- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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AFC teams claimed the top five spots in ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings through Week 6.
The Arizona Cardinals enjoyed the largest gain in the rankings from last week, and they didn't even play.
The New Orleans Saints edged division-rival Atlanta for the No. 6 spot, tops among NFC teams, even though 1) the Falcons won at the Superdome this season and 2) John Clayton ranked the Saints way down at No. 11 on his ballot.
There's much to debate, in other words.
The four panelists -- me, Clayton, Paul Kuharsky and James Walker -- did have the top five teams ranked eighth or higher on our ballots. We were unanimous in ranking the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills at the bottom even though these bottom feeders could have competition soon (Buffalo, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Carolina and San Francisco are a combined 4-29).
I upgraded the Seattle Seahawks 10 spots on my ballot after watching Marshawn Lynch and Russell Okung redefine their offense, at least for a week. And that's the hard part; the NFL is a week-to-week proposition for so many teams, just as the league wants things to be.
Let's dig deeper inside the rankings heading into Week 7 ...
Rising (15): The Cardinals rose six spots without playing, the largest gain from last week. The St. Louis Rams rose five spots. The Houston Texans, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Seahawks and Tennessee Titans each rose four places. The Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Saints and San Francisco 49ers rose three spots each. The Cincinnati Bengals rose two. The Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets each climbed one spot.
Falling (13): The Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys each fell seven places, tying for the largest drop from last week. The Chicago Bears fell five spots. The Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons each fell three spots. The Baltimore Ravens fell two. The Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns each fell one place.
Deadlocked: We broke three ties this week. Denver edged Seattle for the 22nd spot and San Francisco edged Oakland for the 27th spot based on the first tiebreaker (head-to-head). Jacksonville edged Dallas for the 25th spot based on the second tiebreaker (overall record).
Like minds: All four voters had the Panthers 31st and the Bills 32nd. Sando, Clayton and Kuharsky had the Patriots third and the Ravens fourth. Three had the Steelers first. Three had the Jets second. Three had the Redskins 13th. Three had the Broncos 20th. Three had the Browns 30th.
Agree to disagree: The Jaguars generated the largest gap between high and low votes. Six other teams produced disparities of at least six places:
Jaguars (8): Clayton had them 18th, higher than any voter ranked them. Sando and Kuharsky had them 26th, lower than any other voter ranked them.
Saints (7): Walker fourth, Clayton 11th.
Seahawks (7): Sando 18th, Kuharsky 25th.
Chargers (7): Kuharsky 18th, Sando and Clayton 25th.
Giants (6): Clayton eighth, Kuharsky 14th.
Bengals (6): Kuharsky 17th, Sando and Walker 23rd.
Broncos (6): Three panelists 20th, Walker 26th.
Power rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.
Ranking the divisions: The AFC South, displaced by the AFC North two weeks ago as the highest-ranked division on average, held the top spot. 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 more than five spots since last week:
Sando: Cowboys (-9), Bears (-7), Packers (-7), Texans (+6), Rams (+6), Seahawks (+10)
Clayton: Packers (-6), Redskins (-6), Eagles (+6)
Kuharsky: Cowboys (-6), Packers (-6), Patriots (+6)
Walker: Jaguars (-10), Chargers (-8), Dolphins (+7), Rams (+10)
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.
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.
AFC teams claimed the top five spots in ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings through Week 6.The Arizona Cardinals enjoyed the largest gain in the rankings from last week, and they didn't even play.