NFL Nation: 2010 Week 16 Power Rankings

Eagles soar in Power Rankings

December, 21, 2010
12/21/10
4:00
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It's the most wonderful time of the year. And yes, I'm talking about the ESPN.com Week 16 Power Rankings, which arrived today at 2 p.m. ET. The Philadelphia Eagles' comeback win over the New York Giants had a dramatic effect on our four voters.

As he does every week, NFC West blogger Mike Sando pulls back the curtain on the mysterious voting process. Let's take a quick peek at how the four NFC East teams fared:

3. Philadelphia Eagles: They moved up three spots following Sunday's 38-31 win in the Meadowlands. The Eagles leapfrogged the Baltimore Ravens, which was a bit of a surprise. John "The Professor" Clayton and AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky, who has stuck with Andy Reid all season, had the Eagles at No. 3. James Walker of AFC North fame and Sando both had the Ravens one spot ahead of the Eagles.

9. New York Giants: I was a little surprised the Giants fell only two spots following their epic collapse. Three of the voters agreed that the Giants should be No. 9, but Sando had them with a "7" on his ballot despite reports that Bill Cowher wants Tom Coughlin's job.

18. Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys continued their steady rise in the Power Rankings. Kuharsky has fallen in love with Jason Garrett's brand of discipline and Ivy League pedigree. He had the Cowboys at No. 15, but Clayton's harsh "20" neutralized Kuharsky's efforts. Clayton has the Texans and the Titans ahead of the Cowboys.

26. Washington Redskins: Clayton and Walker saved Mike Shanahan in the rankings with No. 22 votes, but Sando destroyed the Redskins with a "28" on his ballot following Rex Grossman's courageous effort. Sando has the Lions and Bills ahead of the Skins at this point in the season.

The Beast moved into second place in the overall division rankings. The AFC East remains in first, but the NFC East is closing fast thanks to the work of James Walker, whose average ranking of 13.25 provided a huge boost. Upon hearing the news, Tom Coughlin left the dark room he'd been sitting in since Sunday's loss to the Eagles.

AFC South placement in Power Rankings

December, 21, 2010
12/21/10
2:15
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Newsflash: The AFC South has two decent teams and two that don’t belong in the top two-thirds of the NFL.

This was revealed, again, in the new edition of the ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings.

Here’s a link to the mailbag for any complaints. (It’s a joy to see anything in there that isn’t about Vince Young, even you bashing me for having your team two slots too low.)

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.

Recapping the division:

AFC North Power Rankings Analysis

December, 21, 2010
12/21/10
2:00
PM ET
The AFC North had interesting and exciting games in Week 15. Here is how it impacted ESPN.com's Power Rankings:

Baltimore Ravens (10-4)

Cumulative vote: No. 4

Walker's vote: No. 3

Analysis: The Ravens jumped one spot to No. 4 after beating the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, 30-24. There was some disagreement on the panel about the Ravens this week. NFC West blogger Mike Sando and I both voted Baltimore No. 3, while ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton and AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky voted the Ravens No. 7 and No. 6, respectively. The end result was the Philadelphia Eagles beating out Baltimore at No. 3 after pulling off an exciting, last-second win over the New York Giants.

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4)

Cumulative vote: No. 6

Walker's vote: No. 7

Analysis: The Steelers dropped three places to No. 6 after a 22-17 loss to the New York Jets. I voted Pittsburgh the lowest on the panel at No. 7, perhaps because I'm closest to the situation. I saw a lot of flaws Sunday, particularly on special teams and the defense without safety Troy Polamalu. The Steelers looked very beatable, and I took the "Polamalu factor" into account with my vote until he returns. Regardless, Pittsburgh has a good chance to get back on track Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers (2-12), who were voted No. 32 again this week.

Cleveland Browns (5-9)

Cumulative vote: No. 22

Walker's vote: No. 27

Analysis: This is the second week in a row my vote has been fairly distant from the cumulative tally. Perhaps it's another case of me being close enough to the situation to notice all of Cleveland's flaws. I just don't see this team bringing the same energy and fight lately, which essentially was the point made by quarterback Colt McCoy and tailback Peyton Hillis after suffering back-to-back losses to the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals. Both opponents came in with just two wins but looked liked the hungrier team. McCoy's return from a high ankle sprain is a bright spot. But it's going to take a motivated team effort by Cleveland to beat Baltimore and Pittsburgh these next two weeks.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-11)

Cumulative vote: No. 30

Walker's vote: No. 29

Analysis: The Bengals moved up one spot to No. 30 after breaking their NFL-high 10-game losing streak. Cincinnati went back to last year's formula of running the football and playing tough defense, and it looked much better last week. The Bengals have the talent to be a spoiler but could rarely put together four quarters of solid football this year. Cincinnati has a chance to pick up a quality win against the San Diego Chargers (8-6), who are in a must-win situation and fighting for their playoff lives.
The latest ESPN.com Power Rankings are out and the NFC South is on a slight downward trend. That’s what happens when two teams lose in the middle of the playoff race.

