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Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Power rankings: How the voters voted

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

The New England Patriots' dominating victory over the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football" seemed about right to one of our ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings panelists.

"I've been saying for weeks the Jets were overrated and people were killing me for it," James Walker crowed. "I trust my eyes, not the hype, and New York was barely beating a lot of bad teams."

Take that, Jets fans.

But if you're a New England supporter thinking the Patriots would overtake the Atlanta Falcons for the No. 1 spot in our rankings, not so fast. The Falcons barely kept their grip on the top spot -- by the fourth and final tiebreaker, no less -- after our panel split its first-place votes between Atlanta and New England.

Walker and John Clayton kept the Falcons No. 1. Paul Kuharsky and I moved the Patriots into the top spot. I previously had the Falcons ranked there. Kuharsky previously had the Jets atop his ballot.

The first three tiebreakers -- head-to-head results, overall record and which team won most recently -- failed to help (which team won most recently calculated by the week, not by specific days or kickoff times). The fourth tiebreaker -- which team had the higher ranking last week -- gave the edge to Atlanta.

This is the fourth week atop the rankings for the Falcons since the regular season began. Most weeks ranked No. 1 since Week 1: Pittsburgh 5, Atlanta 4, New Orleans 2, Baltimore 1, New England 1 and Indianapolis 1.

And now, a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 14 ...

Rising (10 ): Jacksonville Jaguars (+4), Oakland Raiders (+4), Cleveland Browns (+3), Pittsburgh Steelers (+2), Seattle Seahawks (+2), Dallas Cowboys (+2), New Orleans Saints (+1), Green Bay Packers (+1), Kansas City Chiefs (+1), St. Louis Rams (+1).

Falling (9): Washington Redskins (-4), New York Jets (-3), San Diego Chargers (-3), Miami Dolphins (-3), Tennessee Titans (-3), Houston Texans (-2), Chicago Bears (-1), Indianapolis Colts (-1), San Francisco 49ers (-1).

Unchanged (13): Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Bucs, Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers.

Deadlocked: We broke one tie this week, for the top spot.

Like minds: All four voters had the Giants 10th, the Chiefs 11th and the Panthers 32nd. Three had the Jaguars 12th and the Bucs 13th. Three had the Eagles ninth and the Broncos 28th.

Agree to disagree: The Dolphins generated the largest disparity between highest and lowest votes. Seven other teams produced gaps of at least five spots. 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 NFC South ranked 13.0 on average, the highest average for teams from any division . 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 at least five spots since last week: For download: An Excel file -- available here -- showing how each voter voted this week and in past weeks.

The worksheet labeled "sked" shows remaining schedule strengths based on current power rankings.

A few notes gleaned from the Excel file:
The file also 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: