NFL Nation: 2010 Week 9 Power Rankings

AFC North Power Rankings analysis

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
2:18
PM ET
With the division going winless in Week 8, here is how things stand in ESPN.com's latest Power Rankings:

Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

Cumulative vote: No. 2

Walker's vote: No. 2

Analysis: As expected, the Ravens moved up two places after the bye. The Steelers and New York Jets both lost on Sunday. The Ravens have won four of five games and are well rested. They have set themselves up well to make a second-half push, and it starts Sunday against the tough Miami Dolphins. I still expect the Ravens to be more dominant and efficient, considering their talent. But it's hard to nitpick too much when they're winning. Baltimore is deserving of this No. 2 post.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2)

Cumulative vote: No. 3

Walker's vote: No. 3

Analysis: A road loss to the New Orleans Saints knocked the Steelers from the No. 1 spot this week. Pittsburgh dropped two places to No. 3. All four members voted the same. The Steelers were outplayed by the Saints on both sides of the football. Still, Pittsburgh had a chance to win late until tight end Heath Miller fumbled the ball, eliminating a chance for the Steelers to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Steelers will play their third consecutive road game Monday against the Bengals.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-5)

Cumulative vote: No. 25

Walker's vote: No. 26

Analysis: Our Power Rankings panel missed the boat for the second week in a row by voting the Bengals higher than the Browns. This time only one place separated the two teams. I understand the decision. If you don't closely watch the Bengals stumble through games every week, like this AFC North blogger, you may feel on paper they should still be rated higher. But, simply put, the Browns are playing better football with less talent and they won the head-to-head meeting over Cincinnati. Surprisingly, AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky, who was right about the Bengals all along, gave Cincinnati the highest vote at No. 23 and the Browns the lowest vote at No. 28.

Cleveland Browns (2-5)

Cumulative vote: No. 26

Walker's vote: No. 25

Analysis: The Browns moved up a couple places to No. 26 this week, one spot lower than my personal vote. Cleveland still has to prove its win over the New Orleans Saints wasn't a fluke. The Browns will get a chance to gain even more respect this week against the New England Patriots, who are ESPN.com's No 1 team.

The AFC South in new Power Rankings

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
2:17
PM ET
Here are the new ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings, where the AFC South remains the most highly-rated division overall. Our four teams average spot is 11.3, ahead of the 13.1 of the AFC East.

Please keep in mind I’m just one-fourth of the Power Rankings. You can see the four ballots here in Mike Sando’s post.

Week 9 Power Rankings: NFC North

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
2:15
PM ET
Sizing up the NFC North’s position in the Week 9 ESPN.com Power Rankings, where only three spots separate the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions:

8. Green Bay Packers
Trending:
Up two after last week's 9-0 victory over the New York Jets.

17. Chicago Bears
Trending: Down two after a rough bye week.

23. Minnesota Vikings
Trending: Down four after a 28-18 loss to the New England Patriots.

27. Detroit Lions
Trending: Up three after a 37-25 victory over the Washington Redskins.

Looking at NFC South Power Rankings

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
2:05
PM ET
The Atlanta Falcons are 5-2 and didn’t play Sunday, but they somehow dropped a spot in the ESPN.com Power Rankings that just came out.

No matter what Raheem Morris says, our voters say the Falcons are the best team in the NFC. They’re No. 6, behind five AFC teams.

The positive news is the Falcons aren’t the only NFC South team in the top 10. After slipping as low as No. 14 last week, the New Orleans Saints are back in at No. 10 following Sunday night’s victory against Pittsburgh, which knocked the Steelers to No. 3 in the rankings after they held the No. 1 spot since Week 4.

Despite Morris’ claim that the Bucs are the NFC’s best team, our voters have them No. 14 in the NFL and sixth among NFC teams. With a game against Atlanta at the Georgia Dome on Sunday, the Bucs may get a chance to crack the top 10 and they could even back up Morris’ claim.

The Carolina Panthers, who climbed out of the 30s last week with their first win of the season, lost to St. Louis on Sunday and that dropped them back to No. 31, one spot ahead of winless Buffalo.
ESPN.com’s NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 9 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: 7-9.
  • Why: The Chiefs are learning to do what it takes to win.
Oakland Raiders
  • Power Ranking: 16
  • My Power Ranking range: 14-16
  • Why: The Raiders are streaking up the rankings. Teams that score 92 points in two games tend to do that.
San Diego Chargers
  • Power Ranking: 22
  • My Power Ranking range: 18-20
  • Why: The Chargers can win every time they step on the field. But they can lose every time they step on the field as well.
Denver Broncos
  • Power Ranking: 28
  • My Power Ranking range: 28-30
  • Why: The Broncos are falling fast and hard.

Power Rankings: Patriots are No. 1

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
2:00
PM ET
The New England Patriots are the best team in the NFL.

So says the latest edition of ESPN.com's Power Rankings.

The Patriots became the first AFC East team to hold the top spot this year. The New York Jets were rated second the previous two weeks.

Another Miami Dolphins road victory helped the division solidify its stature in the poll, putting three AFC East clubs in the top half of the league. I believe the Dolphins deserve to be even higher. The Buffalo Bills remained at the bottom of the chart.

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

1. New England Patriots

Previous rank: 3

My take: If you're going to dispute this ranking, then you're trying too hard. The Patriots have the NFL's best record at 6-1. True, they lost to the Jets, but the Patriots haven't lost since, winning five straight. The Jets were shut out at home Sunday. The Patriots also were the highest-rated team from last week's Power Rankings to win.

4. New York Jets


Previous rank: 2

My take: I disagree with the Baltimore Ravens leapfrogging the Jets from No. 4 to No. 2. On what grounds? They needed overtime at home and a load of luck to squeak past the Bills in Week 7 and were idle in Week 8. But if not the Ravens, then maybe the Indianapolis Colts deserve to be ahead of the Jets anyway. So I'm not going to quibble with the Jets being rated fourth. That seems proper.

15. Miami Dolphins

Previous rank: 16

My take: The Dolphins aren't getting enough respect in the Power Rankings. Granted, the Cincinnati Bengals were ranked 22nd last week, but the Dolphins won at Paul Brown Stadium to push their road record to 4-0. The Dolphins were one bad break away from beating the then-No. 1 Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 6. I'm not saying the Dolphins should be in the top 10, but they did beat the Green Bay Packers, who are No. 8 this week, at Lambeau Field.

32. Buffalo Bills

Previous rank: 32

My take: The Bills have shown signs of life on the field, but they still have no Power Rankings pulse. All four voters slotted them 32nd despite taking superior teams into overtime on the road two weeks in a row. But the Bills are the NFL's only winless club, and until they get a victory, they justifiably will be rated at dead last.

Power Rankings: How the voters voted

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
2:00
PM ET
It was a rough week for the incumbent from Pennsylvania when ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings voters went to the polls early Tuesday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, ranked No. 1 for five consecutive weeks, dropped to third on all four ballots following their 20-10 defeat at New Orleans.

Restless voters -- me, John Clayton, Paul Kuharsky and James Walker -- produced new rankings for 31 of 32 teams. And yet the top teams generated unusual consensus.

The New England Patriots swept into the top spot with No. 1 votes on all four ballots, their first No. 1 ranking since Week 1 of the 2008 season. The Baltimore Ravens were a consensus No. 2 choice, their highest ranking since achieving No. 1 status in Weeks 3 and 4 of the 2009 season.

The New York Jets, shut out at home against Green Bay, dropped two spots to No. 4. Worse, they were unable to contest the ranking after using all their challenges on the division-rival Patriots' top billing (the Jets, after all, beat New England in Week 1).

Let's dig deeper inside the rankings heading into Week 9 ...

Rising (15): The Oakland Raiders jumped seven spots to No. 16, the largest gain from last week. The Jacksonville Jaguars moved up six spots. The Tampa Bay Bucs and New Orleans Saints rose four spots apiece. The Detroit Lions climbed three places. The San Diego Chargers, New York Giants, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens each jumped two spots. The San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts rose one spot each.

Falling (16): The Houston Texans and Washington Redskins each fell five spots, the largest drop from last week. The Minnesota Vikings fell four places. The Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks each dropped three spots. The Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans fell two places each. The Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams fell one spot each.

Unchanged (1): The Buffalo Bills' ranking did not change.

Deadlocked: We broke one tie this week. Denver prevailed over Dallas for the 28th spot on the third tiebreaker. The teams have not played head-to-head. Their overall record was the same. The third tiebreaker -- which team won most recently -- favored the Broncos. They won Oct. 3. The Cowboys last won Sept. 26. The fourth tiebreaker -- which team had the highest ranking previously -- was not needed.

Like minds: All four voters ranked the Patriots first, the Ravens second and the Steelers third. Three ranked the Jets fourth, the Colts fifth and the Bucs 14th. Three ranked the Rams 21st. All four ranked the Bills last. All four ranked the Panthers, Vikings, Bucs, Giants and Colts within a range of one place (example: Minnesota was either 23rd or 24th on every ballot).

Agree to disagree: The Titans generated the largest gap between high and low votes. Seven other teams produced disparities of at least five places.
  • Titans (8): Clayton ranked them sixth, higher than any voter ranked them. Walker ranked them 14th, lower than any voter ranked them.
  • Bears (6): Kuharsky and Walker 16th, Sando 22nd.
  • Saints (5): Walker seventh, Clayton and Kuharsky 12th.
  • Dolphins (5): Walker 12th, Kuharsky 17th.
  • Redskins (5): Kuharsky 15th, Sando and Clayton 20th.
  • Seahawks (5): Clayton 17th, Walker 22nd.
  • Cardinals (5): Clayton 22nd, Kuharsky 27th.
  • Cowboys (5): Kuharsky 25th, Sando and Clayton 30th.
Power rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: The AFC South retained the top spot. 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 more than five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Redskins (-8), Cardinals (-6), Vikings (-6), Packers (+6), Raiders (+6), Bucs (+6), Jaguars (+9)
  • Clayton: Bengals (-6), Redskins (-6), Raiders (+6)
  • Kuharsky: Jaguars (+8), Raiders (+8)
  • Walker: Redskins (-7), Titans (-6)
For download: An Excel file -- available here -- showing how each voter voted this week and in past weeks.

The file 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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