Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Power Rankings: How the voters voted
By Mike Sando
The Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons rank behind the division rivals they just defeated in ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings for Week 4.
But we do have a new No. 1 team.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, 3-0 without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, overtook New Orleans in the No. 1 spot thanks to first-place votes from John Clayton and Paul Kuharsky. I had them second. The delegate from the AFC North, James Walker, had them only fourth. Perhaps his view is close enough to see the warts.
I'm with James to an extent here. Yes, the power rankings take into account on-field results. But on-field results are not everything. The St. Louis Rams beat the Washington Redskins, who beat the Dallas Cowboys, who beat the Houston Texans, who beat the Indianapolis Colts. That does not make the Rams greater than the Colts or even comparable.
If the Steelers sent Charlie Batch onto a neutral site to face Drew Brees and the Saints, I'm taking New Orleans every time. I left the Saints first on my ballot because I felt as though they're better than the Steelers and close to even with the Falcons (the Steelers beat the Falcons in Week 1, clouding the picture). The Bears? They looked like the second-best team on the field Monday night even though they held on to beat the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.
Basically, I'm buying another week before deciding whether there's a team worthy of unseating the Saints.
Let's dig deeper inside the rankings heading into Week 4 ...
Rising (13): The Seattle Seahawks jumped seven places, the largest gain from Week 3. The Bears rose six spots. The Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs rose five apiece. The Steelers and Rams each climbed four spots. The Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans moved up two places apiece. The Cowboys, Colts, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers rose one place each.
Falling (16): The Redskins and Texans each fell six places, the largest drops from Week 3. The San Diego Chargers and New York Giants fell five places apiece. The Miami Dolphins dropped four. The San Francisco 49ers, Packers and Detroit Lions fell two apiece. The Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers each fell one spot.
Unchanged (3): Rankings did not change for the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills or Cleveland Browns.
Deadlocked: We broke one tie this week. The Bucs prevailed over the Redskins for the 20th spot because they have a better record (2-1 to 1-2). Tiebreakers include head-to-head results, overall record, which team won most recently and previous ranking, in that order.
Groupthink: Three of four panelists ranked the Jets eighth. Three had the Cowboys 15th. Three had the 49ers 25th. Three had the Panthers 29th. All four panelists had the Bills 31st or 32nd, the Panthers 29th or 30th and the Cowboys 15th or 16th.
Agree to disagree: The Ravens generated the largest gap between high and low votes. Kuharsky had them fourth. Clayton had them 12th. Eight other teams produced disparities of at least five places:
Power rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.
- Ravens (8): Kuharsky fourth, Clayton 12th.
- Bears (6): Clayton second, Kuharsky eighth.
- Chiefs (6): Kuharsky 11th, Clayton 17th.
- Colts (5): Walker first, Kuharsky sixth.
- Seahawks (5): Walker 18th, Kuharsky 23rd.
- Redskins (5): Clayton 19th, Sando 24th.
- Cardinals (5): Walker 20th, Clayton 25th.
- Broncos (5): Sando 19th, Clayton and Walker 24th.
- Jaguars (5): Clayton 23rd, Walker 28th.
Ranking the divisions: The AFC South was the highest-ranked division on average for a third consecutive week. 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:
For download: An Excel file -- available here -- showing how each voter voted this week and in past weeks.
- Sando: Redskins (-8), Dolphins (-6), Rams (+5), Bears (+6), Chiefs (+8)
- Clayton: Redskins (-5)
- Kuharsky: Chargers (-6), Redskins (-6), Chiefs (+6), Steelers (+8), Bears (+8)
- Walker: Redskins (-8), Chargers (-7), Seahawks (+7), Bears (+8)
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.