the tiebreaker based on better overall record. Me, I had them ninth last week and kept them there, mainly because I didn't find a team I thought deserved to drop behind them. The only candidate is the Giants, whom they beat, and I'll explain that in a second. Jamison Hensley is the highest on the Eagles, ranking them sixth, and it looks like my No. 9 ranking is the lowest among the voters. Sorry, Eagles fans. I think your team is good, I really do, but I think the eight teams I have in front of them have played better so far this year.

10. New York Giants (6). Lots of disagreement on the Giants. John Clayton ranks them 15th. I rank them sixth. The other three voters rank them ninth, 10th and 12th. As a group, we appear unsure of what to do with the Giants. I dropped them only one spot in my rankings this week, because I don't see a two-point road loss in the division as a good reason to penalize a team's ranking very much. I am determined not to let the result of one single game influence my opinion of these teams too strongly, and I am also determined not to underestimate the Giants as I did all of last year. What are we but overripe pineapples if we do not learn our lessons? If I have a concern about the Giants, it's about the injuries to significant players such as Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Phillips lingering and having a long-term effect. But I'll wait to see if that does happen before changing my opinion on them too dramatically. So, short answer to the "How can you rank the Giants ahead of the Eagles after the Eagles beat them?" question is that I base these on more than just one game.

15. Dallas Cowboys (12). I mean, I have them at 13, down two spots from where I had them last week. They looked oil-spill bad Monday Night, but again, it was only one game, and their four-game body of work has done absolutely nothing to alter my preseason opinion of them as a middle-of-the-pack team this year. Jamison, who'd been highest on them, has them down at 15 now. Mike Sando has them 18th while Ashley Fox has them 11th. They're going to have more bad games, and they're going to have more good ones. They're not there yet.

18. Washington Redskins (22). Robert Griffin III fever is sweeping the nation, even if it has to share the local spotlight with the Washington Nationals. Griffin is clearly for real, and he brought Washington's high-scoring offense back in the fourth quarter to beat the Buccaneers. I have the Redskins 17th, up two spots from where I ranked them last week. I personally feel as though their defense will keep them from rising much higher than this, but that their offense could keep them from sinking much lower. This is not the way I expected the Redskins' season to go, but obviously, no one can predict this crazy NFL. Ashley has Washington ranked 15th. Clayton's not a believer, as he puts them 23rd and is done with his segment.

Have at 'em, folks.

Power Rankings: Champs take a tumble

September, 11, 2012

There are few greater challenges, in covering, observing and discussing the NFL than to resist overreacting to one game. There are few greater obstacles to that effort than the ESPN.com weekly Power Rankings. Never more volatile than in Week 2 of the regular season, they have nonetheless arrived, and this is how our division's teams rank this week:

7. New York Giants (Last week: 3). Just one loss, yes, but this is a Super Bowl champion that obviously came in with more questions about it than most. With many still wondering whether to believe last year's 9-7 regular season or the 4-0 postseason record, an ugly home loss to a division rival in the middle of the rankings was enough to make the champs this week's biggest fallers. Mike Sando and John Clayton moved them all the way down to No. 12. Ashley Fox and I rank them the highest, at No. 5. I had them at No. 2 last week, and I believed I had good reasons for that, so I wasn't going to let one game throw all of those good reasons out the window. The teams that passed them in my rankings -- San Francisco, New England and Houston -- all played very well both last year and in Week 1. I thought about putting Baltimore ahead of them, too, but held off. Maybe I'm being too careful, but if last year didn't teach us all -- and me in particular -- that the Giants deserved some benefit of the doubt, then we'll never learn anything.

10. Dallas Cowboys (14). A move into the top 10 for the team that knocked off the Giants, and 10th is exactly where I personally had the Cowboys this week after ranking them 15th to start the season. My own rankings still have them ahead of the Broncos, who outrank them in the overall poll, and one spot behind the Eagles, who do not. I don't deny that they looked better than the Eagles (and, of course, the Giants) in Week 1, but again, I really believe it's important not to overreact to a Week 1 performance but rather to incorporate it into the body of evidence with which we were already working. A four-spot jump seems very fair for Dallas off of its excellent opener. Should the Cowboys continue to look that good, I have little doubt that they will continue to move up.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (7). I'm looking up and down this list trying to find a team that fell five spots after actually winning its opening game. Can't find one. That tells you a lot about the way the Eagles looked in their ugly squeaker of a comeback victory in Cleveland on Sunday. The worst part about that game for Michael Vick and the Eagles was that it puffed on the glowing embers of many of the same old 2011 doubts, so that if you were hesitant about ranking the Eagles high because they disappointed you last year, it was easy to knock them down a few pegs. I dropped them from No. 3 to No. 9, so a six-spot drop for me in spite of their victory, but I think it's justified since the initial ranking was based on a belief that those 2011 Eagles would get better. Evidence that they might not, even one game's worth, was in this case cause for a correction. Sando has the Eagles 13th and Ashley has them 14th while Clayton put them No. 8. Wide variety of opinion on the Eagles, who have a chance to earn some faith back if they can look good against Baltimore on Sunday at home.

15. Washington Redskins (24). Congratulations to Robert Griffin III and the Redskins, who made the biggest jump of any team in this week's rankings. If you go down to the Superdome and win that impressively -- especially behind a rookie quarterback -- you deserve a big bump. I moved them from 19th to 13th in my own rankings, and as you can see I was highest on them among our voters even before the season started. Other than Griffin, a few things looked better about the Redskins than many had the right to expect -- most notably the play of the secondary against the Saints' passing offense. Looking at the teams right behind them on the list, it's hard to make the case that they don't belong right where they are this week.

Power Rankings: Redskins rising

September, 20, 2011
It's Power Rankings day here at ESPN.com, and the voters have spoken. Here's how our division's teams fared this week:

6. Philadelphia Eagles (Last week's ranking: 3). The Eagles drop from their elite perch following their Sunday night loss in Atlanta and the injury to Michael Vick. Their ranking appears to have been hurt especially by John Clayton ranking them 11th, which strikes me as a tad harsh. I mean, it's not as though no one's gone to Atlanta and lost the past couple of years. The run defense and the pass protection -- two preseason areas of concern -- looked worrisome. And without Vick, I agree that they're not a top-five team. But they're still loaded in a lot of places, and Vick isn't guaranteed to miss time. I'd rank them above the Texans, who moved ahead of them into fifth.

13. Dallas Cowboys (13). The overtime win in San Francisco kept Dallas right where they were last week, which I think it's about right for now. I still think they'll end up being better than the Bears (10) and Lions (11) before it's all said and done, but based on what we've seen so far you couldn't put them ahead of Detroit just yet. The defense has outperformed expectations, but the injuries they have on offense could make it tough to score for the next few weeks, so they'll do well just to hang in the middle of the pack for now.

15. Washington Redskins (19). That's a 13-spot jump in two weeks from a team that began the season ranked 28th on this list. Only the Bills (11 spots), Titans (eight spots) and Texans (five spots) made bigger jumps this week than did the Redskins, who vault into the top half of the list. Based on the way they've played so far, they've earned the spot, and clearly they never belonged down at 28 in the first place (as at least one astute and ruggedly handsome blogger said at the time). You could even make the case to rank them ahead of San Diego, Dallas or Tampa Bay -- the three teams directly ahead of them -- based only on the way they've played so far. But I think it's fair to put them where they are right now until we see more. If they're 3-0 this time next week, I expect another big jump, not to mention a lot of Rex Grossman feature stories in national publications.

