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Friday, April 30, 2010
Power rankings: How the voters voted

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

The Steelers, Patriots and Giants topped ESPN.com's offseason power rankings 11 months ago.

The eventual champion Saints were 16th. The eventual runner-up Colts were fifth.

It was much easier picking the bottom five teams -- Detroit, St. Louis, Oakland, Kansas City and Cleveland -- than the very best ones.

Take heart, Steelers and Eagles fans. ESPN's first NFL Power Rankings for 2010 were especially hard on your teams, but it's early. Perceptions can be deceiving, particularly this far out. But if our panelists' expectations hold, the Eagles might miss the playoffs and the Steelers certainly will. Neither cracked the rankings' top 12.

The chart shows how panelists John Clayton, Jeff Chadiha, Paul Kuharsky and I ranked each team with only 132 days until the Vikings and Saints open the regular season Sept. 9.

And now, a look inside the rankings ...

Rising: The Redskins jumped a league-high six spots to No. 23 since the final power rankings last season. The Falcons rose five spots. The Ravens, Saints, Jets and 49ers each rose four spots. The Giants rose three, the Raiders two and three teams -- the Bears, Patriots and Seahawks -- rose one spot apiece.

Falling: The Steelers and Eagles each dropped six spots, more than any other team. The Bills and Cardinals fell four spots. The Broncos fell three. The Chargers, Jaguars, Browns and Bengals each dropped two. The Dolphins, Chiefs, Colts and Cowboys fell one apiece.

Unchanged: Rankings for the Panthers, Lions, Packers, Texans, Vikings, Rams, Bucs and Titans did not change.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties this time.

Groupthink: All four panelists ranked the Lions 31st and Rams 32nd, perhaps out of habit. Three of four had the Saints first, the Colts second and the Vikings third. All panelists had the Dolphins 21st or 22nd. Three of four had the Bucs 30th.

Agree to disagree: The Redskins generated by far the biggest gap -- 16 spots -- between highest and lowest votes. Eleven teams generated gaps of at least seven places: 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 South ranked highest on average, same as they did to close last season (although their average ranking fell from 13.6 to 14.3). Teams from the NFC West ranked 21.5 on average, lower than teams from any other division.

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least four spots since the final 2009 rankings: 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 last season.

A quick primer on the "powerflaws" sheet: