NFL Nation: 2010 Week 14 Power Rankings

Analyzing the Power Rankings

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
4:00
PM ET
Like clockwork, the ESPN.com Power Rankings arrive at 2 p.m. ET each Tuesday during the NFL season and at least 12 other times during the offseason. The Atlanta Falcons somehow held off the New England Patriots for the top spot in the Week 14 edition.

As he always does, NFC West blogger Mike Sando has boldly pulled back the curtain on the mysterious voting process. Let's take a look at how Sando and his three colleagues from ESPN.com arrived at their decisions in the NFC East. Sando was particularly tough on the Beast this week -- especially with three of the teams winning:

9. Philadelphia Eagles -- The Eagles had to come back to beat the Houston Texans in the fourth quarter last Thursday. If they'd won convincingly, the Eagles may have made a significant move. Instead, they stayed in the same spot. AFC North blogger James Walker has stuck with this team in 2010 and he had them at No. 7. But the other three voters kept the Eagles at No. 9 on their ballots -- and in their hearts. Coach Andy Reid was overheard saying, "What does it take to get The Professor's attention these days?"

10. New York Giants -- Every voter had the Giants in this spot, so it's hard to make fun of anyone. I think the Giants are better than the Packers and Bears -- two of the teams that are ranked ahead of them. I'd also like Tom Coughlin's chances against Rex Ryan's bunch after watching a few minutes of that mess last night.

24. Dallas Cowboys -- I'm not really sure why all four voters are so reluctant to show some love to Jason Garrett after his team has won three of four games on his watch. Paul Kuharsky of AFC South fame and Walker had the Cowboys at No. 23, but I think they should've been a little higher. Do our panelists really think the Dolphins, Texans, Seahawks, Browns, Titans and Vikings are all better than this Cowboys team right now? I think the Cowboys should be closer to No. 20 overall following their win over the Colts, who sit at No. 15 for no apparent reason. Maybe if Peyton Manning can get to 12 interceptions in three games Sunday, the Colts will drop a few spots.

25. Washington Redskins -- John Clayton had the Skins at No. 20, ahead of the Seahawks, Rams, Browns and Cowboys. Every one of those teams should file a protest with ESPN.com this afternoon. Sando had the Redskins at No. 26, which is probably about right.

The Beast moved up to No. 4 in the overall rankings. The NFC South, AFC East and AFC North are in the top three spots. Clayton gave the division its highest mark with a 15.75 average ranking. Sando was not in the holiday spirit with a stunning 17.25 average ranking. Not sure why the panel has been so slow to react to Garrett's work. Maybe I'll ask Kuharsky this afternoon if he's still talking to me.

Week 14 Power Rankings: NFC North

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
2:15
PM ET
Oh boy. I must say I'm surprised it has come to this. The Chicago Bears (9-3) are in first place in the NFC North. The Green Bay Packers (8-4) are a game behind them in the standings -- but not in ESPN.com's Week 14 Power Rankings.

That’s right. Three of our four esteemed voters ranked the Packers ahead of the Bears, resulting in a flip of last week’s order and what promises to be the most hotly-debated power ranking of NFC North teams in the long and storied history of power rankings.

As it turns out, the ESPN mothership is hating all over the Bears. Check out the Trent Dilfer video below, which includes this statement: "I believe the Bears have no chance of getting to the Super Bowl."

OK then.

This week’s details:

7. Green Bay Packers
Trending: Up one after a 34-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

8. Chicago Bears
Trending:
Down one after a 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions.

23. Minnesota Vikings
Trending:
No change after a 38-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

31. Detroit Lions
Trending:
No change after a 24-20 loss to the Chicago Bears.

Jaguars up to 12th in Power Rankings

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
2:14
PM ET
I wanted to move Indianapolis back further on my ESPN NFL Power Rankings ballot, honest. I just couldn’t put the Colts behind St. Louis or Tampa Bay, who’ve faced inferior competition, or Miami, which suffered its own terrible loss on Sunday.

But the division’s dive in the overall rankings continued.

The Jaguars moved up three slots to 12th thanks to their win at Tennessee that put them in first place of the AFC South. But the Colts lost three spots, the Texans lost two and the Titans lost four.

Monday night matched up my first- and second-ranked teams, and the result meant New England jumped into first and the Jets dived to No. 6.

Here’s a link to the mailbag for any complaints. Wait, I'm sorry. That's Tim Graham's mailbag. Try here instead.

But please keep in mind I’m just one-fourth of the Power Rankings and these overall results do not match up with my ballot. You can see how I, and the other three panelists, voted here in Mike Sando’s post.

The Atlanta Falcons held onto the No. 1 spot in the ESPN.com Power Rankings for the fourth straight week -- but just barely.

With Paul Kuharsky continuing to refuse to vote for an NFC team at the top and Mike Sando jumping on the New England bandwagon, there actually was a tie at the top between the Falcons and Patriots. It should be noted that John Clayton and James Walker had the Falcons at No. 1.

Anyway, that forced Sando, who does all of the math on the Power Rankings, to pull out the tiebreaker rules and that’s how the Falcons won. It came down to the fourth tiebreaker and the Falcons got the edge because they were ranked higher than the Patriots last week.

We have two NFC South teams in the top five, which is appropriate for the best division in the NFL (in my eyes, anyway). The New Orleans Saints moved up a spot to No. 5. If they were in the AFC, Kuharsky would have voted them second.

Tampa Bay stayed put at No. 13, which seems fair because the Bucs lost a close game to Atlanta. Finally, the Carolina Panthers kept their lock on No. 32.