The New Orleans Saints lost to Baltimore on Sunday and voters dropped them three spots to No. 7. I won’t say the ranking is unfair. I will say New Orleans’ loss came to a very good team and on the road, so it’s not time to panic. But you do have to be able to win against good teams on the road if you want to be listed high in the Power Rankings or play late into the postseason.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers dropped two spots to No. 15 after a devastating home loss to Detroit on Sunday. Ordinarily I’d say that kind of loss should drop a team more than two spots. But I think voters had been selling the Bucs short for most of the season and the slight drop probably puts them right about where they currently belong.

The two NFC South teams that won Sunday didn’t move a bit in the Power Rankings and I can’t really argue with that. The Atlanta Falcons stayed firm at No. 2, a spot behind New England.

Although the Carolina Panthers got their second win of the season, they stayed the unanimous choice at No. 32. It’s pretty obvious the voters realized victories against the Arizona Cardinals don’t earn you sudden credibility.
ESPN.com’s NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 16 were released Tuesday. Here are my thoughts on how the AFC West teams fared in the rankings:

San Diego Chargers

Power Ranking: 10

My Power Ranking range: 10-12

Why: San Diego has won six of seven games, but it still needs help to make the playoffs.

Kansas City Chiefs

Power Ranking: 11

My Power Ranking range: 10-12

Why: Fueled by an impressive win at St. Louis, all the Chiefs need to do is keep winning.

Oakland Raiders

Power Ranking: 16

My Power Ranking range: 15-17

Why: The Raiders will have revert to their Week 13 performance at San Diego to beat the Colts.

Denver Broncos

Power Ranking: 31

My Power Ranking range: 31

Why: The fallen Broncos are ranked right where they belong.

Power Rankings: How the voters voted

December, 21, 2010
12/21/10
2:00
PM ET
The Philadelphia Eagles' latest Miracle at the Meadowlands sent them charging toward the top in ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 16.

The Eagles jumped from sixth to third, leapfrogging Baltimore -- even though the Ravens beat previously fourth-ranked New Orleans.

AFC North blogger James Walker and I ranked the Ravens third, ahead of the Eagles, but fellow panelists John Clayton and Paul Kuharsky weren't as impressed. They ranked Baltimore no higher than sixth. The chart shows how each of us voted.

The Ravens have earned my respect for their consistency.

Baltimore and the top-ranked New England Patriots are the only teams to rank among the top 10 every week since our regular-season rankings debuted before Week 1.

Atlanta, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and the New York Jets have ranked among the top 10 all but one week. Eleven other teams have spent at least one week ranked that high.

The following 12 teams have yet to crack the top 10 during the regular season: Jacksonville, Oakland, Cincinnati, Seattle, Arizona, San Francisco, St. Louis, Denver, Cleveland, Carolina, Detroit and Buffalo.

The Jets' first victory at Pittsburgh helped keep them in the top 10 for a 14th consecutive week. They jumped from ninth to fifth.

And now, a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 16 ...

Rising (14): New York Jets (4), Philadelphia Eagles (3), Tennessee Titans (3), Kansas City Chiefs (3), Indianapolis Colts (2), San Diego Chargers (2), Minnesota Vikings (2), Dallas Cowboys (2), Baltimore Ravens (1), Oakland Raiders (1), Cincinnati Bengals (1), Seattle Seahawks (1), Detroit Lions (1), Buffalo Bills (1).

Falling (14): New Orleans Saints (-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (-3), Jacksonville Jaguars (-3), Green Bay Packers (-2), New York Giants (-2), Houston Texans (-2), Tampa Bay Bucs (-2), Arizona Cardinals (-2), San Francisco 49ers (-2), St. Louis Rams (-2), Miami Dolphins (-1), Washington Redskins (-1), Denver Broncos (-1), Cleveland Browns (-1).

Unchanged (4): New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers.

Deadlocked: We broke one tie this week. The second tiebreaker, overall record, helped Arizona prevail over Cincinnati for the No. 29 spot.

Like minds: All four panelists ranked the Patriots first, the Falcons second, the Broncos 31st and the Panthers 32nd. Three ranked the Giants ninth, Dolphins 17th and the Lions 28th.

Agree to disagree: The Cleveland Browns generated a seven-spot gap between highest and lowest votes, the largest disparity. Six other teams generated gaps of at least five places between highest and lowest votes.
  • Browns (7): Kuharsky ranked them 20th, higher than any other voter ranked them. Walker ranked them 27th, lower than any other voter ranked them.
  • Redskins (6): Clayton and Walker 22nd, Sando 28th.
  • Seahawks (6): Walker 20th, Kuharsky 26th.
  • Texans (6): Clayton 19th, Kuharsky 25th.
  • Bills (5): Kuharsky 22nd, Sando and Clayton 27th.
  • Cowboys (5): Kuharsky 15th, Clayton 20th.
  • Chargers (5): Sando ninth, Clayton 14th.
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 AFC East ranked 12.1 on average, the highest average for teams from any division. The AFC East overtook the NFC South as the highest-ranked division on average. The NFC West was again the lowest-ranked division, falling from 23.1 to 24.4 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:
  • Sando: Cowboys (+5).
  • Clayton: none.
  • Kuharsky: Jets (+6).
  • Walker: Cowboys (+5)
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 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.

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