NFC West: NFL Power Rankings

A weekly examination of the 49ers' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 3 | Last Week: 5 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The San Francisco 49ers are a Power Rankings reminder to all top teams: Losses are much more damaging than victories are rewarding.

During their five-game win streak (which included a bye week), the 49ers could only move from No. 8 to No. 5. However, after a one-point loss to Carolina, all that progress was wiped out. The 49ers are back to No. 8 again, where they were in Week 5 when they were 2-2.

I think some context is needed. It was a one-point defeat to a Carolina team that has won five straight games. It is not a devastating loss for the 49ers. They are still on track for the playoffs, although they very likely are out of the NFC West race as they trail Seattle by 2.5 games.

Still, the 49ers’ overall health is much better than a three-spot drop may indicate.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

April, 30, 2013
4/30/13
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Teams have added 254 players in the draft since ESPN's NFL Power Rankings last appeared six weeks ago. We've seen Carson Palmer join the Arizona Cardinals and Darrelle Revis join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, among other changes involving veteran players.

Our voters mostly shrugged when asked to update their ballots.

No team moved more than three spots higher (Cardinals) or three spots lower (Cleveland Browns) in the rankings when John Clayton, Dan Graziano, Jamison Hensley and Ashley Fox joined me in casting ballots.

Teams made larger moves up and down individual ballots.

Clayton and I moved up the Cardinals at least seven spots to reflect the change from Ryan Lindley and John Skelton to Palmer, plus continued improvements to the offensive line. The Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets fell several spots on some ballots.

Overall, however, there wasn't a great deal of movement. We did have our disagreements. None stood out more to me than a couple involving Graziano, our blogging brother from the NFC East. He had the Saints significantly lower and the Vikings significantly higher than our other voters ranked those teams.

Dan isn't exactly buying playoff tickets in New Orleans simply because Sean Payton is returning to the Saints' sideline.

"The Saints gave up the most yards in league history in 2012," he explained. "I just think it's a much longer way back for that defense than people give it credit for. Not sure how Payton's return turns them from one of the worst defenses in the history of the sport into a playoff-caliber one in one offseason."

Fair enough. But what about that No. 8 ranking for the Christian Ponder-led Vikings? Everyone else ranked them 17th.

"I don't understand the rush to drop a 2012 playoff team that replaced Percy Harvin with Greg Jennings and just crushed the draft," Graziano said. "Why won't they be good again?"

Harvin would be the more dynamic receiver of the two, in my view. The Vikings arguably gave up too much for the 29th pick in the draft, acquired from New England. And it's debatable, at least in my mind, whether Adrian Peterson can carry the team every week the way he did down the stretch last season.

All things to discuss as the offseason continues. First, we take a closer look at the rankings with May fast approaching:

Falling (10): Cleveland Browns (-3), Buffalo Bills (-2), Chicago Bears (-2), Dallas Cowboys (-2), Detroit Lions (-2), New Orleans Saints (-2), Carolina Panthers (-1), Indianapolis Colts (-1), New England Patriots (-1), New York Jets (-1).

Rising (11): Arizona Cardinals (+3), Kansas City Chiefs (+2), New York Giants (+2), Tampa Bay Bucs (+2), Washington Redskins (+2), Cincinnati Bengals (+1), Green Bay Packers (+1), Jacksonville Jaguars (+1), Miami Dolphins (+1), Oakland Raiders (+1), Philadelphia Eagles (+1).

Unchanged (11): Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans.

Deadlocked: We broke one tie. The Bears prevailed over the Saints at No. 13 based on previous ranking.

Like minds: One spot separated the highest and lowest votes for the Texans. Two votes separated highest and lowest votes for the Seahawks, 49ers, Packers, Patriots, Titans, Browns and Jets.

Agree to disagree: Ten spots separated highest and lowest votes for the Saints, the largest gap for any team. At least seven spots separated highest and lowest votes for five other teams. A look at the teams generating the largest high-low disparities:
  • Saints (10): Fox ranked the Saints 10th, higher than any other voter ranked them. Graziano ranked them 20th, lower than any other voter ranked them.
  • Cardinals (9): Sando and Clayton 20th, Fox 29th.
  • Vikings (9): Graziano eighth, every other voter 17th.
  • Steelers (8): Clayton 10th, Fox 18th.
  • Panthers (7): Hensley 18th, Clayton 25th.
  • Cowboys 7: Graziano 17th, Hensley 24th.
Power Rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: The NFC West remained the highest-ranked division with an 11.0 average ranking for its teams, up from 12.3 last time. Teams from the NFC North were second at 14.2, followed by the NFC South (14.6), AFC North (15.3), NFC East (17.8), AFC South (18.7), AFC West (19.4) and AFC East (21.3).

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last season:
  • Sando: Panthers (-6), Cowboys (-6), Browns (-6), Cardinals (+8).
  • Clayton: Browns (-6), Cowboys (-6), Chiefs (+5), Cardinals (+7).
  • Graziano: Bills (-9), Panthers (-6), Jets (-6), Eagles (+6), Chiefs (+8).
  • Hensley: Vikings (+5), Ravens (+6).
  • Fox: Jets (-5).

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

March, 19, 2013
3/19/13
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An NFC West team other than the one recently appearing in the Super Bowl ranks No. 1 in ESPN's first NFL Power Rankings of the 2013 offseason.

Call us suckers for the excitement of free agency and the trade market, but the Seattle Seahawks' recent aggressive moves apparently resonated with our panelists. John Clayton, AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley and I ranked Seattle atop our ballots. Ashley Fox had the Seahawks second. NFC East blogger Dan Graziano had them third.

That was enough to move the Seahawks into the No. 1 spot and just ahead of the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. The 1-2 punch helped the NFC West stand as the highest-rated division on average despite a No. 29 ranking for the Arizona Cardinals. The St. Louis Rams were 15th.

Seahawks and 49ers fans already have been going at it on the blog. The teams will ultimately settle this debate on the field. For now, here are a few reasons why I gave Seattle a slight edge on my ballot:
  • Trending: The Seahawks have been gaining on the 49ers for the past couple of years. The 49ers were already an elite team. Seattle had more room for improvement. I felt as though the Seahawks caught the 49ers late last season. Seattle did benefit from a run of late-season home games against division opponents.
  • 49ers question marks: The 49ers parted with familiar faces in Dashon Goldson, Delanie Walker, Isaac Sopoaga and Alex Smith. Losing those players isn't going to doom San Francisco. The team might improve in some cases. But there's a little more uncertainty than usual surrounding the 49ers. Throw in Justin Smith's rehabilitation from surgery and I wasn't quite ready to rank them No. 1.
  • Key additions: Percy Harvin, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril have the potential to become high-impact additions. There was risk in making the Harvin move. Will he run his course in Seattle, same as he did in Minnesota? It's a fair question, but I think the results will be positive in the beginning, at least.

And now, a closer look at the rankings one week into free agency:

Falling (15): New York Jets (-6), Washington Redskins (-5), Minnesota Vikings (-5), Buffalo Bills (-5), Dallas Cowboys (-3), Denver Broncos (-2), Atlanta Falcons (-2), Indianapolis Colts (-2), Carolina Panthers (-2), Arizona Cardinals (-2), New England Patriots (-1), San Diego Chargers (-1), Cleveland Browns (-1), Tennessee Titans (-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (-1).

Rising (13): Kansas City Chiefs (+8), New Orleans Saints (+7), Detroit Lions (+6), Seattle Seahawks (+4), Philadlephia Eagles (+3), Houston Texans (+2), Baltimore Ravens (+2), Chicago Bears (+2), San Francisco 49ers (+1), Cincinnati Bengals (+1), St. Louis Rams (+1), Pittsburgh Steelers (+1), Miami Dolphins (+1).

Unchanged (4): Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders.

Deadlocked: We broke one tie. Denver prevailed over Atlanta for the third spot. The Broncos were ranked higher in the previous poll.

Like minds: Two votes separated highest and lowest votes for Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago and Tampa Bay.

Agree to disagree: Twelve votes separated highest and lowest votes for Minnesota. Eleven votes separated highest and lowest votes for Pittsburgh. A look at the five teams generating high-low disparities of at least eight spots on our voters' ballots:
  • Vikings (12): Graziano ranked the Vikings 10th, higher than any other voter ranked them. Hensley ranked them 22nd, lower than any voter ranked them.
  • Steelers (11): Clayton 10th, Graziano 21st.
  • Redskins (9): Hensley eighth, Clayton 17th.
  • Cowboys (9): Graziano and Clayton 15th, Hensley 24th.
  • Saints (8): Fox ninth, Graziano 17th.
Power Rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: The NFC West remained the highest-ranked division with a 12.3 average ranking for its teams. That was up slightly from a 12.8 average at regular season's end. NFC South teams were second this time with a 13.9 average ranking, followed by the NFC North (14.2), AFC North (15.1), NFC East (17.4), AFC South (18.8), AFC West (20.1) and AFC East (20.5).

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last season:
  • Sando: Vikings (-8), Bills (-7), Jets (-7), Redskins (-7), Saints (+7), Chiefs (+12).
  • Clayton: Redskins (-7), Jets (-7), Vikings (-6), Broncos (-5), Colts (-5), Bills (-5), Lions (+6), Steelers (+7), Saints (+8), Chiefs (+8).
  • Graziano: none.
  • Hensley: Vikings (-10), Cowboys (-10), Bills (-6), Eagles (-6), Saints (-7), Chiefs (-7), Lions (-11).
  • Fox: Vikings (-4), Panthers (-4), Ravens (+6), Lions (+7), Saints (+9).

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

December, 24, 2012
12/24/12
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The Seattle Seahawks and the NFL won big Sunday night.

That 42-13 victory Seattle posted over the San Francisco 49ers made Green Bay a strong favorite to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoff race.

If the Packers do secure that second seed, they will have finished the season right where they likely would have finished even if replacement officials hadn't awarded a touchdown to the Seahawks' Golden Tate in that Monday night game way back in Week 3. That would have to come as a relief to the NFL, which has taken heat for its handling of the officials.

Think of it this way: The Packers are in prime position to secure that second seed and a first-round playoff bye because Seattle beat a very good team, the 49ers, legitimately.

The Seahawks, winners of four straight and six of seven, are clearly one of the NFL's best teams. They are likely going to be the fifth seed in the NFC, right where they probably would have been even had they lost that game to the Packers.

Had Seattle lost to Green Bay and had nothing else about the season changed, the Seahawks would be 9-6 with a 6-5 conference record, same as the Bears and Vikings. In that case, they would need a Week 17 victory at home over St. Louis to secure the fifth seed. Their victory over Chicago at Soldier Field would prevent the Bears from beating out Seattle under that scenario.

Nothing is set just yet. Seattle could still miraculously win the NFC West and even the No. 2 seed, but only if the Seahawks beat St. Louis, the Packers lose to Minnesota and San Francisco loses at home to Arizona. If those unlikely things happen, you can bet some will blame replacement officials more than they blame, say, a Green Bay defeat to the 49ers at Lambeau. Or the lead Green Bay blew at Indianapolis. Or the small detail of what would be a Week 17 Packers defeat to a Vikings team with Christian Ponder behind center.

The NFL could live with that, particularly amid at least some thought that the Week 3 ruling in Seattle wasn't nearly as bad as advertised.

Those were among my thoughts Monday while listing the Seahawks third on my power rankings ballot. That was higher than the other voters ranked them. I offer no apologies after watching Russell Wilson dominate while Seattle has put up 150 points over its past three games.

That disputed Seattle victory over the Packers has done the Seahawks more harm than good from a national perception standpoint. But when I see Seattle ranked sixth in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 17, I notice that the Seahawks have defeated three of the top five teams. No other team can make that claim.

With that, let's take a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 17:

Falling (11): Dallas Cowboys (-4), Houston Texans (-4), New York Giants (-3), Cleveland Browns (-2), New York Jets (-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (-2), San Francisco 49ers (-2), Tampa Bay Bucs (-2), New England Patriots (-1), Tennessee Titans (-1), Washington Redskins (-1).

Rising (14): Atlanta Falcons (+3), Carolina Panthers (+3), Minnesota Vikings (+3), San Diego Chargers (+3), Cincinnati Bengals (+2), Green Bay Packers (+2), Arizona Cardinals (+1), Baltimore Ravens (+1), Chicago Bears (+1), Denver Broncos (+1), Indianapolis Colts (+1), New Orleans Saints (+1), Seattle Seahawks (+1), St. Louis Rams (+1).

