NFL Nation: 2011 Week 10 NFL power rankings

NFL Power Rankings: NFC North

November, 8, 2011
11/08/11
1:36
PM ET
ESPN.com's playoff predictor Insider continues to project three NFC North teams among the 12-team postseason field, and the Week 10 Power Rankings back up that sentiment. We've now got three teams power ranked among the top nine in the NFL, giving us the best composite ranking -- exactly one-thousandths of a percentage point higher than the fledging AFC North. Take that.

The details:

1. Green Bay Packers
Trending: The arrow can't point any higher.

7. Detroit Lions
Trending:
Up one after a successful bye week.

9. Chicago Bears
Trending: Up one after winning Monday night at the Philadelphia Eagles.

24. Minnesota Vikings
Trending:
Down one after a questionable bye week.
Back in the preseason, a lot of people were talking about how the NFC South might be the best division in football.

Well, we’re right about the midseason point and the latest ESPN.com Power Rankings don’t support that argument. Twelve teams go to the playoffs and there’s only one NFC South team in the top 12. One other is very close to the top 12. The other two are not.

The New Orleans Saints continue to be the division’s marquee team. They jumped back into the top five after Sunday’s win against Tampa Bay. The Saints went from No. 6 to No. 4.

The Saints are third among NFC teams. Green Bay is No. 1 and San Francisco is No. 2. I can’t argue with either of those rankings. But I will say that when the Saints are on, like they were against the Buccaneers, I think they can beat San Francisco and at least give Green Bay a game.

The problem is, if things keep going the way they are, the Saints may have to go on the road to San Francisco or Green Bay in the playoffs and that’s not nearly as easy as playing in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

I’m a little curious about how the voters handled the rankings of the next two NFC South teams. The Atlanta Falcons are No. 13. That’s down one spot from last week. The Falcons went up to Indianapolis and won easily.

I know the Colts aren’t what they used to be in the Peyton Manning days, but I don’t think the Falcons should be dropping in the rankings. They won on the road and they’re now on a three-game winning streak. If the Falcons can win against the Saints on Sunday, then I think you have to start talking about Atlanta as one of the best three teams in the NFC.

It’s also a little strange that the Buccaneers actually moved up one spot after their loss to the Saints. The Bucs are now No. 18. I thought voters might have sold the Bucs a bit short when they were at No. 19 last week. But I was at Sunday’s game and saw nothing that would make me think the Bucs should rise in the rankings.

The Carolina Panthers, coming off a bye, dropped from No. 26 to No. 27.

NFL Power Rankings, NFC East-style

November, 8, 2011
11/08/11
1:30
PM ET
Tuesday is, as you all know quite well, Power Rankings day here at ESPN.com. And the new Power Rankings once again include all four teams from the NFC East. It's quite nice of them to include all 32 teams, I think. Shows a real feeling of camaraderie and brotherhood -- a sense that we're all in this together. Here's a look at the way our particular four teams landed in this week's rankings:

6. New York Giants (Last week: 9)

I don't have a lot more to say on this one, folks. My position is well established, but if I have turned out to be wrong, it won't be the first time. All they do is win, against every odd they face, and a great former coach of theirs used to say, "You are what your record says you are." The Giants are 6-2. There are only two teams in the league with better records. Until somebody beats them and proves otherwise, this is where they belong. And if they go out to San Francisco on Sunday and beat the No. 2 team in the rankings ... jeez, they've got a pretty good chance to get a lot higher.

15. Dallas Cowboys (21)

Cowboys fans may not have thought much of the ho-hum victory over the Seahawks, but Power Rankings voters sure did. The Cowboys were the biggest mover of the week, jumping six spots from last week's poll. James Walker and Ashley Fox both rank Dallas in the top half of the league right now, and while the Cowboys are only 4-4, if they can pick up a win at home Sunday against Buffalo, the schedule opens right up for them. They also get the Giants head-to-head twice yet, which means they kind of hold their destiny in their hands a little bit. I wonder if the voters are looking ahead and seeing the Cowboys as a mover.

16. Philadelphia Eagles (16)

I was a little surprised they didn't drop, but then I looked at all the teams right behind them -- the Chargers, Bucs, Chiefs, Titans, Raiders, Redskins -- and realized they all lost, too. Good break for the Eagles as it pertains to this poll, but they're sitting at 3-5 now, and just because it was a close loss to the No. 9-ranked team in the poll doesn't mean they shouldn't be penalized for it. The rotten weeks by the teams immediately behind them are the only thing that kept the Eagles from plummeting. Ashley's got them at No. 20.

22. Washington Redskins (22)

Same thing here, but the Redskins lost to a 7-1 San Francisco team and I guess there's no shame in that, is there? Also, did the Redskins look any worse Sunday than they did the Sunday before? Did we learn anything about their insufficient offense that we didn't already know. The Redskins offered voters no new information with which to evaluate them, so I guess the voters left them right where they were. Which is right about where they belong so far.

What do you guys think?

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

November, 8, 2011
11/08/11
12:43
PM ET
So much for the AFC East.

New England and Buffalo suffered the largest drops in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 10, with the Patriots leaving the top 10 for the first time since they were 11th back in Week 14 of the 2009 season. The seven-spot drop to No. 12 left New England with its lowest ranking since the 2008 team was 17th without Tom Brady.

The Patriots lost a little mystique Sunday when the New York Giants ended Brady's 31-game home winning streak during the regular season. The outcome caught at least one of our Power Rankings voters by surprise. AFC East blogger James Walker had left the Giants 16th on his previous three ballots, but he moved them up to seventh this week and sought forgiveness.

"I apologize for under-voting the Giants," Walker said. "I thought they were overrated and didn’t have a true identity. But New York keeps winning and beat the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. I will not underrate them any longer."

The Bills joined the Patriots at 5-3 and in dropping seven spots from last week. Buffalo's No. 14 ranking is the Bills' lowest since sitting at No. 16 heading into Week 3.

And now, a closer look at the latest rankings ...

Rising (12): Dallas Cowboys (+6), Denver Broncos (+5), Cincinnati Bengals (+4), Houston Texans (+3), New York Giants (+3), New Orleans Saints (+2), New York Jets (+2), Arizona Cardinals (+1), Baltimore Ravens (+1), Chicago Bears (+1), Detroit Lions (+1), Tampa Bay Bucs (+1).

Falling (13): Buffalo Bills (-7), New England Patriots (-7), Oakland Raiders (-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (-2), San Diego Chargers (-2), Atlanta Falcons (-1), Carolina Panthers (-1), Cleveland Browns (-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (-1), Kansas City Chiefs (-1), Minnesota Vikings (-1), Seattle Seahawks (-1), St. Louis Rams (-1).

Unchanged (7): Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins.

Deadlocked: We broke two ties this week. New Orleans edged Pittsburgh at No. 4 on the third tiebreaker (which team won most recently). Cincinnati edged the Jets for the 10th spot on the second tiebreaker (better record). The first tiebreaker, head-to-head results, did not come into play.

Like minds: All five panelists ranked the Packers first. Four ranked the Texans eighth. All five ranked the Redskins 22nd or 23rd. All five ranked the Colts last.

Agree to disagree: Eight spots separated the highest and lowest votes for the Bears. A look at the seven teams producing disparities of at least six spots between highest and lowest votes:
  • Bears (8): Sando ranked them sixth, higher than any other voter ranked them. Clayton ranked them 14th, lower than any other voter ranked them.
  • Bengals (6): Clayton seventh, Walker 13th.
  • Jets (6): Fox seventh, Sando 13th.
  • Patriots (6): Walker eighth, Kuharsky 14th.
  • Cowboys (6): Walker 14th, Kuharsky 20th.
  • Buccaneers (6): Sando 15th, Kuharsky 21st.
  • Broncos (6): Fox 22nd, Kuharsky 28th.
  • Steelers (6): Sando, Kuharsky and Walker fourth, Clayton ninth.
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 North rank 10.7 on average, just ahead of teams from the AFC North (10.8). The NFC South is third at 15.0, well behind the top two.

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Bills (-7), Patriots (-7), Giants (+5).
  • Clayton: Raiders (-9), Patriots (-6), Steelers (-5), Jets (+5), Eagles (+5).
  • Kuharsky: Bills (-9), Patriots (-7), Eagles (-5), Falcons (+5).
  • Walker: Bills (-9), Patriots (-5), Ravens (+5), Cowboys (+5), Broncos (+7), Giants (+9).
  • Fox: Patriots (-6), Chargers (-6), Cowboys (+6), Texans (+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.

The Texans are the only one of our top 11 teams that has defeated a team ranked higher than them. They beat Pittsburgh. The 17th-ranked Chargers are the lowest-ranked team with a record of .500 or better and zero victories over any teams ranked higher than them.

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.
A look at how the AFC North teams stand in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings. I don't have a vote, but I can certainly chime in:

RAVENS

Power Ranking: No. 3

Record: 6-2

Comment: The Baltimore Ravens are justifiably No. 3 in the power rankings after beating last weeks's No. 3 team, Pittsburgh. Baltimore has won a total of three games against Pittsburgh (6-3) and Houston (6-3), which is why the Ravens are the highest ranked six-win team. It's hard to move the Ravens into the No. 2 spot over San Francisco (even though John Harbaugh would love to be ahead of his older brother) because they struggled last month against a couple of one-win teams.

STEELERS

Power Ranking: No. 5

Record: 6-3

Comment: The Pittsburgh Steelers should drop after losing to the Ravens. No question about that. The problem is dropping the Steelers two spots to No. 5. Pittsburgh shouldn't fall that much after losing on a last-minute touchdown to the new No. 3 team in Baltimore. The Steelers' three losses have come against No. 3 Ravens (twice) and No. 8 Houston. The Saints' three losses have come against Green Bay (No. 1), Tampa Bay (No. 18) and St. Louis (No. 30). Doesn't make sense.

BENGALS

Power Ranking: No. 10

Record: 6-2

Comment: It's been a slow climb from starting the season at No. 32, but the Cincinnati Bengals have finally cracked the top 10. Cincinnati has moved up eight spots over the past three weeks, which could be sign that voters are starting to believe in the Bengals. You could argue that Cincinnati should be higher. Four three-loss teams (Pittsburgh, Houston, New Orleans and Chicago) are all ahead of the Bengals.

BROWNS

Power Ranking: No. 25

Record: 3-5

Comment: Once again, no problem here with the Cleveland Browns being at this spot. They are the lowest ranked of the three-win teams, and deservedly so. Cleveland's three wins have come against Seattle (No. 28), Miami (No. 31) and Indianapolis (No. 32). The Browns are ahead of all of them. That's all you can ask for at this point.

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