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Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Power Rankings: How the voters voted

By Mike Sando

It was a rough week for the incumbent from Pennsylvania when ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings voters went to the polls early Tuesday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, ranked No. 1 for five consecutive weeks, dropped to third on all four ballots following their 20-10 defeat at New Orleans.

Restless voters -- me, John Clayton, Paul Kuharsky and James Walker -- produced new rankings for 31 of 32 teams. And yet the top teams generated unusual consensus.

The New England Patriots swept into the top spot with No. 1 votes on all four ballots, their first No. 1 ranking since Week 1 of the 2008 season. The Baltimore Ravens were a consensus No. 2 choice, their highest ranking since achieving No. 1 status in Weeks 3 and 4 of the 2009 season.

The New York Jets, shut out at home against Green Bay, dropped two spots to No. 4. Worse, they were unable to contest the ranking after using all their challenges on the division-rival Patriots' top billing (the Jets, after all, beat New England in Week 1).

Let's dig deeper inside the rankings heading into Week 9 ...

Rising (15): The Oakland Raiders jumped seven spots to No. 16, the largest gain from last week. The Jacksonville Jaguars moved up six spots. The Tampa Bay Bucs and New Orleans Saints rose four spots apiece. The Detroit Lions climbed three places. The San Diego Chargers, New York Giants, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens each jumped two spots. The San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts rose one spot each.

Falling (16): The Houston Texans and Washington Redskins each fell five spots, the largest drop from last week. The Minnesota Vikings fell four places. The Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks each dropped three spots. The Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans fell two places each. The Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams fell one spot each.

Unchanged (1): The Buffalo Bills' ranking did not change.

Deadlocked: We broke one tie this week. Denver prevailed over Dallas for the 28th spot on the third tiebreaker. The teams have not played head-to-head. Their overall record was the same. The third tiebreaker -- which team won most recently -- favored the Broncos. They won Oct. 3. The Cowboys last won Sept. 26. The fourth tiebreaker -- which team had the highest ranking previously -- was not needed.

Like minds: All four voters ranked the Patriots first, the Ravens second and the Steelers third. Three ranked the Jets fourth, the Colts fifth and the Bucs 14th. Three ranked the Rams 21st. All four ranked the Bills last. All four ranked the Panthers, Vikings, Bucs, Giants and Colts within a range of one place (example: Minnesota was either 23rd or 24th on every ballot).

Agree to disagree: The Titans generated the largest gap between high and low votes. Seven 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.

Ranking the divisions: The AFC South retained 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: 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: