Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Power rankings: How the voters voted
By Mike Sando
Move over, Atlanta Falcons. Your four-week run atop ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings has ended -- through no fault of your own.
Blame the New England Patriots for this one.
Dominating performances in back-to-back weeks against teams ranked in our top 10 convinced panelists John Clayton and James Walker to move New England into the top spot on their ballots. Paul Kuharsky and I had already ranked the Patriots first.
Can there be any doubt?
New England is averaging 39.2 points per game over its last five. Tom Brady has 19 touchdown passes without an interception over the Patriots' last eight games.
Not that anyone should relax. The last time New England was No. 1 in our rankings -- heading into Week 9 -- the team fell unexpectedly at Cleveland, 34-14. The Patriots finish the season at home against Green Bay, at Buffalo and at home against Miami.
The Falcons have not lost since Week 6. They finish at Seattle, home against New Orleans and at Carolina.
And now, a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 15 ...
Rising (11): Dallas Cowboys (+4), Philadelphia Eagles (+3), New York Giants (+3), San Francisco 49ers (+3), San Diego Chargers (+2), Miami Dolphins (+2), Arizona Cardinals (+2), Detroit Lions (+2), Patriots (+1), New Orleans Saints (+1), Jacksonville Jaguars (+1).
Falling (12): Seattle Seahawks (-4), New York Jets (-3), Green Bay Packers (-3), Kansas City Chiefs (-3), Minnesota Vikings (-3), Denver Broncos (-2), Baltimore Ravens (-1), Falcons (-1), Cincinnati Bengals (-1), Oakland Raiders (-1), St. Louis Rams (-1), Buffalo Bills (-1).
Unchanged (9): Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers.
Deadlocked: We broke no ties this week.
Like minds: All four voters ranked the Patriots first, the Falcons second, the Broncos 30th, the Bengals 31st and the Panthers 32nd. Three ranked the Ravens fifth. Three ranked the Jaguars 12th. Three ranked the Raiders 17th.
Agree to disagree: The Browns, Seahawks and Redskins generated the largest disparities between highest and lowest votes. Three other teams produced gaps of at least five spots.
Power rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.
- Browns (7): Kuharsky ranked them 19th, higher than any other voter ranked them. Walker ranked them 26th, lower than any voter ranked them.
- Seahawks (7): Walker 19th, Kuharsky 26th.
- Redskins (7): Clayton 20th, Sando and Kuharsky 27th.
- Cowboys (5): Kuharsky 18th, Clayton and Walker 23rd.
- Titans (5): Clayton 19th, Kuharsky and Walker 24th.
- 49ers (5): Sando 21st, Clayton 26th.
Ranking the divisions: Teams from the NFC South ranked 12.9 on average, the highest average for teams from any division. The NFC West was again the lowest-ranked division. Its 23.1 average ranking lagged well behind the AFC West's seventh-ranked average of 18.5.
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.
- Sando: Dolphins (+7), Seahawks (-5).
- Clayton: Jets (-5).
- Kuharsky: Cowboys (+5), 49ers (+5).
- Walker: Dolphins (+5), Vikings (-6), Browns (-6)
The worksheet labeled "sked" shows remaining schedule strengths based on current power rankings.
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.
A few highlights from the Excel file for Week 15:
- The Titans have defeated five teams ranked ahead of them this week. No team has defeated more higher-ranked teams. Washington is next with four victories over teams currently ranked higher.
- The Bucs remained the lowest-ranked team without a victory over any team currently ranked higher than them.
- The Packers' remaining opponents rank 5.3 on average, higher than the average for any other team. The Saints' opponents are next at 6.7, followed by opponents for Buffalo (8.7), Carolina (10.7) and Seattle (11.0).
- The Chargers' remaining opponents rank 28.0 on average, lowest in the league. The Cardinals' opponents are next at 25.0 on average.
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.