Unchanged (9): Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties this week.

Like minds: All five panelists ranked the Rams 16th. All five had the Broncos or Falcons first or second. All five had the 49ers third or fourth. All five had the Texans sixth or seventh. All five had the Vikings 12th or 13th. All five had the Chiefs 31st or 32nd.

Agree to disagree: At least five spots in the rankings separated high and low votes for two teams, an unusually low number. I ranked the Saints 14th, higher than anyone else ranked them. John Clayton had them 19th, lower than anyone else ranked them. I also had Tennessee higher than anyone at 25th, while Dan Graziano ranked them 30th.

Power Rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: The NFC West remained the highest-ranked division on average with a 12.9 average ranking. The NFC North was second at 14.2, followed by the AFC North (15.2), NFC South (15.4), NFC East (16.9), AFC East (17.9), AFC South (18.5) and AFC West (21.2).

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Cowboys (-6), Giants (-6).
  • Clayton: Texans (-5).
  • Graziano: none.
  • Hensley: Giants (-5).
  • Fox: Giants (-5).
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.

For example, the Packers, 49ers and Patriots outrank the Seahawks even though Seattle defeated all three teams. The Giants, Steelers and Titnas have each defeated a league-high four teams ranked higher than them. Those teams rank no higher than 15th, however, so there are more candidates.

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.
  • Resort 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.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
11:50
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ESPN's John Clayton raised eyebrows around here when he ranked the Atlanta Falcons atop his power rankings ballot last week.

The Falcons had just suffered a 30-20 defeat to Carolina, after all. They were looking as if they would again become playoff chumps, not potential Super Bowl champs.

The view is a little different this week after the Falcons scored a 34-0 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in Week 15. But with San Francisco knocking off previously top-ranked New England, the 49ers have assumed the No. 1 spot in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 16.

The Falcons remained stuck at No. 5 despite again getting Clayton's highest regards. Atlanta might have to prove itself in the playoffs before our other voters come around.

Jamison Hensley, Ashley Fox and I ranked the 49ers first on our ballots. Dan Graziano became the first of our voters to rank the Denver Broncos No. 1 this season. That helped the Broncos rank second overall, ahead of Houston, New England and those potentially underrated Falcons. Green Bay held firm at No. 6, and Seattle jumped three spots into the seventh slot after its second consecutive game with at least 50 points. Graziano moved Seattle up five spots, the largest jump for any team on his ballot.

Falling (12): New York Giants (-5), New England Patriots (-3), Baltimore Ravens (-3), Chicago Bears (-3), Detroit Lions (-3), Tampa Bay Bucs (-2), New York Jets (-2), Cleveland Browns (-2), Philadelphia Eagles (-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (-1), San Diego Chargers (-1), Buffalo Bills (-1).

Rising (11): Washington Redskins (+4), New Orleans Saints (+4), San Francisco 49ers (+3), Seattle Seahawks (+3), Dallas Cowboys (+3), Carolina Panthers (+3), Miami Dolphins (+2), Tennessee Titans (+2), Arizona Cardinals (+2), Cincinnati Bengals (+1), Minnesota Vikings (+1).

Unchanged (9): Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties this week.

Like minds: All five panelists ranked the Seahawks seventh and the Rams 17th.

Agree to disagree: At least five spots in the rankings separated high and low votes for eight teams. The Jets produced the widest disparity.

A look at the highest and lowest votes for the eight teams in question:
  • Jets (6): Clayton and Hensley 18th, Sando and Graziano 24th.
  • Falcons (5): Clayton first, Sando sixth.
  • Ravens (5): Clayton eighth, Fox 13th.
  • Giants (5): Fox ninth, Clayton 14th.
  • Bears (5): Clayton 10th, Fox 15th.
  • Panthers (5): Sando 20th, Fox 25th.
  • Chargers (5): Clayton 22nd, Fox 27th.
  • Titans (5): Sando 23rd, Graziano 28th.
Power Rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: The NFC West overtook the NFC North and AFC North as the highest-rated division on average. The NFC East was second, followed by the AFC North, NFC North, NFC South, AFC South, AFC East and AFC West. The AFC East and AFC South tied for sixth with an average ranking of 17.25.

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Cardinals (+5), Titans (+5), Saints (+6).
  • Clayton: Giants (-6), Lions (-5), Buccaneers (-5), Panthers (+5).
  • Graziano: Bears (-5), Seahawks (+5).
  • Hensley: Dolphins (+5).
  • Fox: none.
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.

For example, the Packers and Patriots outrank the Seahawks even though Seattle defeated both teams.

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.
  • Resort 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.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
11:50
AM ET
AFC teams hold the top three spots in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings for the first time this season.

The New England Patriots, fresh off a 42-14 victory over the Houston Texans, are back in the No. 1 spot for the first time since Week 2. They have a 1-2 record against NFC teams, but with a seven-game winning streak overall, the Patriots landed atop four of our five voters' ballots.

The NFC has been the stronger conference this season, but that might not translate to Super Bowl success if the current rankings are generally on target. Dan Graziano, Ashley Fox and I discussed the possibilities during our latest video conversation, available below. If only we could have looped in fellow voter John Clayton. He had the Atlanta Falcons atop his ballot despite their 30-20 defeat to the Carolina Panthers. That should keep the comments section buzzing.

Go easy on John, though. He had a late night at the Slayer concert.

And now, a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 15:

Falling (15): Detroit Lions (-4), New Orleans Saints (-4), Atlanta Falcons (-3), Chicago Bears (-3), Cincinnati Bengals (-3), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3), Arizona Cardinals (-2), Baltimore Ravens (-2), Houston Texans (-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (-2), Tennessee Titans (-2), Buffalo Bills (-1), Kansas City Chiefs (-1), Miami Dolphins (-1), Oakland Raiders (-1).

Rising (15): Cleveland Browns (+4), Dallas Cowboys (+3), Denver Broncos (+3), New York Giants (+3), New York Jets (+3), Philadelphia Eagles (+3), Carolina Panthers (+2), New England Patriots (+2), San Diego Chargers (+2), Seattle Seahawks (+2), St. Louis Rams (+2), Washington Redskins (+2), Green Bay Packers (+1), Jacksonville Jaguars (+1), Minnesota Vikings (+1).

