Sorry, NFC West fans, but it's tough to blame East Coast bias for this one.
Those unwilling to fault the Chargers can find the real culprit right here, on the AFC South blog. Paul Kuharsky moved up San Diego 11 spots on his ballot, enough to bump the Chargers past the Seahawks and Cardinals.
San Diego moved up three spots to No. 18. Arizona and Seattle, a combined 9-3 since Week 9, each fell one spot.
"It was a market adjustment," Kuharsky explained. "I probably dropped the Chargers too much last week based off the losing streak, even as they beat Jacksonville. They've played well the last two weeks and didn't deserve to be behind some of the teams I had them behind."
The Chargers do not play the Seahawks or Cardinals this season, but if they did right now, Kuharsky said he'd take San Diego on a neutral field. Voters had varied opinions on San Diego overall. James Walker (15th) and Kuharsky (16th) were on the high end. Ashley Fox and I had them down at No. 20.
The Cardinals and Seahawks weren't the only NFC West teams falling in the rankings. The San Francisco 49ers dropped three spots to No. 6 after losing at Arizona. Thus ended an eight-week stretch with the 49ers ranked between second and fourth.
New Orleans, Pittsburgh and New England moved past the 49ers, but a San Francisco victory over the Steelers in Week 15 would change perceptions once again.
And now, a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 15:
Rising (11): New York Giants (+4), Jacksonville Jaguars (+3), Philadelphia Eagles (+3), San Diego Chargers (+3), Carolina Panthers (+1), Denver Broncos (+1), Detroit Lions (+1), New England Patriots (+1), New Orleans Saints (+1), New York Jets (+1), Pittsburgh Steelers (+1).
Falling (11): Dallas Cowboys (-5), San Francisco 49ers (-3), Buffalo Bills (-2), Kansas City Chiefs (-2), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2), Arizona Cardinals (-1), Cincinnati Bengals (-1), Cleveland Browns (-1), Miami Dolphins (-1), Oakland Raiders (-1), Seattle Seahawks (-1).
Deadlocked: We broke one tie this week. The Titans prevailed over the Cowboys at No. 13 based on the third tiebreaker (which team won most recently). The first tiebreaker (head-to-head results) did not come into play. The second tiebreaker (overall record) was indecisive.
Like minds: All five voters ranked the Packers first, the Ravens second, the Rams 31st and the Colts 32nd. Four voters ranked the Saints third and the Steelers fourth.
Agree to disagree: We all knew the Raiders were likely going to lose on the road against the unbeaten Packers. John Clayton decided against penalizing the Raiders too heavily. He moved them down only one spot to No. 10.
Kuharsky dropped them from 18th to 21st, leaving an 11-spot gap between highest and lowest votes for Oakland. No team generated a wider disparity among voters.
A look at the eight teams generating disagreements of at least five spots:
Raiders (11): Clayton 10th, Kuharsky 21st.
Titans (7): Sando 10th, Fox 17th.
Redskins (7): Sando 22nd, Fox 29th.
Chargers (5): Walker 15th, Sando and Fox 20th.
Seahawks (5): Sando 17th, Kuharsky 22nd.
Bills (5): Clayton and Fox 21st, Sando 26th.
Dolphins (5): Kuharsky 20th, Sando and Clayton 25th.
Jaguars (5): Sando 23rd, Fox 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 AFC North (12.4 average) maintained the highest ranking on average, well ahead of teams from the NFC North (14.8). The AFC South was the lowest-rated division.
A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
Sando: Chiefs (-5), Eagles (+5), Jaguars (+7).
Kuharsky: Chargers (+11).
Walker: Eagles (+5).
Fox: Cowboys (-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.
None of our top six teams this week has defeated a higher-ranked team. Houston is the only top-10 team with a victory over a higher-ranked opponent. The seventh-ranked Texans defeated the fourth-ranked Steelers.
It's somewhat uncommon for more than a few teams to rank lower than three of the opponents they have defeated. The Raiders, Seahawks, Bills, Chiefs, Redskins and Browns fall into that category this week.
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.