- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Look, I hate to roll on a teammate like this, especially when he's probably right, but let there be no confusion over why the Super Bowl-champion New Orleans Saints ranked only second in ESPN.com's inaugural 2010 regular-season NFL Power Rankings -- despite getting No. 1 votes from three of four panelists.
Let's just say an esteemed panelist with the initials J.C. greeted the Saints with a low-five coming out of the tunnel this season. Yes, John Clayton ranked the Saints only fifth. As fives go, this might qualify as one of those "down low, too slow" routines -- just short of the perpetrator sliding his withdrawn hand through his locks.
Here's the thing, though: Clayton actually upped his Saints ranking two places since our previous power rankings came out in late July. That increase from No. 7 to No. 5 on his ballot wasn't enough to bump the Indianapolis Colts from the top spot, however.
I do get the thinking behind Clayton's relatively low Saints ranking; I also think New Orleans could fall off (the Atlanta Falcons were my pick in the NFC South, even). But I joined fellow panelists Paul Kuharsky and James Walker in giving New Orleans the benefit of the post-championship doubt, at least for Week 1.
Let's take a deeper look inside the latest rankings ...
Rising: The Packers and Redskins each jumped three spots since our last rankings came out in late July. The Dolphins, Eagles, Chargers and Titans each rose two places. The Falcons, Broncos, Lions, Jaguars and Steelers rose one spot apiece.
Falling: The Cardinals dropped five spots since late July, the most significant decline. The Giants fell three places. The Jets and Vikings dropped two spots each. The Seahawks, 49ers, Patriots, Browns, Bengals, Panthers and Ravens each fell one place.
Unchanged: Rankings for the Bills, Bears, Cowboys, Texans, Colts, Chiefs, Saints, Raiders, Rams and Bucs did not change.
Deadlocked: The Falcons and Ravens finished tied for sixth. Baltimore won the tiebreaker based on a higher ranking in the most recent poll.
Groupthink: Three of four panelists ranked the Saints first, the Colts second and the Patriots ninth. Three of four had the Browns 29th. Every panelist had the Packers third or fourth and the Vikings fifth or sixth.
Agree to disagree: The Bengals generated the largest gap between high and low votes. Clayton had them eighth. Kuharsky had them 18th. Eight other teams produced gaps of at least five places:
Bengals (10): Clayton eighth, Kuharsky 18th.
Ravens (8): Kuharsky and Walker third, Clayton 11th.
Cardinals (8): Kuharsky 15th, Walker 23rd.
Eagles (7): Kuharsky 11th, Walker 18th.
Redskins (6): Clayton 14th, Walker 17th.
Titans (5): Sando and Walker 15th, Clayton 19th.
Giants (5): Walker 16th, Sando 21st.
Bears (5): Sando and Clayton 20th, Kuharsky 25th.
Broncos (5): Walker 20th, Clayton 25th.
Power rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.
Ranking the divisions: Teams from the NFC East ranked highest on average at 14.0 overall. Teams from the NFC West ranked 22.3 on average, lower than teams from any other division. The chart below shows how each voter ranked each division on average. Highest votes in red. Lowest votes in blue.
A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least four spots since the April rankings:
Sando: Jets (-4), Redskins (+4), Dolphins (+7)
Clayton: Giants (-7), Ravens (-5), Bengals (+4), Eagles (+6)
Kuharsky: Cardinals (-4), Titans (+4)
Walker: Cardinals (-5), Titans (+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 last season.
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.
Re-sort 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.
Look, I hate to roll on a teammate like this, especially when he's probably right, but let there be no confusion over why the Super Bowl-champion New Orleans Saints ranked only second in ESPN.