NFC West: AFC East

Countdown Live: 2013 NFL draft, Rds. 4-7

April, 27, 2013
Join our NFL experts for Rounds 4-7 of the 2013 NFL draft.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at noon ET. See you there.

Countdown Live: 2013 NFL draft, Rds. 2-3

April, 26, 2013
Join our NFL experts for Rounds 2 and 3 of the 2013 NFL draft.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 6 p.m. ET. See you there.

Countdown Live: 2013 NFL draft, Round 1

April, 25, 2013
Join our NFL experts for the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.

We'll be analyzing every pick from 1 to 32. We'll get started an hour early at 7 p.m. ET, so submit your questions and comments and we'll see you there.

Live: #bloggermock draft

April, 23, 2013
Join our NFL experts as they play general manager for their divisions and execute a 2013 first-round mock draft.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at noon ET. You can also participate via Twitter using the hashtag #bloggermock. See you there.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

December, 24, 2012
The Seattle Seahawks and the NFL won big Sunday night.

That 42-13 victory Seattle posted over the San Francisco 49ers made Green Bay a strong favorite to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoff race.

If the Packers do secure that second seed, they will have finished the season right where they likely would have finished even if replacement officials hadn't awarded a touchdown to the Seahawks' Golden Tate in that Monday night game way back in Week 3. That would have to come as a relief to the NFL, which has taken heat for its handling of the officials.

Think of it this way: The Packers are in prime position to secure that second seed and a first-round playoff bye because Seattle beat a very good team, the 49ers, legitimately.

The Seahawks, winners of four straight and six of seven, are clearly one of the NFL's best teams. They are likely going to be the fifth seed in the NFC, right where they probably would have been even had they lost that game to the Packers.

Had Seattle lost to Green Bay and had nothing else about the season changed, the Seahawks would be 9-6 with a 6-5 conference record, same as the Bears and Vikings. In that case, they would need a Week 17 victory at home over St. Louis to secure the fifth seed. Their victory over Chicago at Soldier Field would prevent the Bears from beating out Seattle under that scenario.

Nothing is set just yet. Seattle could still miraculously win the NFC West and even the No. 2 seed, but only if the Seahawks beat St. Louis, the Packers lose to Minnesota and San Francisco loses at home to Arizona. If those unlikely things happen, you can bet some will blame replacement officials more than they blame, say, a Green Bay defeat to the 49ers at Lambeau. Or the lead Green Bay blew at Indianapolis. Or the small detail of what would be a Week 17 Packers defeat to a Vikings team with Christian Ponder behind center.

The NFL could live with that, particularly amid at least some thought that the Week 3 ruling in Seattle wasn't nearly as bad as advertised.

Those were among my thoughts Monday while listing the Seahawks third on my power rankings ballot. That was higher than the other voters ranked them. I offer no apologies after watching Russell Wilson dominate while Seattle has put up 150 points over its past three games.

That disputed Seattle victory over the Packers has done the Seahawks more harm than good from a national perception standpoint. But when I see Seattle ranked sixth in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 17, I notice that the Seahawks have defeated three of the top five teams. No other team can make that claim.

With that, let's take a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 17:

Falling (11): Dallas Cowboys (-4), Houston Texans (-4), New York Giants (-3), Cleveland Browns (-2), New York Jets (-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (-2), San Francisco 49ers (-2), Tampa Bay Bucs (-2), New England Patriots (-1), Tennessee Titans (-1), Washington Redskins (-1).

Rising (14): Atlanta Falcons (+3), Carolina Panthers (+3), Minnesota Vikings (+3), San Diego Chargers (+3), Cincinnati Bengals (+2), Green Bay Packers (+2), Arizona Cardinals (+1), Baltimore Ravens (+1), Chicago Bears (+1), Denver Broncos (+1), Indianapolis Colts (+1), New Orleans Saints (+1), Seattle Seahawks (+1), St. Louis Rams (+1).

Unchanged (9): Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties this week.

Like minds: All five panelists ranked the Rams 16th. All five had the Broncos or Falcons first or second. All five had the 49ers third or fourth. All five had the Texans sixth or seventh. All five had the Vikings 12th or 13th. All five had the Chiefs 31st or 32nd.

Agree to disagree: At least five spots in the rankings separated high and low votes for two teams, an unusually low number. I ranked the Saints 14th, higher than anyone else ranked them. John Clayton had them 19th, lower than anyone else ranked them. I also had Tennessee higher than anyone at 25th, while Dan Graziano ranked them 30th.

