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Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Power Rankings: How the voters voted

By Mike Sando

Tensions tend to run a little higher as NFL teams move toward December stretch runs. Just ask ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings voters.

In one corner, we have AFC North blogger James Walker slapping a No. 8 ranking -- that's right, eight -- on the 8-2 New York Jets.

In the other corner, we have AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky fanning Rex Ryan with an imaginary palm frond. He's got the Jets ranked No. 1.

"I had them first last week and they won," Kuharsky said. "Have they been fortunate the last several weeks? Sure. Top teams often are."

What say you, Mr. Walker?

"Name the last quality team the Jets beat this season," Walker said. "You have to go all the way back to Week 2 against New England. The seven teams I rate ahead of New York have comparable records and beat quality opponents. Two teams -- Green Bay and Baltimore -- beat the Jets head-to-head."

Let's take this conversation in another direction before someone gets hurt.

The Atlanta Falcons held onto the top spot for a second consecutive week. They might have a tough time holding that spot, however. They play three road games between home games against Green Bay and New Orleans. That's a tough stretch.

My ballot featured the equivalent of three market corrections. The Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins had been ranked a little too low previously. I moved both higher and knocked down the injury-depleted Miami Dolphins.

Let's dig deeper inside the rankings heading into Week 12 ...

Rising (11): Chicago Bears (+5), Dallas Cowboys (+5), Washington Redskins (+3), Jacksonville Jaguars (+3), San Diego Chargers (+2), Kansas City Chiefs (+2), Buffalo Bills (+2), Baltimore Ravens (+1), Indianapolis Colts (+1), New Orleans Saints (+1), St. Louis Rams (+1).

Falling (13): Miami Dolphins (-5), Tennessee Titans (-4), Oakland Raiders (-4), New York Giants (-2), Cincinnati Bengals (-2), Arizona Cardinals (-2), New York Jets (-1), Houston Texans (-1), Minnesota Vikings (-1), Seattle Seahawks (-1), San Francisco 49ers (-1), Denver Broncos (-1), Cleveland Browns (-1).

Unchanged (8): Rankings remained unchanged from last week for the New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Bucs, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties this week.

Like minds: All four voters ranked the Colts ninth, the Bucs 11th and the Panthers 32nd. The Falcons, Patriots, Packers, Saints, Giants, Bengals and Lions drew the same ranking from at least three panelists.

Agree to disagree: Voters disagreed by seven spots on rankings for the Jets and Titans. Seven other teams generated disparities of at least four places. 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 again enjoyed the highest rankings on average. The chart below shows how each voter ranked each division on average. Highest votes in red. Lowest votes in blue.

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week: For download: An Excel file -- available here -- showing how each voter voted this week and in past weeks.

The worksheet labeled "sked" shows remaining schedule strengths based on current power rankings.

The Bengals, Bears and Cowboys each play a league-high four games against teams currently ranked in the top 10. The Colts, Broncos, Chiefs and Cardinals play none. The Bengals' remaining opponents average a 9.5 ranking, highest in the league. The Cardinals' opponents average a league-low 26.2.

The Steelers' remaining opponents have 2.5 median victories this season, the lowest figure in the league. The team does play two teams ranked in the top 10, however.

The file also 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 Titans and Texans each has defeated a league-high four teams currently ranked higher than them. The Bills are the only team ranked lower than 14th without at least one victory over a higher-ranked team.

A quick primer on the "powerflaws" sheet: