- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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The Green Bay Packers are reigning Super Bowl champions and the No. 1 team in ESPN.com's first NFL Power Rankings for the 2011 season.
It's looking like their parade has taken a detour around the AFC North.
James Walker, our AFC North blogger, listed the Philadelphia Eagles atop his ballot, preventing Green Bay from sweeping the top spot among voters. But the Packers still held the top spot comfortably over New England, Philadelphia, New Orleans and AFC champion Pittsburgh.
"I voted for who I thought was the best team in August and September, not the best team from last February," Walker explained. "The Eagles landed a game-changer in Nnamdi Asomugha. They also added great pickups in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Ronnie Brown and Vince Young. Talent-wise, Philadelphia surpassed Green Bay. Plus, Super Bowl champions rarely repeat."
The Eagles were major players in free agency and in our rankings.
By signing cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha away from Oakland, Philadelphia contributed to the Raiders' slide from 15th to 23rd since our final 2010 regular-season rankings, the largest fall for any team. And by trading quarterback Kevin Kolb to Arizona, the Eagles helped the Cardinals climb seven spots to No. 21. Only the Packers improved more in the rankings.
We welcomed a new panelist, Ashley Fox, to the process this year. The chart shows how our panelists -- me, John Clayton, Paul Kuharsky, James Walker and Fox -- voted for the teams that ranked one through 10. We'll run an expanded chart once the rankings begin running weekly during the season.
And now, a look inside our first power rankings for the 2011 NFL season ...
Rising (15): Green Bay Packers (+8), Arizona Cardinals (+7), Detroit Lions (+6), Houston Texans (+4), Philadelphia Eagles (+4), San Diego Chargers (+4), Carolina Panthers (+2), Dallas Cowboys (+2), Denver Broncos (+2), Indianapolis Colts (+2), St. Louis Rams (+2), New Orleans Saints (+1), New York Giants (+1), New York Jets (+1), Tampa Bay Bucs (+1).
Falling (15): Oakland Raiders (-8), Chicago Bears (-7), Jacksonville Jaguars (-6), Baltimore Ravens (-5), Atlanta Falcons (-4), Kansas City Chiefs (-3), Washington Redskins (-3), Miami Dolphins (-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (-2), Buffalo Bills (-1), Cincinnati Bengals (-1), Cleveland Browns (-1), Minnesota Vikings (-1), New England Patriots (-1) and San Francisco 49ers (-1).
Unchanged (2): Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans.
Deadlocked: We broke one tie. Miami prevailed over Minnesota on the first tiebreaker, head-to-head results (last season, in this case).
Like minds: Five of six panelists voted the Packers first. One spot separated highest and lowest votes for the Packers, Patriots and Bengals.
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 averaged a 13.4 ranking, highest on average among divisions. The chart below shows how each voter ranked each division on average. Highest votes in red. Lowest votes in blue.