- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Twelve of the top 13 teams in ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings have what those teams would consider clearly identified franchise quarterbacks. It might even be 20 of the top 21, depending on one's view.
Then there are the San Francisco 49ers.
They have a potential quarterback dilemma after Colin Kaepernick lit up the Chicago Bears on Monday night. Regular starter Alex Smith has completed 25 of his last 27 passes for 304 yards, four touchdowns and no picks over the team's past three games.
It'll be tough for the 49ers to turn their backs on that production and the 19-5-1 record Smith has posted as a regular-season starter. It'll also be tough for the 49ers to turn their backs on what Kaepernick represented Monday night, particularly with Smith still dealing with concussion symptoms.
Perhaps there's a way for the 49ers to buy another week for Kaepernick without making a clean break from Smith. A trip to New Orleans awaits.
And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:
Falling (10): Indianapolis Colts (-4), Arizona Cardinals (-3), Chicago Bears (-3), Philadelphia Eagles (-3), St. Louis Rams (-3), Detroit Lions (-2), Miami Dolphins (-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (-2), Dallas Cowboys (-1), San Diego Chargers (-1).
Rising (10): New York Jets (+4), Buffalo Bills (+3), New Orleans Saints (+3), Tampa Bay Bucs (+3), Washington Redskins (+3), Cincinnati Bengals (+2), Green Bay Packers (+2), Tennessee Titans (+2), New York Giants (+1), San Francisco 49ers (+1).
Unchanged (12): Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks.
Deadlocked: We broke no ties for the second week in a row, a rarity.
Like minds: All five voters ranked the Texans first, the Jaguars 31st and the Chiefs 32nd.
Agree to disagree: The defending Super Bowl champion Giants generated the largest gap between highest and lowest votes.
A look at all teams generating high-low gaps of at least six spots in the rankings:
Giants (8): Clayton sixth, Sando 14th.
Saints (7): Fox ninth, Clayton 16th.
Titans (7): Sando 20th, Graziano 27th.
Patriots (6): Fox fourth, Sando 10th.
Steelers (6): Sando eighth, Fox 14th.
Bills (6): Fox 22nd, Graziano 28th.
Power Rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.
Ranking the divisions: The NFC North held on to its spot as the highest-ranked division, falling only slightly from 10.3 to 10.8 as far as average ranking. The NFC South and AFC North overtook the NFC West, which had been second at 14.8 on average. Neither the Rams nor the Cardinals have won since St. Louis defeated Arizona in Week 5. Those teams are dragging down the division.
A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
Sando: Rams (-6), Redskins (+5).
Clayton: Dolphins (-7).
Hensley: Bills (+5), Bengals (+5).
Fox: Colts (-5), Steelers (-5), Jets (+5), Saints (+7).
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, the Texans outrank the Packers even though Green Bay defeated Houston.
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.