- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Their reward: a fall from third to fourth in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 13.
What in the name of Sean Payton's torn MCL is going on here? The answer is pretty simple, actually. Baltimore's victory over San Francisco on Thanksgiving moved the Ravens past the Saints and 49ers for the second spot in the rankings. That forced the Saints down a notch even though they won impressively.
"This wasn’t an indictment of the Saints by any means," voter James Walker said. "It was more about the big win for Baltimore. No question, the Ravens deserved the jump after beating the 49ers. I considered keeping New Orleans at No. 3, but the 49ers are 9-2 and represented themselves pretty well in a loss."
The Saints remained third on Paul Kuharsky's ballot and fourth on mine.
Walker and John Clayton moved up the Ravens from fourth to second on their ballots, keeping the 49ers above the Saints. Ashley Fox took a similar approach, but she also moved up Pittsburgh one spot to fourth. That meant the Saints fell two spots on her ballot, from third to fifth. Kuharsky moved up the Ravens five spots to No. 2; he was the only one to drop the 49ers two places.
Voters delivered on promises to knock down San Francisco on their ballots if the 49ers failed to win at Baltimore on Thanksgiving. The fall was not a wholesale repudiation of the 49ers, however. Far from it. San Francisco dropped only one spot to No. 3 in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 13.
That is as low as the 49ers figure to fall for the next couple weeks, anyway. They're home against St. Louis this week with a chance to clinch the NFC West title. They visit Arizona the next week before returning home for a Monday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 19.
The rankings remained relatively stable this week. The Chicago Bears were our biggest fallers, dropping five spots. No team climbed more than four places.
A closer look at the rankings heading into Week 13 ...
Rising (10): Oakland Raiders (+4), Baltimore Ravens (+3), Washington Redskins (+3), Arizona Cardinals (+2), Atlanta Falcons (+2), Carolina Panthers (+2), Dallas Cowboys (+1), Denver Broncos (+1), Houston Texans (+1), Kansas City Chiefs (+1).
Falling (13): Chicago Bears (-5), Cleveland Browns (-3), New York Giants (-2), Detroit Lions (-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (-1), Miami Dolphins (-1), Minnesota Vikings (-1), New Orleans Saints (-1), Pittsburgh Steelers (-1), San Diego Chargers (-1), San Francisco 49ers (-1), Seattle Seahawks (-1), Tennessee Titans (-1).
Deadlocked: We broke two ties this week. Dallas prevailed over Atlanta at No. 8 based on the final tiebreaker, previous ranking. Washington edged Seattle at No. 23 based on the first tiebreaker head-to-head results.
Like minds: All five voters ranked the Packers first, Ravens second, Patriots sixth and Colts last. Four voters agreed on where to rank the Steelers, Chargers and Rams.
Agree to disagree: The Cardinals produced the largest disparity between highest and lowest votes. A look at the teams producing disparities of at least six spots:
Cardinals (7): Fox 19th, Sando and Walker 26th.
Bucs (6): Walker 19th, Sando 25th.
Redskins (6): Sando 20th, Kuharsky and Fox 26th.
Seahawks (6): Sando and Fox 21st, Kuharsky 27th.
Dolphins (6): Sando and Kuharsky 22nd, Clayton 28th.
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 North retained their status as the highest-ranked by division on average, well ahead of teams from the NFC North (11.2 to 13.5 average rankings). The AFC South was again last.
I moved up the Bills five spots even though they lost. That had less to do with the Bills than it had to do with the unimpressive teams ranked in the same general area. Too many teams deserved to move down. The Bills, with five victories, appealed by comparison.
A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
Sando: Bucs (-7), Giants (-5), Bills (+5).
Clayton: Raiders (+5).
Kuharsky: Bears (-6), Ravens (+5), Dolphins (+5).
Walker: Giants (-5).
Fox: Lions (-5), Bucs (-5), Texans (+5), Cardinals (+8).
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.
This week, none of the teams ranked among the top six has defeated a higher-ranked team. Buffalo and Miami are the only teams with more than two victories over teams currently ranked higher. Each has three.
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.