18. New York Giants (17). One of only two teams (along with the Steelers) to win their Week 2 game and drop in the rankings, the Giants surely suffered for how awful they looked in their Monday Night Football victory over the Rams. They have major issues still to solve, especially on the health front, and they look awful in the secondary and shaky in the run game. Ashley Fox has them ranked 14th, which saves them from dropping further. Three of the five voters ranked the Giants in the 20s. Personally, based on results so far, the only team behind them I think I might move ahead of them is Oakland, but that's no sure thing. They're in about the right spot, for me, but you could see the bottom dropping out with a few more injuries.

So yeah. That's Power Rankings for Week 3. Your thoughts?

Power Rankings: Top 10 left tackles

June, 14, 2011
Power Rankings Left TacklesESPN.com IllustrationOur bloggers say Joe Thomas and Jake Long are the NFL's best left tackles by a wide margin.
ESPN.com ranks the NFL’s top 10 at left tackle, one of the most important positions in the league. Next week: Top up-and-coming assistants.

Take a quarter out of your pocket and look at its width. That’s basically the difference between the top two left tackles in the ESPN.com Power Rankings.

Cleveland’s Joe Thomas received 76 points from our eight-person panel of voters. Miami’s Jake Long received 75. That put them way ahead of the rest of our top 10 list of the NFL's best blindside pass protectors.

Our panel of division bloggers gave Thomas five first-place votes, and Long received three.

“It was pretty much a coin flip for me,’’ said NFC East blogger Dan Graziano.

If Graziano’s quarter had landed on the other side, we might have had a different outcome. I think the same can be said for some of the other voters. I gave Thomas my top vote only after some strong consideration for Long.

But let’s cut to the chase and point out the man who ultimately decided this election. It’s AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky. Every other voter had Thomas and Long in the top two spots. Kuharsky threw things off a bit by putting Long at No. 1 and Tennessee’s Michael Roos at No. 2. He had Thomas at No. 3.

Let’s turn to Kuharsky for his rationale.

“I've seen Long more, which helped him,’’ Kuharsky said. “Also, frankly, I knew there could be close to a consensus for Thomas. He's very good. But we're not talking Orlando Pace or Jonathan Ogden. The groundswell for Thomas as top left tackle is, in my eyes, more a media creation than the view of players, scouts and coaches. I wanted to note and reflect that.’’

Point taken, and I agree that we’re not talking the same level as Pace and Ogden -- at least not yet. Thomas and Long are young and it’s too early to put them in the category of surefire Hall of Famers. But, aided largely by Kuharsky, Roos did finish No. 6 overall.

Ryan Clady, Jordan Gross and D'Brickashaw Ferguson rounded out our top five at Nos. 3, 4 and 5 respectively. After Roos, the rest of the top 10 was filled out by Jason Peters (No. 7), Marcus McNeill and Donald Penn, who tied for No. 8, and Matt Light at No. 10.

Let’s work our way back toward the top, with one more quick stop at Roos. I had him at No. 8 on my ballot, and James Walker and Kevin Seifert didn’t even vote for him. I’ve had a couple of scouts tell me Roos is a good left tackle, but seemed to take a step backward last season.

Kuharsky heard otherwise.

“I've had a coach and two scouts tell me Roos is as good or better than Thomas and Long,’’ Kuharsky said. “I obviously see Roos a lot and think he's quite good, certainly better than he wound up here.’’

Roos or ruse? Take your pick, but let’s head right back to the top of the voting and back to the argument between Thomas and Long. They were drafted one year apart with Thomas entering the league in 2007 and Long coming in for the 2008 season. Each has made it to the Pro Bowl in every season played.

Kuharsky mentioned the “media creation’’ about Thomas. In Cleveland? That’s not where you usually turn to find guys to top Power Rankings, so our vote has to say something pretty strong about Thomas. Let’s turn to the guy who covers Thomas.

