- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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NFC teams (plural) finally cracked the top five in ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings.
It hadn't happened since New Orleans, Green Bay and Atlanta bunched near the top way back in Week 5.
The Falcons are back and they've brought the New York Giants with them. Not that anyone is celebrating just yet. The rankings -- voted upon by me, John Clayton, Paul Kuharsky and James Walker -- keep shifting.
The Falcons don't have time to celebrate, anyway. They're facing the new No. 1 team in our rankings, Baltimore, in a Thursday night game at the Georgia Dome.
The Ravens own victories over the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers this season. They also allowed 514 yards to Buffalo and nearly lost to the winless Bills -- a reminder that life in the NFL is a week-to-week experience.
Baltimore is the fifth team to hold the top spot in ESPN.com's rankings since the regular season opened. Indianapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and New England have also ranked first, although the Patriots lasted only a week. They fell five places to No. 6 following their upset defeat to the Cleveland Browns last week.
Let's dig deeper inside the rankings heading into Week 10 ...
Rising (13): San Diego Chargers (+6), Oakland Raiders (+4), Philadelphia Eagles (+4), Cleveland Browns (+3), New York Giants (+3), Atlanta Falcons (+3), San Francisco 49ers (+2), Minnesota Vikings (+1), Tampa Bay Bucs (+1), New Orleans Saints (+1), Green Bay Packers (+1), Pittsburgh Steelers (+1), Baltimore Ravens (+1).
Falling (14): New England Patriots (-5), Indianapolis Colts (-5), Seattle Seahawks (-4), Kansas City Chiefs (-3), Tennessee Titans (-2), Houston Texans (-2), Miami Dolphins (-2), Chicago Bears (-2), New York Jets (-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (-1), Arizona Cardinals (-1), Cincinnati Bengals (-1), Denver Broncos (-1), Dallas Cowboys (-1).
Deadlocked: We broke one tie this week. San Francisco prevailed over Denver for the 28th spot based on head-to-head results.
Like minds: All four panelists ranked the Ravens first and the Steelers second. Clayton, Kuharsky and I ranked the Eagles eighth, the Colts ninth, the Browns 23rd, the Cowboys 30th, the Panthers 31st and the Bills 32nd. Clayton and I ranked the top nine and bottom seven teams the same.
Agree to disagree: The Seahawks generated the largest gap between highest and lowest votes. Four other teams also generated disagreements of at least six places.
Seahawks (8): Clayton ranked them 17th, higher than any voter ranked them. Walker and Sando ranked them 25th, lower than other voters ranked them.
Saints (7): Walker fourth, Clayton and Kuharsky 11th.
Chargers (6): Walker 14th, Clayton 20th.
Rams (6): Sando 17th, Walker 23rd.
Bears (6): Kuharsky 16th, Sando 22nd.
Power rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.
Ranking the divisions: The AFC North overtook the AFC South as the highest-ranked division on average. 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 five spots since last week:
Sando: Seahawks (-6), Patriots (-5), Giants (+5) Chargers (+6)
Clayton: Patriots (-5), Giants (+5).
Kuharsky: Cowboys (-5), Browns (+5), Chargers (+5).
Walker: Dolphins (-7), Colts (-6), Patriots (-6), Raiders (+5), Chargers (+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.
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.