Unchanged (2): San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts. Apologies to Jim Harbaugh here. The 49ers' head coach likes to say you're either getting better or you're getting worse, and that you never stay the same. His current team and one of his former ones were the only teams unchanged from last week.

Deadlocked: We broke two ties this week. Miami prevailed over New Orleans at No. 21. Philadelphia prevailed over Tennessee at No. 27. Our third tiebreaker came into play in both cases. The tiebreakers, in order, are head-to-head results this season, overall record this season, which team won a game most recently and previous ranking.

Like minds: None of our five panelists -- Clayton, Graziano, Fox, Jamison Hensley or me -- ranked the same team in the same slot across the board. Our rankings for the Patriots, Texans, Cowboys, Eagles and Chiefs differed by only one slot.

Agree to disagree: Seven spots separated highest and lowest votes for Carolina after the Panthers defeated the Falcons.

A look at all teams generating high-low gaps of at least six spots in the rankings:
  • Panthers (7): Sando ranked them 21st. Clayton ranked them 28th.
  • Browns (6): Sando and Graziano 19th, Clayton 25th.
  • Dolphins (6): Clayton 19th, Hensley 25th.
  • Bills (6): Fox 20th, Clayton and Graziano 26th.
  • Titans (6): Clayton 24th, Graziano 30th.
Power Rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: The NFC North took back from the AFC North its standing as the highest-rated division on average. The NFC West remained third. The NFC East moved up from seventh to fourth. The AFC East was fifth, followed by the NFC South, AFC South and AFC West.

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Lions (-5), Saints (-5), Panthers (+5), Eagles (+5).
  • Clayton: Rams (+7), Giants (+5).
  • Graziano: Buccaneers (-5).
  • Hensley: Dolphins (-5), Panthers (+5), Chargers (+5).
  • Fox: Giants (+5).
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.

For example, the Packers and Patriots outrank the Seahawks even though Seattle defeated both teams. The 49ers and Packers outrank the Giants even though New York defeated both. The Steelers, Dolphins, Eagles, Titans and Cardinals each has defeated four higher-ranked teams.

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.
  • Resort 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.
video

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

December, 4, 2012
12/04/12
12:00
PM ET
The Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles are riding eight-game losing streaks 16 months after making the Kevin Kolb trade.

Those losing streaks were enough for me to list them 31st and 32nd, respectively, on my ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings ballot heading into Week 14.

Both teams are on the road this week -- Arizona at Seattle, Philadelphia at Tampa Bay -- against opponents blessed with hot quarterbacks and fighting for playoff spots.

Life might get tougher before it gets easier for these trading partners. Some of the teams near the top of our rankings have it rough, too.

The top-ranked Houston Texans visit the third-ranked New England Patriots in the "Monday Night Football" matchup for Week 14. Sixth-ranked Baltimore visits Washington, which has won three in a row.

Our two highest-ranked teams, Houston and Atlanta, sit atop their conference's playoff seeding charts. Third-ranked New England and fourth-ranked San Francisco are second seeds. There's some disagreement over where the Ravens and San Francisco 49ers should stand. Ashley Fox and I discussed our thinking on those teams in this week's video.

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

Falling (12): New Orleans Saints (-3), San Diego Chargers (-3), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3), Arizona Cardinals (-2), Baltimore Ravens (-2), Chicago Bears (-2), Miami Dolphins (-2), New York Giants (-2), Detroit Lions (-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (-1), Minnesota Vikings (-1), San Francisco 49ers (-1).

Rising (13): Cleveland Browns (+3), Dallas Cowboys (+3), Washington Redskins (+3), Denver Broncos (+2), Green Bay Packers (+2), New England Patriots (+2), St. Louis Rams (+2), Buffalo Bills (+1), Indianapolis Colts (+1), Kansas City Chiefs (+1), New York Jets (+1), Pittsburgh Steelers (+1), Seattle Seahawks (+1).

Unchanged (7): Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties this week.

Like minds: All five voters ranked the Texans first and the Patriots third.

Agree to disagree: The Rams, Titans and Seahawks generated the largest disparities between highest and lowest votes.

A look at all teams generating high-low gaps of at least six spots in the rankings:
  • Rams (9): Jamison Hensley 16th, John Clayton 25th.
  • Titans (8): Clayton 22nd, Dan Graziano 30th.
  • Seahawks (7): Sando eighth, Graziano 15th.
  • Chargers (6): Clayton 21st, Fox 27th.
  • Browns (6): Graziano 22nd, Clayton 28th.
  • Cardinals (6): Hensley 25th, Sando 31st.
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 North overtook the NFC North as the highest-rated division on average. The NFC West was third, followed by the NFC South, AFC South, AFC East, NFC East and AFC West.

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Cardinals (-5), Saints (-5), Browns (+6).
  • Clayton: Giants (-5).
  • Graziano: none.
  • Hensley: Browns (+5).
  • Fox: Chargers (-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.

For example, the Texans outrank the Packers even though Green Bay defeated Houston.

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.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
12:00
PM ET

The mission is clear for the reigning No. 1 team in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings: Keep quarterback Matt Schaub healthy at all costs.

The Texans lost Schaub late last season and had no chance to advance through the playoffs as a result. With Schaub healthy, the Texans stand atop our rankings for a third consecutive week. They're certainly deserving at 10-1.

Despite all this, I broke from the pack in moving San Francisco atop my ballot.

The 49ers have defeated the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints by double digits in consecutive weeks. And they've done it with a backup quarterback who might be better than the one they used while posting a 19-5-1 record since 2011. That makes the 49ers what the Saints' Drew Brees called one of the most complete teams -- and a team different from every other contending team in the NFL.

The 49ers play three of their next four on the road, including a date with New England in Week 15. The Texans visit the Patriots in Week 14. The Patriots moved up from eighth to fifth in our rankings this week. They're going to have much to say about how the rankings shake out in the weeks ahead.

And now, a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 13:

Falling (13): Green Bay Packers (-5), Dallas Cowboys (-3), Philadelphia Eagles (-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (-3), Tennessee Titans (-3), Minnesota Vikings (-2), New Orleans Saints (-2), Tampa Bay Bucs (-2), Detroit Lions (-1), New York Jets (-1), Oakland Raiders (-1), San Diego Chargers (-1), Seattle Seahawks (-1).

Rising (10): Cincinnati Bengals (+6), Indianapolis Colts (+5), St. Louis Rams (+5), Cleveland Browns (+3), New England Patriots (+3), Miami Dolphins (+2), Baltimore Ravens (+1), Carolina Panthers (+1), New York Giants (+1), Washington Redskins (+1).

Unchanged (9): Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers.

Deadlocked: We broke two ties this week. Atlanta prevailed over San Francisco based on better record, our second tiebreaker. Chicago prevailed over Denver based on previous ranking, our fourth and final tiebreaker. Head-to-head results is the No. 1 tiebreaker. Which team won a game most recently is our third tiebreaker.

Like minds: All five voters ranked the Packers ninth and the Chiefs 32nd. One spot separated high and low votes for the Texans, Falcons, Giants, Colts, Bengals, Dolphins and Cowboys.

Agree to disagree: The Titans and Seahawks generated the largest disparities between highest and lowest votes.

A look at all teams generating high-low gaps of at least six spots in the rankings:
  • Titans (8): Clayton 22nd, Graziano 30th.
  • Seahawks (7): Sando 10th, Graziano 17th.
  • Browns (6): Graziano 23rd, Sando 29th.
  • Bills (6): Fox 22nd, Graziano 28th.
  • Steelers (6): Hensley 11th, Fox 17th.
Power Rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: The NFC North held onto its spot as the highest-ranked division, falling from 10.3 to 12.7 in average ranking. The AFC North and NFC South were next, followed by the NFC West, AFC South, AFC East, NFC East and AFC West.

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Steelers (-7), Packers (-6), Titans (-5), Bengals (+5), Giants (+6).
  • Clayton: Dolphins (+5), Bengals (+6).
  • Graziano: Packers (-5), Colts (+5), Patriots (+5), Bengals (+7).
  • Hensley: Packers (-5), Colts (+5), Rams (+6).
  • Fox: Saints (-6), Bengals (+5), Colts (+5).
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.

For example, the Texans outrank the Packers even though Green Bay defeated Houston.

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.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

November, 20, 2012
11/20/12
11:43
AM ET

Twelve of the top 13 teams in ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings have what those teams would consider clearly identified franchise quarterbacks. It might even be 20 of the top 21, depending on one's view.

Then there are the San Francisco 49ers.

They have a potential quarterback dilemma after Colin Kaepernick lit up the Chicago Bears on Monday night. Regular starter Alex Smith has completed 25 of his last 27 passes for 304 yards, four touchdowns and no picks over the team's past three games.

It'll be tough for the 49ers to turn their backs on that production and the 19-5-1 record Smith has posted as a regular-season starter. It'll also be tough for the 49ers to turn their backs on what Kaepernick represented Monday night, particularly with Smith still dealing with concussion symptoms.

Perhaps there's a way for the 49ers to buy another week for Kaepernick without making a clean break from Smith. A trip to New Orleans awaits.

And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:

Falling (10): Indianapolis Colts (-4), Arizona Cardinals (-3), Chicago Bears (-3), Philadelphia Eagles (-3), St. Louis Rams (-3), Detroit Lions (-2), Miami Dolphins (-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (-2), Dallas Cowboys (-1), San Diego Chargers (-1).

Rising (10): New York Jets (+4), Buffalo Bills (+3), New Orleans Saints (+3), Tampa Bay Bucs (+3), Washington Redskins (+3), Cincinnati Bengals (+2), Green Bay Packers (+2), Tennessee Titans (+2), New York Giants (+1), San Francisco 49ers (+1).

Unchanged (12): Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties for the second week in a row, a rarity.

Like minds: All five voters ranked the Texans first, the Jaguars 31st and the Chiefs 32nd.

Agree to disagree: The defending Super Bowl champion Giants generated the largest gap between highest and lowest votes.

A look at all teams generating high-low gaps of at least six spots in the rankings:
  • Giants (8): Clayton sixth, Sando 14th.
  • Saints (7): Fox ninth, Clayton 16th.
  • Titans (7): Sando 20th, Graziano 27th.
  • Patriots (6): Fox fourth, Sando 10th.
  • Steelers (6): Sando eighth, Fox 14th.
  • Bills (6): Fox 22nd, Graziano 28th.
Power Rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: The NFC North held on to its spot as the highest-ranked division, falling only slightly from 10.3 to 10.8 as far as average ranking. The NFC South and AFC North overtook the NFC West, which had been second at 14.8 on average. Neither the Rams nor the Cardinals have won since St. Louis defeated Arizona in Week 5. Those teams are dragging down the division.

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Rams (-6), Redskins (+5).
  • Clayton: Dolphins (-7).
  • Graziano: none.
  • Hensley: Bills (+5), Bengals (+5).
  • Fox: Colts (-5), Steelers (-5), Jets (+5), Saints (+7).
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.

For example, the Texans outrank the Packers even though Green Bay defeated Houston.

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.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

November, 13, 2012
11/13/12
11:45
AM ET
Even good teams inexplicably have a bad game every so often.

Some teams have bad months.

The Arizona Cardinals have fallen from 4-0 to 4-5 while extending to 10 their streak of defeats in October games.

The New York Giants are 13-21 in November under coach Tom Coughlin after losing to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh the past two weeks. The Giants had gone 4-0 in October and scored at least 27 points in each of those games. They've totaled 33 points in their two-game skid this month.

The Cardinals and Giants are among the biggest losers recently, not just on the field but in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings. Arizona has fallen from fifth in Week 5 to 22nd entering Week 11. The Giants plummeted five spots from last week, settling at No. 10.

Philadelphia (minus-17) and Kansas City (minus-15) have fallen the greatest distances over the past 10 weeks. Buffalo (minus-8) is the only other team to fall more than seven spots in our rankings in that span. Indianapolis (plus-21), Minnesota (plus-16) and Tampa Bay (plus-12) are the only double-digit movers in a positive direction in that time.

The Houston Texans are back in the No. 1 spot after ranking lower for three weeks. They overtook Atlanta after the Falcons' first defeat of the season. The Falcons had held the top spot for four consecutive weeks. The Chicago Bears remain third and the San Francisco 49ers fourth heading into the teams' game Monday night. Baltimore moved up to fifth, replacing the Giants in the top five. The idle Green Bay Packers remained sixth.

And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:

Falling (10): New York Giants (-5), Detroit Lions (-3), Miami Dolphins (-3), Philadelphia Eagles (-3), San Diego Chargers (-3), Arizona Cardinals (-2), Oakland Raiders (-2), Washington Redskins (-2), Atlanta Falcons (-1), New York Jets (-1).

Rising (12): New Orleans Saints (+6), Cincinnati Bengals (+4), Dallas Cowboys (+3), Baltimore Ravens (+2), Minnesota Vikings (+2), Tennessee Titans (+2), Buffalo Bills (+1), Denver Broncos (+1), Houston Texans (+1), New England Patriots (+1), Pittsburgh Steelers (+1), St. Louis Rams (+1).

Unchanged (10): Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Bucs.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties this week.

Like minds: All five voters ranked the Texans first, the Falcons second, the Jaguars 31st and the Chiefs 32nd.

Agree to disagree: The Lions and Cardinals each generated gaps of eight votes between high and low votes.

A look at all teams generating high-low gaps of at least six spots in the rankings:
  • Lions (8): Jamison Hensley 15th, Ashley Fox 23rd.
  • Cardinals (8): Hensley 18th, Sando 26th.
  • Titans (7): Sando 20th, Dan Graziano 27th.
  • Ravens (6): Fox third, Graziano ninth.
  • Patriots (6): Fox fifth, Sando 11th.
  • Chargers (6): Fox 17th, Hensley 23rd.
  • Redskins (6): Graziano 18th, Sando 24th.
Power Rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: The NFC North remained the highest-ranked division on average, and by a wide margin. Teams from the NFC North were ranked 10.3 on average. The NFC West remained second, inching up from 15.0 last week to 14.8 this week. The NFC South (15.0) was next, followed by the AFC North (15.9), AFC South (16.9), NFC East (17.4), AFC East (20.1) and AFC West (21.7).

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Cardinals (-6), Raiders (-5), Buccaneers (+6), Saints (+7).
  • Clayton: none.
  • Graziano: Dolphins (-5).
  • Hensley: Eagles (-5), Chargers (-5), Bengals (+5), Saints (+8).
  • Fox: Giants (-7), Lions (-6), Eagles (-5), Cowboys (+5), Saints (+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.

For example, the Bears and Texans outrank the Packers even though Green Bay defeated both teams.

Washington is the highest-ranked team with more than two victories over teams currently 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.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

October, 30, 2012
10/30/12
12:00
PM ET
The top eight teams in ESPN's previous NFL Power Rankings combined to go 6-0 in Week 8.

That helps explain why the top five remained the same for the first time since Weeks 4-5. The Atlanta Falcons (7-0), New York Giants (6-2), Houston Texans (6-1), San Francisco 49ers (6-2) and Chicago Bears (6-1) are a combined 31-6.

The road ahead is tougher for some than for others.

The Falcons' remaining opponents have won at a .415 rate so far this season. That gives Atlanta the NFL's fourth-easiest schedule the rest of the way, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Chicago has the fifth-toughest remaining schedule (.586). The others fall in between: Giants (.552, eighth-toughest), Texans (.515, 13th) and 49ers (.508, 14th).

And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:

Falling (13): New Orleans Saints (-6), Philadelphia Eagles (-5), San Diego Chargers (-3), Minnesota Vikings (-2), Seattle Seahawks (-2), Arizona Cardinals (-2), St. Louis Rams (-2), Tennessee Titans (-2), Baltimore Ravens (-1), Washington Redskins (-1), New York Jets (-1), Buffalo Bills (-1), Carolina Panthers (-1).

Rising (9): Indianapolis Colts (+8), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+5), Miami Dolphins (+4), Oakland Raiders (+4), Denver Broncos (+3), Detroit Lions (+2), Green Bay Packers (+1), Dallas Cowboys (+1), Cleveland Browns (+1).

Unchanged (10): Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs.

Deadlocked: We broke three ties this week. New England beat out Denver at No. 8 based on the first tiebreaker, head-to-head results this season. Indianapolis prevailed over Arizona at No. 15 based on the second tiebreaker, better record. Detroit edged Philadelphia at No. 17 based on head-to-head results.

Like minds: All five voters had the Falcons first and the Chiefs last.

Agree to disagree: Nine votes separated highest and lowest votes for the Redskins. That was the largest disparity for any team.

A look at all teams generating high-low gaps of at least seven spots in the rankings:
  • Redskins (9): Dan Graziano 14th, Sando 23rd.
  • Cowboys (8): Graziano 12th, Jamison Hensley 20th.
  • Colts (8): Ashley Fox 13th, John Clayton 21st.
  • Lions (8): Sando 14th, Fox 22nd.
  • Chargers (7): Fox 15th, Graziano and Hensley 22nd.
  • Buccaneers (7): Hensley 16th, Fox 23rd.
  • Rams (7): Hensley and Fox 21st, 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 NFC North improved from 10.2 to 9.9 in average ranking, widening the gap between the top two divisions. NFC East teams remained second despite falling from 11.9 to 13.4 on average. The NFC West continued its tumble after posting a 1-3 record for the third week in a row. Teams from that division fell from 12.8 to 14.5. That was good enough to hold on to third place among divisions. Also: AFC North (17.0), AFC East (18.3), AFC South (18.9) and AFC West (21.1).

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Cardinals (-5), Raiders (+6), Colts (+9).
  • Clayton: Saints (-5), Rams (-5), Broncos (+6).
  • Graziano: Eagles (-8), Colts (+5), Dolphins (+5).
  • Hensley: Saints (-6), Chargers (-5), Colts (+5), Buccaneers (+8), Lions (+9).
  • Fox: Saints (-6), Broncos (+9), Colts (+9).
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.

For example, Green Bay ranks lower than Chicago and Houston despite having defeated both teams.

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.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
12:00
PM ET
The Houston Texans might have only themselves to blame for falling one spot in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 8.

They might have defeated the Baltimore Ravens too convincingly, silly as it sounds.

The idle Atlanta Falcons naturally remained No. 1 as the lone undefeated team.

The Texans and New York Giants had been tied at No. 2 last week. Houston had prevailed for the second spot on a tiebreaker. But with the Texans trouncing Baltimore 43-13, the Ravens fell hard -- clearing the way for the Giants to make significant gains on two of our voters' ballots.