Power Rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: The NFC West remained the highest-ranked division on average with a 12.9 average ranking. The NFC North was second at 14.2, followed by the AFC North (15.2), NFC South (15.4), NFC East (16.9), AFC East (17.9), AFC South (18.5) and AFC West (21.2).

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Cowboys (-6), Giants (-6).
  • Clayton: Texans (-5).
  • Graziano: none.
  • Hensley: Giants (-5).
  • Fox: Giants (-5).
For download: An Excel file -- available here -- showing how each voter voted this week and in past weeks.

The file includes a "powerflaws" sheet pointing out potential flaws in voters' thinking by showing how many higher-ranked opponents each team defeated this season.

For example, the Packers, 49ers and Patriots outrank the Seahawks even though Seattle defeated all three teams. The Giants, Steelers and Titnas have each defeated a league-high four teams ranked higher than them. Those teams rank no higher than 15th, however, so there are more candidates.

A quick primer on the "powerflaws" sheet:
  • Column Y features team rankings.
  • Column Z shows how many times a team has defeated higher-ranked teams.
  • Change the rankings in Column Y as you see fit.
  • Resort Column Y in ascending order (1 to 32) using the standard Excel pull-down menu atop the column.
  • The information in Column Z, which reflects potential ranking errors, will change (with the adjusted total highlighted in yellow atop the column).
  • The lower the figure in that yellow box, the fewer conflicts.

Countdown Live: 49ers-Patriots

December, 16, 2012
Join our NFL experts as they break down the San Francisco 49ers trip to take on the New England Patriots.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET. See you there.

NFL: Week 5 knee-jerk reactions

October, 9, 2012
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you may have even heard it here. So are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

Week 5 NFL inactives

October, 7, 2012
Here are today’s inactives from around the NFL. Click here for Tristan H. Cockcroft's inactives analysis for fantasy football.

NFL: Week 4 knee-jerk reactions

October, 2, 2012
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you may have even heard it here. So are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

Week 4 NFL inactives

September, 30, 2012
Here are today’s inactives from around the NFL. Click here for Tristan H. Cockcroft's inactives analysis for fantasy football.

NFL: Week 3 knee-jerk reactions

September, 25, 2012
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you may have even heard it here. So are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

Week 3 NFL inactives

September, 23, 2012
Here are today’s inactives from around the NFL. Click here for Tristan H. Cockcroft's inactives analysis for fantasy football.

Week 2 NFL inactives

September, 16, 2012
Here are today’s inactives from around the NFL. Click here for Tristan H. Cockcroft's inactives analysis for fantasy football.

Mike Sando's MVP Watch

September, 12, 2012
Alex SmithBenny Sieu/US PresswireThe 49ers' Alex Smith showed again in Week 1 that he can do more than just manage a game.
The NFL has become a game of frequent substitutions.

Some of them don't make much sense on the surface.

For example, the San Francisco 49ers removed from the field Patrick Willis, arguably the NFL's best linebacker, for roughly one-third of the defensive snaps against Green Bay in Week 1. That will not be the norm for the 49ers, but it made sense for one game.

The MVP Watch list is making a few short-term substitutions this week. The list, always part snapshot and projection, leans toward the snapshot side at this early point in the season.

Arian Foster, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning and Michael Vick are getting the week off. We'll see most of them again this season. Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin III, Tony Romo, Joe Flacco and Alex Smith could not be denied.

Drew Brees earned the benefit of the doubt following a rough opener. That is one reason the current list favors quarterbacks to an unusual extent. Here is another: Buffalo's C.J. Spiller was the only running back or receiver to exceed 135 yards in an opener. His team lost big.

Non-quarterbacks have a tough time measuring up even when they dominate.

Peyton Manning won MVP honors for the 2009 season even though Chris Johnson topped 2,000 yards rushing. Speaking of Manning, he's moving up the list and should only improve as he shakes off the rust and gets more familiar with his new teammates. How will his aging bones fare when the weather turns? Manning plays his only dome game of the season in Week 2, when the Broncos visit Atlanta.

Editor's note: ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this post.

NFL Blog Network mock draft

April, 2, 2012

The NFL's transformation into a pass-happy league has sent teams scrambling for ways to keep up defensively.

Perhaps that explains why defensive linemen and 3-4 outside linebacker types dominated's first NFL Blog Network mock draft for 2012.

AFC West blogger Bill Williamson snapped up three of them for the division he covers. Six other defensive linemen and 3-4 outside linebackers found homes elsewhere in the first round.

Offensive linemen (seven), defensive backs (five) and wide receivers (five) accounted for most of the remaining first-round selections.

In keeping with the pass-oriented theme, Alabama's Trent Richardson was the lone running back selected, landing in Cleveland with the fourth overall choice.

And, of course, we kicked off the mock with a couple of quarterbacks.

Big Board Bar

Analysis: They look at Luck and see a young guy who reminds them of the quarterback the franchise selected first overall in 1998. (Paul Kuharsky)

Analysis: Not much mystery here. The Redskins traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick to get to this spot, from which they believe they're taking their next franchise quarterback. The only way they don't take Griffin here is if the Colts take him, in which case the Redskins will happily take Luck. (Dan Graziano)


Analysis: The Vikings would love to trade down a few spots, presumably with a team that wants to draft Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But barring a deal, Kalil is the best player remaining on the board and the Vikings just so happen to need a long-term starter at left tackle. We're not buying (yet) any of general manager Rick Spielman's posturing about LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. (Kevin Seifert)


Analysis: Not buying the speculation that the Browns will take Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill here. The Browns tipped their hand when coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert skipped Tannehill's pro day to watch Richardson, the draft's only elite running back who can be the centerpiece of Cleveland's offense. (Jamison Hensley)


Analysis: The Bucs could be considering Richardson and he's a possibility if he stays on the board. But Claiborne is the top cornerback in this draft. The Bucs need a long-term replacement for veteran Ronde Barber and could need a short-term replacement for Aqib Talib, who could face prison time or a league suspension. (Pat Yasinskas)


Analysis: The Rams are eager to find weapons for quarterback Sam Bradford. They had a tough time addressing that area during free agency despite an aggressive approach that led to deals with Cortland Finnegan, Scott Wells and others. The last time the Rams drafted a WR sixth overall, they landed Torry Holt. (Mike Sando)


Analysis: If he catches on quickly and can have an impact as a pass-rusher, Ingram can be the final piece for a very good defense. (Paul Kuharsky)


Analysis: Tannehill shot up the draft boards fast and may be a tad overrated at No. 8. But Miami needs a quarterback of the future in the worst way, and this is the best of what's left. Both Matt Moore and David Garrard have one year left on their contracts, leaving it open for Tannehill to take over in 2013. (James Walker)


Analysis: There's a common assumption the Panthers are locked in on getting a defensive tackle. That could end up happening. But they're open to all options and Kuechly might be the best player available. This team needs help anywhere it can add it on defense. (Pat Yasinskas)


Analysis: Going receiver here is the sexy pick. But getting an offensive tackle to protect QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's blind side is the smart pick. Reiff received great coaching at Iowa, which has become Offensive Tackle U. He closes Buffalo's revolving door at left tackle for the foreseeable future. (James Walker)


Analysis: The Chiefs would be thrilled to see Poe on the board at 11. He is the best player available who fits their biggest need. Poe has a chance to be a dynamic player on a defense full of young talent. (Bill Williamson)


Analysis: The Seahawks ranked fifth in takeaways, seventh in points allowed and ninth in yards allowed last season, but their pass rush was lacking. Coples would give them a badly needed pass-rusher opposite Chris Clemons, who had 11 of the team's 33 sacks during the 2011 season. Linebacker is another need position. (Mike Sando)


Analysis: The Cardinals could also use an offensive tackle and possibly another receiver. Michael Floyd was a consideration here. But in Upshaw, the team would be targeting a potential No. 1 pass-rusher, providing welcome support for promising youngsters Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield. The Cardinals have no second-round pick, and pass-rush help is at a premium. (Mike Sando)


Analysis: They were hoping Upshaw would fall to them, as he'd upgrade the pass rush instantly and could make Anthony Spencer expendable before long. But with Upshaw gone one pick before, the Cowboys stick with the national champs and take a safety to upgrade their biggest 2011 weakness: the secondary. (Dan Graziano)


Analysis: Michael Brockers was tempting, but the pick here is Cox because he provides a pass rush from the interior of the defensive line right away and could be more NFL-ready than Brockers at this point. The Eagles are a win-now team that relies on its defensive line to pressure the passer, and Cox fits nicely into their interior line rotation. (Dan Graziano)


