- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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The top five teams remained unchanged from last week in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings for Week 5.
Houston, Atlanta, Baltimore, San Francisco and Arizona are all coming off victories. New England inched up into the sixth spot after putting up 52 points on Buffalo.
Dan Graziano, Ashley Fox and I offered thoughts on which of the top teams might have the hardest time maintaining their elite stats. You'll find those in the video accompanying this item.
I've gone through our five ballots -- those for Graziano, Fox, Jamison Hensley, John Clayton and me -- from a different angle. Instead of focusing on stability at the top, I've singled out the most volatile teams:
Minnesota Vikings: They've ranked anywhere from 31st (Week 1) to 14th (this week). Clayton ranked them seventh. We're not quite sure what to make of a team that follows a defeat by Indianapolis with victories over San Francisco and Detroit.
Seattle Seahawks: They ranked only 26th after losing to Arizona in the opener. Consecutive victories over Dallas and Green Bay pushed Seattle up to No. 10, but the Seahawks were back down to 17th this week after losing at St. Louis. They're 0-2 in the NFC West and 2-0 outside of it.
Arizona Cardinals: NFC West teams are 9-3 outside the division and 8-0 at home. The Cardinals lead the way at 4-0 after some suggested they might be the worst team in the NFL this season (and you know who you are). They've ranked anywhere from 20th after Week 1 to fifth the past two weeks.
New Orleans Saints: They're down to 28th in each of the past two weeks after opening the season at No. 13.
Detroit, Kansas City, Atlanta, St. Louis and Washington also have seen at least 10 spots separate their highest and lowest rankings this season.
And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:
Falling (12): Seattle Seahawks (-7), New York Jets (-6), New York Giants (-4), Dallas Cowboys (-3), Detroit Lions (-2), Buffalo Bills (-2), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2), Oakland Raiders (-2), Green Bay Packers (-1), Carolina Panthers (-1), Tennessee Titans (-1), Kansas City Chiefs (-1).
Rising (10): Minnesota Vikings (+7), St. Louis Rams (+6), Washington Redskins (+4), Cincinnati Bengals (+3), Miami Dolphins (+3), New England Patriots (+2), Philadelphia Eagles (+2), Chicago Bears (+2), San Diego Chargers (+2), Denver Broncos (+1).
Unchanged (10): Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns.
Deadlocked: We broke two ties this week. Philadelphia edged Green Bay for the seventh spot based on the second tiebreaker, overall record. San Diego prevailed over Cincinnati for the 11th spot on the fourth and final tiebreaker, which team was ranked higher previously.
Like minds: All five voters ranked Cleveland last. Four of five ranked Houston first and Atlanta second.
Agree to disagree: Eight teams generated gaps of at least eight spots between highest and lowest votes. Minnesota was the most divisive team. The Vikings are 3-1 and have beaten San Francisco and Detroit, both playoff teams from last season.
A look at all teams generating high-low disparities of at least eight spots in the rankings:
Vikings (12): Clayton ranked them seventh, higher than any other voter ranked them. Graziano ranked them 19th, lower than any other voter ranked them.
Saints (11): Graziano 20th, Hensley 31st.
Giants (9): Graziano sixth, Clayton 15th.
Seahawks (9): Clayton 11th, Fox 20th.
Lions (9): Graziano 16th, Hensley 25th.
Packers (8): Graziano fourth, Clayton 12th.
Redskins (8): Fox 15th, Clayton 23rd.
Buccaneers (8): Clayton 19th, Fox 27th.
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 West ranked 11.2 on average, helping the division maintain its status as the highest-ranked of the eight. Teams from the NFC East ranked 12.7 on average, followed by teams from the NFC North (13.0), AFC North (15.8), NFC South (18.6), AFC East (19.3), AFC West (20.0) and AFC South (21.6).
Our divisional bloggers on the panel -- Dan Graziano, Jamison Hensley and me -- had at various times ranked teams from our divisions higher than the other voters had ranked them. Those gaps have closed or disappeared.
Graziano ranked NFC East teams 11.25 on average, same as Ashley Fox ranked them. Hensley ranked AFC North teams lower on average than three other panelists ranked them. I ranked NFC West teams at 10.25 on average. Clayton had them at 10.5. Hensley, who forecast the Cardinals as NFC West champs in his preseason predictions, had NFC West teams at 10.75 on average.
A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least six spots since last week:
Sando: Cowboys (-7), Seahawks (-6), Dolphins (+6), Vikings (+9).
Clayton: Jets (-6), Bengals (+6), Chargers (+6), Vikings (+15).
Hensley: Cowboys (-6), Seahawks (-6), Vikings (+6), Rams (+6), Redskins (+10).
Fox: Giants (-8), Seahawks (-8), Rams (+6), Redskins (+6), Vikings (+9).
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, Baltimore outranks Philadelphia even though the Eagles defeated the Ravens.
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.