Those gains left the Giants with a slightly higher average ranking than the Texans, 2.4 to 2.6. Houston, you see, had been ranked third across the board. The Texans had less room for improvement, particularly with the Giants also winning Sunday.

Three of our five voters -- Dan Graziano, Ashley Fox and me -- already had the Giants second a week ago. The other two voters had them only fifth (John Clayton) and fourth (Jamison Hensley).

The Texans won big, and the Giants won narrowly.

Graziano, Fox and I left the Giants at No. 2.

Clayton and Hensley moved the Giants up to third, and both left the Texans second on their ballots.

I wondered what might have happened if Houston had, say, survived an overtime thriller against the Ravens, with both teams looking good. Clayton and Hensley could have justified ranking the Ravens third and Giants fourth while leaving the Falcons and Texans as their top two teams. I do not know whether they would have done this, but it would have been defensible.

Had that happened, the Texans would have edged the Giants for second in the rankings. But because the Texans dominated the Ravens so thoroughly, it left no doubt that the Giants should be ranked higher than Baltimore should be ranked -- at the expense of Houston in the rankings.

And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:

Falling (13): Tampa Bay Bucs (-4), Arizona Cardinals (-3), Washington Redskins (-3), Baltimore Ravens (-2), Seattle Seahawks (-2), Buffalo Bills (-2), Houston Texans (-1), New England Patriots (-1), San Diego Chargers (-1), St. Louis Rams (-1), Cincinnati Bengals (-1), New York Jets (-1), Carolina Panthers (-1).

Rising (12): Pittsburgh Steelers (+4), New Orleans Saints (+4), Dallas Cowboys (+3), Indianapolis Colts (+3), Tennessee Titans (+2), New York Giants (+1), San Francisco 49ers (+1), Chicago Bears (+1), Green Bay Packers (+1), Minnesota Vikings (+1), Miami Dolphins (+1), Oakland Raiders (+1).

Unchanged (7): Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs.

Deadlocked: We broke two ties this week. Baltimore prevailed over Green Bay at No. 6 on the second tiebreaker (better record). Jacksonville prevailed over Kansas City at No. 31 on the fourth and final tiebreaker (previous ranking). The tiebreakers are, in order, head-to-head results this season, overall record this season, which team won a game most recently and previous ranking.

Like minds: All five voters ranked the Falcons first. Only one spot separated highest and lowest votes for the Giants, Texans, 49ers, Bears, Ravens, and Panthers.

Agree to disagree: Ten spots separated highest and lowest votes for the Broncos. That was the largest disparity.

A look at all teams generating high-low disparities of at least seven spots in the rankings:
  • Broncos (10): Sando ranked them eighth, higher than any other voter ranked them. Fox ranked them 18th, lower than any other voter ranked them.
  • Chargers (9): Fox 11th, Graziano 20th.
  • Lions (9): Sando, Clayton and Graziano 17th, Fox and Hensley 26th.
  • Cardinals (7): Hensley 10th, Fox 17th.
  • Redskins (7): Graziano and Fox 14th, Sando 21st.
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 North have a 10.2 ranking on average, best in the league. The NFC East (11.9) overtook the NFC West (12.8) for the second spot, followed by the AFC North (17.5), AFC East (18.7), NFC South (18.9), AFC South (20.1) and AFC West (22.0).

Graziano moved the Vikings up nine spots, an unusually large one-week change, particularly for him. I fired off an email to him, expecting to elicit some sort of strong response.

"Boring answer," he replied, "but I felt I'd been underrating them, and decided to make a correction. Still not sold on the QB, but I think their accomplishments warrant more respect than I'd been offering to this point."

OK, then.

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Cowboys (+5).
  • Clayton: Buccaneers (-6), Packers (+5), Saints (+6).
  • Graziano: Vikings (+9).
  • Hensley: Ravens (-5), Saints (+6).
  • Fox: Cardinals (-6), Lions (-5), Steelers (+5), Colts (+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.

For example, Baltimore outranks Philadelphia even though the Eagles defeated the Ravens.

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.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
11:48
AM ET

The undefeated Atlanta Falcons stand atop ESPN's NFL Power Rankings for the first time since a four-week run in 2010.

They opened the regular season at No. 10 and spent the past three weeks at No. 2 behind the Houston Texans.

How good are the Falcons? They could be a lot better, actually.

"Despite their lofty record, the Falcons definitely aren't the best team in the NFL," NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas wrote. "They're not even the best team in the NFC at the moment. I’m not sure which team is the best in the NFL or the NFC, but it's not the Falcons. At least not yet."

The Falcons were a consensus No. 1 choice among our five Power Rankings voters because they're unbeaten and because someone has to fill the top spot.

Houston is the only team to spend more than one week as our No. 1 team since the regular season began. The Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers were one-week wonders. The Falcons have a bye, so they'll remain unbeaten a week from now.

The New York Giants have won four of five and jumped four spots to No. 3 after their 26-3 victory at San Francisco. They've got division games over the next two weeks, however, and those can be unpredictable. The Giants are 0-2 in the NFC East so far.

And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:

Falling (14): Cincinnati Bengals (-6), Dallas Cowboys (-5), Indianapolis Colts (-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (-4), Arizona Cardinals (-2), Carolina Panthers (-2), Kansas City Chiefs (-2), Minnesota Vikings (-2), New England Patriots (-2), Philadelphia Eagles (-2), San Diego Chargers (-2), San Francisco 49ers (-2), St. Louis Rams (-2), Houston Texans (-1).

Rising (13): Seattle Seahawks (+7), Washington Redskins (+6), Denver Broncos (+5), Green Bay Packers (+4), New York Giants (+4), Buffalo Bills (+2), Cleveland Browns (+2), Miami Dolphins (+2), New York Jets (+2), Atlanta Falcons (+1), Detroit Lions (+1), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1), Tennessee Titans (+1).

Unchanged (5): Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders.

Deadlocked: We broke three ties this week. Houston prevailed over the Giants at No. 2 based on the second tiebreaker (overall record). Minnesota prevailed over Arizona for the 10th spot based on the third tiebreaker (which team won a game most recently). Jacksonville beat out Kansas City for the No. 31 spot based on the second tiebreaker. Head-to-head results is the first tiebreaker.