"Thomas has always been focused on doing his job,’’ Walker said. “You can't tell whether the Browns are 16-0 or 0-16 with the way he plays, and that's why he's been to four straight Pro Bowls. The NFL has gone the way of speed pass-rushers, and Thomas is the prototype to combat that. He’s lean with very good feet and agility, but still strong enough to dominate in the running game. There’s really no weakness in his game.”

None of our panelists saw a weakness in Long’s game.

“I thought Long's run-blocking ability put him a little bit ahead of Thomas,’’ Grazianzo said. “I think he's shown improvement every year and is likely to pass Thomas soon if he hasn't already (and for me, these lists are about which guy I'd pick right now, so a guy I think is going to get better is going to get a long look from me). And he earned a bonus point or two from me for playing the last six games of 2010 in a shoulder harness and still being incredible.’’

The best news is, these guys are so young we can have this same argument every year for the next decade. Now, let’s move on to some other notes about the voting in the Power Rankings for left tackles.

Turn off the Light. As we mentioned, Light came in at No. 10. That surprised me a bit because he’s a big name with three Super Bowl championships and three Pro Bowl selections. I had Light at No. 6 and Walker had him at No. 4. But Light didn’t even appear on four ballots, including the one from AFC East representative Tim Graham.

“Matt Light is a quality player, but Stats Inc. blamed him for 10 sacks allowed and four penalties last season, more in each category than his previous two seasons combined,’’ Graham said. “I've always thought Light got more recognition simply from being Tom Brady's left tackle. Once you name the three or four elite tackles and you rack your brain for the next group, it's easy to understand people sorting through the great quarterbacks and asking, 'Who is so-and-so's left tackle?' Light made the Pro Bowl last year, but as an alternate. Light's reputation also is enhanced by his involvement in the union and being a truly rare species: the gregarious Patriot.’’

Also-rans. Andrew Whitworth, Chad Clifton, Doug Free, Russell Okung and Jeff Backus didn’t make the top 10, but each received votes.

“I don't think there are 10 elite or even complete left tackles in the NFL,’’ NFC West blogger Mike Sando said. “I list Okung on a very short list of players with the talent and makeup to be elite at that position. Okung hasn't played enough to this point, but I think he'll join that group this season. Listing someone with considerably less ability was the alternative.’’

The longest shot. Somewhere, former Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen and coach Jon Gruden are smiling at Penn’s name appearing on this list. It’s true, they headed the regime that signed Penn as a free agent in 2007 after he was cut by Minnesota in 2006. Then again, they were also the ones who signed Luke Petitgout, and Penn only got a chance to play because Petitgout turned out to be washed up. I used to subscribe to the theory that you needed to use a first-round pick to get a good left tackle. But Penn has shown that’s not necessary. In his case, he simply made the most of his shot at playing time and turned it into a $48 million contract as training camp started last year.

Power Rankings: Top 10 NFL helmets

May, 17, 2011
NFL power rankings: HelmetsESPN.com IllustrationOur writers break down NFL team helmets in the latest edition of ESPN.com's Power Rankings.
As we continue our Power Rankings series, it’s time to look beyond the player and examine what’s wrapped around his head.

Let’s blow the lid off this NFL helmet caper, shall we?

The NFL helmet has long been an obsession. Whether it’s the unmistakable star of the Dallas Cowboys, the beyond-the-gridiron meaning in Pittsburgh or the great helmet–change fiasco in San Francisco in the early 1990s, the NFL has been all about the helmet. After all, in football, we don’t look at faces, we look at logos.

Come on, who hasn’t spent a Saturday afternoon feeding countless quarters into a gumball machine full of worthless plastic all in the name of getting a complete set of NFL helmets?

So, we put our artistic eyes together (with the courtesy of professional help) and came up with our top 10 NFL helmets. Consensus? No, not even close. In a 2011 Power Rankings record, 26 lids collected votes. Eye of the beholder, folks.