But I’ll fill you in on a little behind-the-scenes stuff on the voting. Kuharsky, in his wisest vote of the day, initially had the Omaha franchise of the United Football League at No. 32 and the Panthers at No. 33. When told he couldn’t vote for a UFL team, Kuharsky did the only thing he could do and elevated the Panthers to No. 32.
The New England Patriots couldn't have done much more to separate themselves from the rest of the AFC East, pulverizing the New York Jets 45-3 on Monday night.

"We were trying everything," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. "I mean, shoot, they got the job done. ... We'll fight another day. As bad as this game is, it counts for one loss. It may feel like three losses, but it counts as one loss."

In the process of slapping the Jets like an annoying mosquito, you'd think the Patriots would move up from No. 2 and take over the top spot in this week's ESPN.com Power Rankings.

That didn't happen, strangely enough. Don't blame me. I'm just the messenger.

The Patriots' victory also made the AFC East look that much less competitive as we enter the second round of intra-divisional games over the remaining few weeks. The AFC East had the conference's top two teams in last week's poll, but now the AFC North has two of the top three.

The Patriots were the only AFC East club that didn't suffer a demoralizing loss in Week 13. The Miami Dolphins lost a groaner at home, while the Buffalo Bills were thumped for the first time in a long while.

ESPN.com's Power Rankings staff is senior writer John Clayton, AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky, AFC North blogger James Walker and NFC West blogger Mike Sando.

2. New England Patriots

Previous rank: 2

My take: The Patriots technically didn't move up, but they did gain ground on the top spot. They generated the same score as the No. 1 Atlanta Falcons, but were edged out on the fourth tiebreaker (previous week's ranking). The Patriots, to me, must be considered the NFL's best team. They have the league's best record and utterly annihilated the team that was ranked third a week ago. The Falcons beat the 13th team by four points.

6. New York Jets

Previous rank: 3

My take: I'm unsure how the Jets can be rated in the top 10 after what we saw Monday night. They were blown out by 42 points and weren't in the game after the national anthem. The Jets own one victory over a team with a winning record. That was the Patriots more than two months ago. Aside from that triumph, the Jets have been outscored 64-12 against teams with winning records. They were shut out at home by the Green Bay Packers, this week's No. 7 team.

18. Miami Dolphins

Previous rank: 15

My take: Commensurate with their performances, the Dolphins have fluctuated wildly in the Power Rankings each week. They climbed four spots last week. They dropped three spots this week, same as the Jets. Only the Washington Redskins fell farther down the ladder. Clayton ranked them 14th, while Sando pegged them for 23rd, the largest discrepancy between two voters for any team. But the system works here because 18th is proper.

27. Buffalo Bills

Previous rank: 27

My take: For the first time in four weeks, the Bills didn't move up the chart, but they didn't slip either despite a lopsided loss to the Minnesota Vikings. If the Bills can navigate their mounting injury list, then they'll have a decent chance to improve their standing again versus the No. 21 Cleveland Browns.

AFC North Power Rankings Analysis

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
2:00
PM ET
The AFC North went .500 in Week 13.

Here is how things shook out in ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings:

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3)

Cumulative vote: No. 3

Walker's vote: No. 4

Analysis: Pittsburgh moved up two spots to No. 3 this week after a huge 13-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Pittsburgh jumped Baltimore along with the New York Jets, who I've been saying for weeks are overrated and confirmed it with a 45-3 blowout to the New England Patriots. I voted Pittsburgh No. 4. The only difference is I ranked the Saints ahead of the Steelers after sharing the same record and winning the head-to-head battle.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4)

Cumulative vote: No. 4

Walker's vote: No. 5

Analysis: ESPN.com's panel showed the Ravens a lot of respect by keeping them at No. 4 for the second straight week, despite a tough loss to Pittsburgh. Baltimore led the game throughout but gave up 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to even the season series with the Steelers. The Ravens are still a force in the AFC. But they probably lost their chance to have home-field advantage in the playoffs and will need some help to get back in the AFC North race with the Steelers.

Cleveland Browns (5-7)

Cumulative vote: No. 21

Walker's vote: No. 20

Analysis: The Browns haven't reached the teens all season in ESPN.com's Power Rankings. One more win might do it, and Cleveland has a good shot this week against the lowly Buffalo Bills. The Browns are 4-2 in their last six games and seem to be getting all the breaks lately. Perhaps this momentum could carry Cleveland to a .500 finish.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-10)

Cumulative vote: No. 30

Walker's vote: No. 30

Analysis: This was the only team that matched my personal vote with the final tally this week. Everyone agrees the Bengals are one of the bottom three teams in the league, but they're not quite as bad as the Detroit Lions (2-10) and Carolina Panthers (1-11). The Bengals showed some fight in a 34-30 loss to New Orleans. But they continue their season-long trend of making mistakes at the worst possible time, which is what bad teams do. The Bengals have another chance to pull off an upset Sunday against the Steelers. Cincinnati played the Steelers tough at home earlier this season.
ESPN.com’s NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 14 were released Tuesday. Here are my thoughts on how the AFC West teams fared in the rankings:

Kansas City Chiefs

" Power Ranking: 11

" My Power Ranking range: 9-11

" Why: It’s time the Chiefs started getting some more respect.

San Diego Chargers

" Power Ranking: 14

" My Power Ranking range: 16-18

" Why: There’s no way San Diego should be ranked higher than Oakland this week.

Oakland Raiders

" Power Ranking: 16

" My Power Ranking range: 15-17

" Why: The Raiders have a legitimate beef here. They swept the Chargers, including an easy win in San Diego on Sunday.

Denver Broncos

" Power Ranking: 28

" My Power Ranking range: 28-30

" Why: And this is how the Josh McDaniel’s’ era ends.

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