The Houston Texans might have only themselves to blame for falling one spot in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 8.
They might have defeated the Baltimore Ravens too convincingly, silly as it sounds.
The idle Atlanta Falcons naturally remained No. 1 as the lone undefeated team.
The Texans and New York Giants had been tied at No. 2 last week. Houston had prevailed for the second spot on a tiebreaker. But with the Texans trouncing Baltimore 43-13, the Ravens fell hard -- clearing the way for the Giants to make significant gains on two of our voters' ballots.
Those gains left the Giants with a slightly higher average ranking than the Texans, 2.4 to 2.6. Houston, you see, had been ranked third across the board. The Texans had less room for improvement, particularly with the Giants also winning Sunday.
Three of our five voters -- Dan Graziano, Ashley Fox and me -- already had the Giants second a week ago. The other two voters had them only fifth (John Clayton) and fourth (Jamison Hensley).
The Texans won big, and the Giants won narrowly.
Graziano, Fox and I left the Giants at No. 2.
Clayton and Hensley moved the Giants up to third, and both left the Texans second on their ballots.
I wondered what might have happened if Houston had, say, survived an overtime thriller against the Ravens, with both teams looking good. Clayton and Hensley could have justified ranking the Ravens third and Giants fourth while leaving the Falcons and Texans as their top two teams. I do not know whether they would have done this, but it would have been defensible.
Had that happened, the Texans would have edged the Giants for second in the rankings. But because the Texans dominated the Ravens so thoroughly, it left no doubt that the Giants should be ranked higher than Baltimore should be ranked -- at the expense of Houston in the rankings.
And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:
Falling (13): Tampa Bay Bucs (-4), Arizona Cardinals (-3), Washington Redskins (-3), Baltimore Ravens (-2), Seattle Seahawks (-2), Buffalo Bills (-2), Houston Texans (-1), New England Patriots (-1), San Diego Chargers (-1), St. Louis Rams (-1), Cincinnati Bengals (-1), New York Jets (-1), Carolina Panthers (-1).
Rising (12): Pittsburgh Steelers (+4), New Orleans Saints (+4), Dallas Cowboys (+3), Indianapolis Colts (+3), Tennessee Titans (+2), New York Giants (+1), San Francisco 49ers (+1), Chicago Bears (+1), Green Bay Packers (+1), Minnesota Vikings (+1), Miami Dolphins (+1), Oakland Raiders (+1).
Deadlocked: We broke two ties this week. Baltimore prevailed over Green Bay at No. 6 on the second tiebreaker (better record). Jacksonville prevailed over Kansas City at No. 31 on the fourth and final tiebreaker (previous ranking). The tiebreakers are, in order, head-to-head results this season, overall record this season, which team won a game most recently and previous ranking.
Like minds: All five voters ranked the Falcons first. Only one spot separated highest and lowest votes for the Giants, Texans, 49ers, Bears, Ravens, and Panthers.
Agree to disagree: Ten spots separated highest and lowest votes for the Broncos. That was the largest disparity.
A look at all teams generating high-low disparities of at least seven spots in the rankings:
Broncos (10): Sando ranked them eighth, higher than any other voter ranked them. Fox ranked them 18th, lower than any other voter ranked them.
Chargers (9): Fox 11th, Graziano 20th.
Lions (9): Sando, Clayton and Graziano 17th, Fox and Hensley 26th.
Cardinals (7): Hensley 10th, Fox 17th.
Redskins (7): Graziano and Fox 14th, Sando 21st.
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 have a 10.2 ranking on average, best in the league. The NFC East (11.9) overtook the NFC West (12.8) for the second spot, followed by the AFC North (17.5), AFC East (18.7), NFC South (18.9), AFC South (20.1) and AFC West (22.0).
Graziano moved the Vikings up nine spots, an unusually large one-week change, particularly for him. I fired off an email to him, expecting to elicit some sort of strong response.
"Boring answer," he replied, "but I felt I'd been underrating them, and decided to make a correction. Still not sold on the QB, but I think their accomplishments warrant more respect than I'd been offering to this point."
A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
Sando: Cowboys (+5).
Clayton: Buccaneers (-6), Packers (+5), Saints (+6).
Graziano: Vikings (+9).
Hensley: Ravens (-5), Saints (+6).
Fox: Cardinals (-6), Lions (-5), Steelers (+5), Colts (+6).
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.