Take a good look at the top-five order for ESPN's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 10. Changes could be right around the corner.
The Bears then visit the fourth-ranked San Francisco 49ers on "Monday Night Football" in Week 11. Meanwhile, the top-ranked Falcons visit New Orleans on Sunday for what figures to be an NFC South death match from the Saints' perspective.
The top five shuffled some this week when the Giants lost at home to Pittsburgh. Houston moved up one spot to second. Chicago moved up two spots to third. The idle 49ers remained fourth. The Giants fell three spots, the biggest decline for any team ranked higher than 15th this week.
And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:
Falling (11): Minnesota Vikings (-5), Dallas Cowboys (-4), Arizona Cardinals (-4), New York Giants (-3), Miami Dolphins (-3), Philadelphia Eagles (-3), Oakland Raiders (-2), New England Patriots (-1), Cincinnati Bengals (-1), St. Louis Rams (-1), Cleveland Browns (-1).
Rising (10): Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+8), Indianapolis Colts (+4), New Orleans Saints (+4), Detroit Lions (+3), San Diego Chargers (+3), Chicago Bears (+2), Houston Texans (+1), Denver Broncos (+1), Seattle Seahawks (+1), Carolina Panthers (+1).
Unchanged (11): Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs.
Deadlocked: We broke three ties this week. Detroit and Miami have not played each other this season. Both are 4-4. The Lions won a game more recently, however, and that made them the choice at No. 14. Tennessee edged Buffalo at No. 27 based on head-to-head results. Arizona prevailed over Philadelphia at No. 20 based on the same criteria.
Like minds: All five voters had the Falcons first, the Texans second, the Jaguars 31st and the Chiefs 32nd.
Agree to disagree: Seven spots separated high and low votes for San Diego and Cincinnati.
A look at all teams generating high-low gaps of at least six spots in the rankings:
Chargers (7): Ashley Fox 13th, Dan Graziano 20th.
Bengals (7): John Clayton 19th, Jamison Hensley 26th.
Buccaneers (6): Graziano 11th, Clayton 17th.
Redskins (6): Graziano 18th, Sando 24th.
Cardinals (6): Hensley 17th, Sando 23rd.
Saints (6): Sando 18th, Hensley and Fox 24th.
Rams (6): Fox 21st, Clayton 27th.
Jets (6): Graziano and Hensley 23rd, Fox 29th.
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 far outranks other divisions with a 9.9 average ranking for its four teams. The NFC West was second with a 15.0 average ranking. That is the largest gap I can recall between the top two divisions. The NFC South (16.2) was next, followed by the NFC East (16.3), AFC North (17.2), AFC South (17.9), AFC East (18.8) and AFC West (20.8).
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: Eagles (-10), Vikings (-7), Buccaneers (+5), Saints (+5), Colts (+9).
Graziano: Cowboys (-5), Vikings (-5), Colts (+6), Buccaneers (+9).
Fox: Lions (+5), Buccaneers (+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 49ers outrank the Giants even though the Giants won at Candlestick Park this season. Green Bay owns victories over the higher-ranked Bears and Texans.
Arizona is the highest-ranked team with more than two victories over teams currently ranked higher. That makes sense given that the Cardinals have gone from 4-0 to 4-5.
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.