- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The New Orleans Saints are No. 1 in ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings for the first time, rising one spot to overtake the Colts.
Both teams remain unbeaten heading into Week 9.
I moved the Saints past the Colts on my ballot and that was enough to swing the voting at the top. Colleague John Clayton left Indianapolis in the top spot and the Colts are certainly qualified. I just felt as though the Saints' recent victories against superior competition made them more deserving this week, particularly after the Colts struggled to beat a 49ers team that broke in a new quarterback and lost its left tackle on the first play.
At the bottom, Tampa Bay became a unanimous choice at No. 32 after the Rams won for the first time this season. St. Louis ranked as high as 29th on one ballot.
The chart shows my votes in column one, with votes from Clayton, Paul Kuharsky and Jeffri Chadiha thereafter.
A look inside the rankings ...
Rising: The Ravens jumped four spots to No. 10 after handing the Broncos their first defeat of the season, the largest gain from the Week 8 rankings. The Texans, Eagles and Titans each rose three spots. The Rams rose two. The Bears, Panthers, 49ers, Cowboys, Packers, Saints and Vikings each rose one spot.
Falling: The Giants plummeted seven spots to No. 15, easily the largest drop from the Week 8 rankings. They have fallen from second to fifth to eighth to 15th in recent weeks. The Lions, Cardinals and Jets each fell three places. The Bucs, Colts, Browns, Broncos, Seahawks and Dolphins each dropped one spot.
Unchanged: Rankings for the Chargers, Jaguars, Steelers, Patriots, Falcons, Redskins, Raiders, Bengals, Bills and Chiefs did not change.
Deadlocked: We broke four ties this week. The Cardinals prevailed over the Texans for the 13th spot because they beat Houston. The Jets prevailed over the 49ers for the 18th spot because they have a better overall record. The Bills prevailed over the Panthers at No. 22 because they beat Carolina. The Rams prevailed over the Browns for the 30th spot because they won more recently.
Groupthink: All four panelists voted the Bucs 32nd. Three voted the Chiefs 28th, the Raiders 27th, the Titans 26th, the Bills 22nd, the Jaguars 21st, the Cardinals 15th, the Packers 14th, the Bengals sixth, Vikings third, the Colts second and the Saints first.
Agree to disagree: The Texans generated the widest gap between highest and lowest votes -- eight spots -- following their victory over the Bills. Five other teams generated disparities of at least five spots:
Texans (8): Chadiha ranked them 10th, higher than any other voter ranked them. Clayton ranked them 18th, lower than any other voter ranked them.
Bears (6): Sando 14th, Kuharsky 20th.
Chargers (6): Sando and Chadiha 13th, Kuharsky 19th.
Ravens (5): Sando eighth, Clayton 13th.
Panthers (5): Sando 19th, Chadiha 24th.
Jets (5): Clayton 16th, Sando 21st.
Power rankings histories: Check out these colorful layered graphs showing where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.
Ranking the divisions: Teams from the AFC North overtook teams from the NFC East as the highest-rated 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 four spots since the Week 8 rankings:
Sando: Cardinals (-7), Giants (-7), Lions (-5), Jets (-4), Panthers (+5), Titans (+8)
Clayton: Giants (-7), Titans (+4)
Kuharsky: Jets (-9), Giants (-6), Cardinals (-4), Ravens (+5), Eagles (+5), Texans (+7)
Chadiha: Giants (-7), Packers (-4), Cowboys (+5)
The file includes a "powerflaws" sheet pointing out potential flaws in voters' thinking by showing how many higher-ranked opponents each team has defeated.
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.