Interestingly, two of the six teams that got no lid love received kudos from our guest judge. I’d take her word over mine. You should see what I’m wearing right now. Think John Belushi in "Animal House." Then take it down a few notches.

We’ve had our battles this spring when it came to ranking players, coaches and owners, but this task has to be the most subjective of all. It’s vanilla or chocolate. Or, in this case, purple or red.

Still, there were several helmets -- traditional teams seemed to catch the imagination -- that received more votes than others.

Fittingly, the winning helmet is of a team that has been scoring big during this entire series: the Pittsburgh Steelers. The black helmet received 50 voting points, cruising to an easy win. Second-place Indianapolis, and its famous horseshoe, received 41 points.

AFC North blogger James Walker was the only person to vote for the Steelers, who received top-10 votes from six of eight voters, as the No. 1 helmet. Only NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert (he received big-league redemption -- we’ll explain later) and AFC East blogger Tim Graham shunned the Steelers.

Walker explained that it was fitting for the Steelers’ helmet to win because it represents a gritty, historic city.

“Most helmets have a mascot or the team’s name or initials, but Pittsburgh’s helmet actually has in-depth meaning,” Walker said. “The colors of the diamond shapes each represent elements of steel, which was once a major industry in Pittsburgh. Also, Pittsburgh is the only NFL team with its helmet logo on one side. I think the uniqueness and tradition helps separate the Steelers.”

Here’s the rest of the top-10 list after the Steelers and Colts: Oakland Raiders (my first-place vote -- just look cool, baby), Green Bay Packers, San Diego Chargers, Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins.

Below are some key aspects of the vote:

Walking the Runway: We are thrilled to have a celebrity presence this week. Former "Project Runway" contestant Peach Carr, a successful Chicago fashion designer and self-professed sports nut, lent her expertise this week.

Predictably, her opinion differed greatly from many of us slouches. Hey, sportswriters are rarely accused of being spiffy, snappy, hip or even presentable, so what do you expect?

The most telling of Carr’s selections was her choice of the San Francisco 49ers at No. 2. They were among the six teams shut out by the rest of us. I’d listen to the Peach, San Francisco.

Carr went with the hometown Bears as her top choice. The Bears finished ninth in our poll. Major fashion buttons to Seifert. He was the only voter to agree with the professional. Reached for comment, Seifert had this to say: “Yesssssss.”

Well said, Mr. Blackwell.

Carr placed the Houston Texans as her No. 6 helmet. It was also one of the six helmets the rest of us neglected.

You made it work, Peach. Auf Wiedersehen to the rest of us.

The Lone Vote State: In an upset, the Cowboys’ helmet finished sixth. Graham was the lone blogger to vote Dallas’ helmet first.

“I was shocked to see nobody else put the Cowboys at the top of their ballots,” Graham said. “That helmet is the most iconic of them all. The lone blue star is known immediately by grandmothers who never watch football. It's a classic look that strikes you whether you're watching from the stands or at home. There's no tiny print to read, no cluttered symbols to decipher. You see it, you know it. And it likely conjures a visceral reaction whether you're a fan or not.”

Going traditional: In addition to the 49ers and Texans, the Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals were the only teams shut out by the eight voters. The 49ers are the only team in the group that has a history-rich franchise. However, the top 10 is dominated by tradition-rich teams.

NFC West blogger Mike Sando saw a trend.

“My thought is that success helps a brand become appealing in a lot of cases,” Sando said. “Would the Steelers' helmet really rank first if the team had tanked every year? I do not think so. Look at the Colts, Raiders, Packers, Cowboys, Browns ... all have storied histories.”

Kicking it old school: If the “throwback” helmets were allowed in the voting, I bet things would be different. My prized possession (probably says more about my collection of stuff than my sentiment) is my complete set of NFL throwback mini helmets. It is proudly displayed in my office.

