- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Quarterback trouble marked the comeback victory Orlovsky led for Indianapolis against Houston, and the shutout Clemens' Rams suffered in Pittsburgh. All four teams in those games played without their starting quarterbacks. This is how things went down at the bottom.
The Colts' victory and the Rams' defeat did more than flip ESPN's Power Rankings at the bottom. Those outcomes also gave the Rams a chance to secure the No. 1 overall choice in the 2012 draft. One more Colts victory, this one against Jacksonville in Week 17, would make it happen if the Rams lost at home to San Francisco.
Our rankings remained unchanged near the top. The teams ranked first through sixth are the same. The playoff-bound Detroit Lions moved up two spots to No. 7.
And now, a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 17:
Falling (12): San Diego Chargers (-5), New York Jets (-4), Arizona Cardinals (-3), Seattle Seahawks (-3), Denver Broncos (-2), Houston Texans (-2), Chicago Bears (-1), Dallas Cowboys (-1), Kansas City Chiefs (-1), Miami Dolphins (-1), St. Louis Rams (-1), Washington Redskins (-1).
Rising (9): Oakland Raiders (+5), Tennessee Titans (+5), New York Giants (+4), Carolina Panthers (+3), Cincinnati Bengals (+3), Detroit Lions (+2), Buffalo Bills (+1), Indianapolis Colts (+1), Philadelphia Eagles (+1).
Unchanged (11): Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Deadlocked: We broke one tie this week. The Titans prevailed over the Jets on the third tiebreaker (which team won a game most recently). Head-to-head and overall record did not break the tie initially.
Like minds: All five voters ranked the Packers first and the Saints second. Voters varied by one spot across their ballots in votes for six teams (Ravens 4-5, Lions 7-8, Texans 8-9, Browns 28-29, Colts 31-32 and Rams 31-32).
Agree to disagree: The Eagles continued to produce the biggest disagreement as voters reconciled recently improved play with season-long struggles.
A look at the five teams generating high-low disparities of at least five spots in the rankings:
Eagles (7): James Walker ranked them 13th, higher than any other voter ranked them. John Clayton ranked them 20th, lower than any voter ranked them.
Panthers (6): Paul Kuharsky 19th, Walker 25th.
Seahawks (6): Sando 14th, Kuharsky 20th.
Cardinals (5): Fox 17th, Kuharsky 22nd.
Jets (5): Fox 14th, Sando 19th.
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 widened their lead over teams from the NFC North for highest-ranked division on average. AFC North teams climbed from 13.0 to 12.2 in average ranking. NFC North teams improved from 15.1 to 14.9 on average. NFC West teams slipped back one spot to No. 7 with an 18.0 average ranking, still ahead of the 20.9 for teams from the AFC South.
A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
Sando: Chargers (-6), Cardinals (-5), Bengals (+5), Giants (+5).
Clayton: Chargers (-5).
Kuharsky: Raiders (+5).
Walker: Chargers (-6), Titans (+5), Raiders (+6).
Fox: Giants (+6).
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.
Chicago and Buffalo have each defeated a league-high five teams currently ranked higher than them in the rankings. Tenth-ranked Cincinnati is the lowest-ranked team without a victory over a team ranked higher.
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.