Like minds: All five voters ranked the Falcons first and the Texans third.

Agree to disagree: Six teams generated gaps of at least eight spots between highest and lowest votes. Detroit was the most divisive team for a second week in a row.

A look at all teams generating high-low disparities of at least eight spots in the rankings:
  • Lions (11): Dan Graziano ranked them 14th, higher than any other voter ranked them. Jamison Hensley ranked them 25th, lower than any other voter ranked them.
  • Redskins (10): Graziano 12th, John Clayton 22nd.
  • Seahawks (9): Sando and Ashley Fox seventh, Graziano 16th.
  • Vikings (9): Clayton eighth, Graziano 17th.
  • Cowboys (8): Graziano 13th, Sando 21st.
  • Saints (8): Graziano 20th, 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 NFC North ranked 10.9 on average, overtaking teams from the NFC West (11.6) to become the highest-ranked division on average. The NFC East was third (12.3), followed by the AFC North (16.8), NFC South (18.3), AFC East (18.4), AFC South (21.5) and AFC West (22.3).

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least six spots since last week:
  • Sando: none.
  • Clayton: Bengals (-6), Giants (+9).
  • Graziano: Redskins (+6).
  • Hensley: Bengals (-8), Dolphins (+6), Seahawks (+6), Broncos (+7), Redskins (+8).
  • Fox: Steelers (-9), Cowboys (-8), Colts (-7), Redskins (+6), Seahawks (+11).
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.

For example, Baltimore outranks Philadelphia even though the Eagles defeated the Ravens.

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.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
12:00
PM ET
The San Francisco 49ers, coming off a 621-yard performance and a two-game stretch in which they outscored the opposition 79-3, gained ground on the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings.

But they still ranked only third heading into Week 6.

This was despite my solo efforts to push them to the top. I was the only one of our five voters to rank the 49ers first this week. That was enough to vault San Francisco past Baltimore for the third spot. But if top-ranked Houston and No. 2 Atlanta remain unbeaten, the 49ers might need a convincing victory over the seventh-ranked and defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in Week 6 to gain any additional traction.

Two of our other voters, Dan Graziano and Ashley Fox, joined me in discussing where the 49ers stand for the video included with this item. We also touched on Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, who moved up nine spots after their comeback victory over Green Bay. That was the largest gain for any team from last week.

And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:

Falling (15): Buffalo Bills (-6), Green Bay Packers (-4), Philadelphia Eagles (-4), Arizona Cardinals (-4), Denver Broncos (-4), San Diego Chargers (-3), Cincinnati Bengals (-3), Washington Redskins (-3), Tennessee Titans (-3), Kansas City Chiefs (-3), New York Jets (-2), Carolina Panthers (-2), Baltimore Ravens (-1), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (-1).

Rising (12): Indianapolis Colts (+9), Miami Dolphins (+7), Pittsburgh Steelers (+6), Minnesota Vikings (+6), New Orleans Saints (+4), New York Giants (+3), Chicago Bears (+3), Dallas Cowboys (+2), San Francisco 49ers (+1), New England Patriots (+1), Seattle Seahawks (+1), St. Louis Rams (+1).

Unchanged (5): Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns.

Deadlocked: We broke four ties this week. San Diego prevailed over Cincinnati, Miami prevailed over Detroit, Indianapolis prevailed over Tampa Bay and the New York Jets prevailed over Carolina. The tiebreakers are, in order, head-to-head results this season, overall record, which team won a game most recently and which team had the higher ranking previously.

Like minds: All five voters ranked Cleveland last, again. One spot separated high and low votes for Houston, Baltimore and New England.

Agree to disagree: Nine teams generated gaps of at least eight spots between highest and lowest votes. Detroit supplanted NFC North rival Minnesota as the most divisive team.

A look at all teams generating high-low disparities of at least eight spots in the rankings:
  • Lions (10): Graziano ranked them 15th, higher than any other voter ranked them. Jamison Hensley ranked them 25th, lower than any other voter ranked them.
  • Giants (9): Graziano fifth, John Clayton 14th.
  • Colts (9): Hensley 18th, Graziano 27th.
  • Vikings (8): Clayton sixth, Graziano 14th.
  • Packers (8): Graziano eighth, Clayton 16th.
  • Seahawks (8): Sando and Clayton 11th, Graziano 19th.
  • Broncos (8): Graziano 11th, Hensley 19th.
  • Rams (8): Hensley 13th, Graziano 21st.
  • Buccaneers (8): Clayton 19th, Fox 27th.
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 West ranked 11.4 on average, helping the division maintain its status as the highest-ranked of the eight. Next came the NFC North (12.1), NFC East (13.4), AFC North (15.0), NFC South (18.4), AFC East (19.2), AFC South (20.7) and AFC West (22.0).

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least six spots since last week:
  • Sando: Packers (-6), Bills (-6), Saints (+6), Dolphins (+6), Steelers (+7), Colts (+7).
  • Clayton: Bears (+6), Steelers (+8).
  • Graziano: Dolphins (+6).
  • Hensley: Steelers (+6), Dolphins (+7), Colts (+8).
  • Fox: Bills (-8), Packers (-6), Cardinals (-6), Jets (-6), Steelers (+8), Saints (+8), Vikings (+8), Dolphins (+8), Colts (+10).
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.

For example, Baltimore outranks Philadelphia even though the Eagles defeated the Ravens.

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.
Our NFL Power Rankings will be hitting the site in a few hours.

The San Francisco 49ers made a strong case for the top spot by outscoring the New York Jets (34-0) and Buffalo Bills (45-3) by a combined 79-3 margin during an eight-day period. They dominated in all phases, most notably from the quarterback position and especially against the Bills.

NFC West teams have been winning largely with defense. The quarterback play Alex Smith has provided the 49ers at times this season -- at Green Bay and against Buffalo, for sure -- puts them on another plane.

Remember the interception rate (1.1 percent) Smith carried through last season, the one that was so low it could not possibly be sustainable? It has actually fallen to 0.7 percent through five games.

The 49ers' third-down conversion rate has climbed from 29.4 percent last season to 39.6 percent his season. Their red zone touchdown percentage has climbed from 40.7 percent to 64.7 percent.

Eleven regular-season games remain. These trends might not hold.

For now, though, the 49ers are playing as well as or better than any team in the NFL.

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