There are some beauties in that collection. That’s one of the reasons I went with the New York Jets' helmet as my No. 2 choice. I like the old-style look. My favorite helmet of all time is the old-school New England Patriots helmet. I love me some Patriot Pat and couldn’t get enough of watching the Patriots when the league honored the AFL in 2009.

Put your thinking helmet on. What do you think is the most fashionable helmet in the NFL? Fill the comments section below with your thoughts.

Power Rankings: Top 10 NFL quarterbacks

April, 26, 2011
QB Power Rankings IllustrationESPN.com IllustrationNew England's Tom Brady received six of the eight first-place votes to edge out Peyton Manning.
ESPN.com’s NFL writers rank the top 10 quarterbacks in the league today.
Next week: Top 10 safeties.

Take eight football writers scattered from Seattle to Tampa and ask them to come up with a list of the top 10 quarterbacks in the National Football League.

Sounds easy enough, in theory. You take the golden gunslingers, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and let everyone else fall naturally into order after that. Well, it didn’t quite work out that simply in ESPN.com’s Power Rankings for quarterbacks.

Heck, we couldn’t even come up with a top 10. We’re going with a top 11 because Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Dallas’ Tony Romo tied for No. 10 with five points each in our voting system.

Even at the top, there was more disagreement than you might expect. Brady emerged as No. 1, but it wasn’t unanimous and, although Manning finished a strong second, two ballots had a man some consider the best quarterback ever at No. 3.

But let’s start analyzing the rankings by focusing on just Brady and Manning. Six voters put Brady at No. 1, but Paul Kuharsky and Mike Sando put Manning in the top spot. Let’s hear them out.

“Brady's fantastic, let's start with that,’’ said Kuharsky, who covers the AFC South, also known as “The Division Manning Built and Owns." “But no one is asked to do more or does more as a quarterback than Peyton Manning. He almost plays a different position. And while Brady's got three rings to Manning's one and is the reigning MVP, look at their touchdown and interception numbers in their last four playoff games. Manning's are better.’’

Sando has no horse in this race, because voters unanimously agreed the NFC West is the division that forgot quarterbacks, at least until Sam Bradford gets another season under his belt.

“Brady has the better stats over the last couple seasons, but the Colts would undoubtedly be far worse off than the Patriots if both teams had backups under center,’’ Sando said. “Once that was established, Brady's recent postseason struggles became a deciding factor. These quarterbacks have, to an extent, switched roles recently. Manning has won a championship more recently than Brady has won one. Brady has seven touchdowns, seven picks and one victory in his last four playoff games. Manning has seven touchdowns, two picks and two victories in his last four.’’

For rebuttal, let’s head up to the AFC East, to the man who covers Brady and the New England Patriots.

“I'm not sure why everybody needs to consider career achievements when filling out a Power Rankings ballot,’’ Tim Graham said. “Power Rankings are a snapshot of the moment and are expected to change regularly, not encompass years of work. But if the reason for selecting Manning ahead of Brady is recent playoff performances that go back a few years, then Ben Roethlisberger should be ahead of Manning with that logic. Roethlisberger has been to a pair of Super Bowls and won his second title more recently than Manning's only championship.’’

We’ll come to Roethlisberger in just a moment, but nobody put him ahead of Manning on his ballot. Kevin Seifert and I each put a quarterback ahead of Manning.

Seifert put Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers at No. 2.

“Mostly, I didn't think I could face NFC North blog readers if I voted any other way,’’ Seifert said. “Seriously, I think the big advantage Manning and Drew Brees have over Rodgers is time. They've been playing longer and therefore have mostly better career numbers and a bigger frame of reference for knowing how they will perform in the long term. But when you take out longevity, Rodgers is right there with them. All three have one Super Bowl victory. Rodgers has a higher career passer rating than any quarterback in the history of the NFL with qualified attempts, better than Manning and Brees and Brady for that matter. So to break the tie, I think you can look at what they did most recently. I think Rodgers had a better 2010 season than Manning or Brees, and that's how I would justify this order.’’

