- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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The top eight teams in ESPN's previous NFL Power Rankings combined to go 6-0 in Week 8.
That helps explain why the top five remained the same for the first time since Weeks 4-5. The Atlanta Falcons (7-0), New York Giants (6-2), Houston Texans (6-1), San Francisco 49ers (6-2) and Chicago Bears (6-1) are a combined 31-6.
The road ahead is tougher for some than for others.
The Falcons' remaining opponents have won at a .415 rate so far this season. That gives Atlanta the NFL's fourth-easiest schedule the rest of the way, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Chicago has the fifth-toughest remaining schedule (.586). The others fall in between: Giants (.552, eighth-toughest), Texans (.515, 13th) and 49ers (.508, 14th).
And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:
Falling (13): New Orleans Saints (-6), Philadelphia Eagles (-5), San Diego Chargers (-3), Minnesota Vikings (-2), Seattle Seahawks (-2), Arizona Cardinals (-2), St. Louis Rams (-2), Tennessee Titans (-2), Baltimore Ravens (-1), Washington Redskins (-1), New York Jets (-1), Buffalo Bills (-1), Carolina Panthers (-1).
Rising (9): Indianapolis Colts (+8), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+5), Miami Dolphins (+4), Oakland Raiders (+4), Denver Broncos (+3), Detroit Lions (+2), Green Bay Packers (+1), Dallas Cowboys (+1), Cleveland Browns (+1).
Unchanged (10): Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs.
Deadlocked: We broke three ties this week. New England beat out Denver at No. 8 based on the first tiebreaker, head-to-head results this season. Indianapolis prevailed over Arizona at No. 15 based on the second tiebreaker, better record. Detroit edged Philadelphia at No. 17 based on head-to-head results.
Like minds: All five voters had the Falcons first and the Chiefs last.
Agree to disagree: Nine votes separated highest and lowest votes for the Redskins. That was the largest disparity for any team.
A look at all teams generating high-low gaps of at least seven spots in the rankings:
Redskins (9): Dan Graziano 14th, Sando 23rd.
Cowboys (8): Graziano 12th, Jamison Hensley 20th.
Colts (8): Ashley Fox 13th, John Clayton 21st.
Lions (8): Sando 14th, Fox 22nd.
Chargers (7): Fox 15th, Graziano and Hensley 22nd.
Buccaneers (7): Hensley 16th, Fox 23rd.
Rams (7): Hensley and Fox 21st, 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 improved from 10.2 to 9.9 in average ranking, widening the gap between the top two divisions. NFC East teams remained second despite falling from 11.9 to 13.4 on average. The NFC West continued its tumble after posting a 1-3 record for the third week in a row. Teams from that division fell from 12.8 to 14.5. That was good enough to hold on to third place among divisions. Also: AFC North (17.0), AFC East (18.3), AFC South (18.9) and AFC West (21.1).
A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
Sando: Cardinals (-5), Raiders (+6), Colts (+9).
Clayton: Saints (-5), Rams (-5), Broncos (+6).
Graziano: Eagles (-8), Colts (+5), Dolphins (+5).
Hensley: Saints (-6), Chargers (-5), Colts (+5), Buccaneers (+8), Lions (+9).
Fox: Saints (-6), Broncos (+9), Colts (+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, Green Bay ranks lower than Chicago and Houston despite having defeated both teams.
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.