- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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They opened the regular season at No. 10 and spent the past three weeks at No. 2 behind the Houston Texans.
How good are the Falcons? They could be a lot better, actually.
"Despite their lofty record, the Falcons definitely aren't the best team in the NFL," NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas wrote. "They're not even the best team in the NFC at the moment. I’m not sure which team is the best in the NFL or the NFC, but it's not the Falcons. At least not yet."
The Falcons were a consensus No. 1 choice among our five Power Rankings voters because they're unbeaten and because someone has to fill the top spot.
Houston is the only team to spend more than one week as our No. 1 team since the regular season began. The Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers were one-week wonders. The Falcons have a bye, so they'll remain unbeaten a week from now.
The New York Giants have won four of five and jumped four spots to No. 3 after their 26-3 victory at San Francisco. They've got division games over the next two weeks, however, and those can be unpredictable. The Giants are 0-2 in the NFC East so far.
And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:
Falling (14): Cincinnati Bengals (-6), Dallas Cowboys (-5), Indianapolis Colts (-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (-4), Arizona Cardinals (-2), Carolina Panthers (-2), Kansas City Chiefs (-2), Minnesota Vikings (-2), New England Patriots (-2), Philadelphia Eagles (-2), San Diego Chargers (-2), San Francisco 49ers (-2), St. Louis Rams (-2), Houston Texans (-1).
Rising (13): Seattle Seahawks (+7), Washington Redskins (+6), Denver Broncos (+5), Green Bay Packers (+4), New York Giants (+4), Buffalo Bills (+2), Cleveland Browns (+2), Miami Dolphins (+2), New York Jets (+2), Atlanta Falcons (+1), Detroit Lions (+1), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1), Tennessee Titans (+1).
Deadlocked: We broke three ties this week. Houston prevailed over the Giants at No. 2 based on the second tiebreaker (overall record). Minnesota prevailed over Arizona for the 10th spot based on the third tiebreaker (which team won a game most recently). Jacksonville beat out Kansas City for the No. 31 spot based on the second tiebreaker. Head-to-head results is the first tiebreaker.
Like minds: All five voters ranked the Falcons first and the Texans third.
Agree to disagree: Six teams generated gaps of at least eight spots between highest and lowest votes. Detroit was the most divisive team for a second week in a row.
A look at all teams generating high-low disparities of at least eight spots in the rankings:
Lions (11): Dan Graziano ranked them 14th, higher than any other voter ranked them. Jamison Hensley ranked them 25th, lower than any other voter ranked them.
Redskins (10): Graziano 12th, John Clayton 22nd.
Seahawks (9): Sando and Ashley Fox seventh, Graziano 16th.
Vikings (9): Clayton eighth, Graziano 17th.
Cowboys (8): Graziano 13th, Sando 21st.
Saints (8): Graziano 20th, Clayton 28th.
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 North ranked 10.9 on average, overtaking teams from the NFC West (11.6) to become the highest-ranked division on average. The NFC East was third (12.3), followed by the AFC North (16.8), NFC South (18.3), AFC East (18.4), AFC South (21.5) and AFC West (22.3).
A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least six spots since last week:
Clayton: Bengals (-6), Giants (+9).
Graziano: Redskins (+6).
Hensley: Bengals (-8), Dolphins (+6), Seahawks (+6), Broncos (+7), Redskins (+8).
Fox: Steelers (-9), Cowboys (-8), Colts (-7), Redskins (+6), Seahawks (+11).
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.
The undefeated Atlanta Falcons stand atop ESPN's NFL Power Rankings for the first time since a four-week run in 2010.They opened the regular season at No.