I put Brees at No. 2 and don’t really want to write a story in which I quote myself, so I’ll just say Brees and Manning each have one Super Bowl ring and Brees’ numbers over the last four years are just as good or better in most categories. Plus, Brees hasn’t spent most of his career surrounded by the likes of Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Edgerrin James.

In the final analysis, Brees finished third and Rodgers fourth. Roethlisberger, who has two Super Bowl rings, came in at No. 5. San Diego’s Philip Rivers, who has zero Super Bowl rings and some gaudy statistics, is No. 6. Relatively speaking, the order from Brees to Rivers, the guy who took his place with the Chargers, was pretty clear-cut.

After that, we had some close calls, strong differences of opinion and one very big coincidence. At No. 7, we’ve got a tie between Philadelphia’s Michael Vick and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, who each finished with 26 points. For those who don’t see the irony in that, Vick was the face of Atlanta’s franchise for a long time and Ryan now holds that role.

Eli Manning of the New York Giants came in at No. 9, and Flacco and Romo tied for the final spot. Only three other quarterbacks received votes. They were Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman, who I think could be near the top of this list in another year or two, Houston’s Matt Schaub and Kansas City’s Matt Cassel.

On to some other notes about the Power Rankings.

Michael Vick
Michael DeHoog/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesOne recent year of success wasn't enough to put Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on John Clayton's ballot.
The Vick factor. Despite a hugely productive season last year, Vick was left off one very important ballot. John Clayton, the dean of all of us, didn’t have the Philadelphia quarterback on his ballot and was the only one of us who didn't.

“The only reason Michael Vick didn’t make my top 10 is because I, after an offseason of thinking, have Michael Vick as my No. 11 quarterback,’’ Clayton said. “That still makes him elite. I have 12 elite quarterbacks. Vick moved into the elite category with his performance last year, but it’s just one year. He can clearly move up the list this season, but he’s in the mix and knocking on the door of the top 10. A year ago, he wasn’t a consideration.’’

Fighting the Eli fight. Speaking of Clayton, let’s continue to ride that train as we discuss Eli Manning. Seifert, Sando, Graham and I didn’t even include Manning in our top 10, but he still made the list.

“I will continue to fight the argument Eli Manning is an elite quarterback,’’ Clayton said. “I moved him to No. 8 above Tony Romo, but if Romo had a full season last year, he might have been ahead of Eli. Remember that Carson Palmer, Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb dropped from my elite quarterback categories, which moved guys like Eli up in the mix. Eli has a Super Bowl ring. He’s a 4,000-yard quarterback. He wins.’’

No tiebreaking here. Speaking of Romo: Clayton and Sando each had him at No. 9. AFC North blogger James Walker had Romo at No. 10. That was good enough to get Romo five points and a tie with Flacco. One interesting note here: Flacco wasn’t on Walker’s ballot. I respect James for not doing the easy thing and being a "homer," although I’m sure some Baltimore fans might have different opinions.

"Joe Flacco is a good quarterback, but I don’t consider him an elite, top-10 quarterback just yet,’’ Walker said. “I need to see more consistency, especially in the playoffs and other big games against the Steelers. Flacco has a lot of natural ability, and I believe he’s ready to break through. But, in my book, Flacco needs to first prove it on the field in the biggest games to be elite.”

The final analysis. If you look at this list from a distance, you could say the Atlanta Falcons, San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots are the big winners. The Patriots, of course, have Brady, but they also drafted Cassel, whom they later traded to Kansas City. If you want to get really technical, the Chargers drafted Brees and Eli Manning and worked a draft-day trade with the Giants to end up with Rivers. If you count the few minutes Manning and Rivers were crossing paths, you could say the Chargers, at one time or another, had three guys on this list. You also could say the Falcons drafted Vick, Ryan and Schaub, who finished in a tie with Freeman for No. 12.