Analysis: The Jets would like to go defense here under head coach Rex Ryan. But with Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw and safety Mark Barron both off the board, drafting Floyd is a good fallback option. Floyd has a chance to start from Day 1 opposite Santonio Holmes and gives quarterback Mark Sanchez a much-needed weapon. (James Walker)


Analysis: The Bengals need a starting right guard, and DeCastro is the best guard in the draft. Smart and fundamentally sound, DeCastro is one of the safest picks this year and would extend the Bengals' recent good fortune in the draft. (Jamison Hensley)

Analysis: Mercilus is the best pass-rusher on the board at No. 18 and the Chargers would be happy to take him. He could be a slight over-draft, but he has big league potential. (Bill Williamson)


Analysis: Coach Lovie Smith expressed confidence last week in left tackle J'Marcus Webb, but rarely will you hear a coach say otherwise until he has an upgraded replacement. Webb was penalized 15 times last season and gave up 12 sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Martin would provide an upgrade at a key position. (Kevin Seifert)


Analysis: They can go many different directions, but Kamerion Wimbley doesn't solve their pass-rush issues by himself, and Perry can help. (Paul Kuharsky)


Analysis: Cincinnati has done a great job in bolstering the depth at cornerback in free agency, signing Jason Allen and Adam Jones. But the Bengals, who eventually need to replace veteran Nate Clements, can't pass on the second-best cornerback falling into their laps. (Jamison Hensley)


Analysis: The Browns need speed and a deep threat. Look no further than Hill, who averaged 29.3 yards per catch last season (albeit 28 receptions) and ran faster than Baylor's Kendall Wright at the NFL combine. (Jamison Hensley)


Analysis: colleagues chose Gilmore in my absence based on an obvious need the Lions have at cornerback. Starter Eric Wright departed via free agency, and the Lions' pass defense collapsed in the second half of 2011. General manager Martin Mayhew doesn't draft for need, but Gilmore would address a big one. (Kevin Seifert)

Analysis: Inside linebacker is a big need for the Steelers after they released James Farrior. Hightower excelled in Alabama's 3-4 defense and was the unquestioned leader on the nation's top defense. Seems like a perfect fit. (Jamison Hensley)

Analysis: The Broncos would gladly snag Brockers. Defensive tackle is, by far, their most pressing need, and the versatile Brockers is a good value at No. 25. (Bill Williamson)


Analysis: Randle's size will make him a nice target for Matt Schaub and the Texans, and he brings a lot of upside to an offense that's already quite good. (Paul Kuharsky)


Analysis: The Patriots need athleticism on defense and the ability to rush the passer from the outside. Branch can help replace the combined 20 sacks New England lost this offseason with the departures of DEs Mark Anderson and Andre Carter. (James Walker)


Analysis: In my absence, colleagues chose Konz, the draft's top center, knowing that veteran Jeff Saturday is likely a one-year bridge from departed starter Scott Wells. General manager Ted Thompson will almost certainly draft a center, but he might wait until a later round knowing he has 2012 insurance in Saturday. (Kevin Seifert)


Analysis: The Ravens have a history of top prospects falling to them in the first round. Their luck would continue with Glenn, an athletic and versatile blocker who would start immediately at left guard. (Jamison Hensley)


Analysis: Receiver was the team's obvious top need heading into free agency. Adding Randy Moss and Mario Manningham bought some flexibility, but Moss represents a short-term investment. The 49ers could use another young receiver to grow with Alex Smith and, eventually, Colin Kaepernick. (Mike Sando)

N. Alabama

Analysis: The Patriots were surprised such a top-end talent is available at No. 31. Sure, Jenkins comes with some character concerns. But New England's strong locker-room leadership will make sure it gets the best out of Jenkins, who has the physical ability to develop into a legit No. 1 corner. (James Walker)


Analysis: This was a tough call, because Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones just looks so much like a Giants pick. He's a super-athletic, high-upside pass-rusher from Tom Coughlin's alma mater. I mean, if Adams weren't on the board, this would have been a slam dunk. And the Giants still could go this way, or with Nebraska LB Lavonte David or Stanford TE Coby Fleener. But there's nothing wrong with Adams' upside potential, either. He becomes the Giants' starting right tackle right away, and if Will Beatty doesn't pan out, Adams has the ability to someday play on the left side. (Dan Graziano)