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Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Power rankings: How the voters voted

By Mike Sando

Move over, Atlanta Falcons. Your four-week run atop'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.

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.

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:
A quick primer on the "powerflaws" sheet: