NFL Nation: 2011 Week 11 NFL power rankings

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:

STEELERS

Power Ranking: No. 4

Record: 7-3

Comment: The Steelers jumped past the Ravens and moved to No. 4. An argument still can be made that the Steelers deserve to be No. 3 over the Saints. The Steelers' three losses are against No. 6 Ravens (twice) and No. 9 Texans. Pittsburgh increased its standing by beating the No. 11 Bengals in Cincinnati.

RAVENS

Power Ranking: No. 6

Record: 6-3

Comment: The Ravens should feel lucky that they only dropped three spots after flopping at Seattle. Baltimore could have easily fallen to No. 8. Of course, the Ravens are one spot ahead of the Giants, who also lost to the Seahawks. The Ravens' three losses are to No. 15 Tennessee, No. 25 Jacksonville and No. 24 Seattle. That's troubling.

BENGALS

Power Ranking: No. 11

Record: 6-3

Comment: It would have been nice to see the Bengals remain at No. 10 after proving they can compete against the Steelers. Cincinnati is the worst-ranked 6-3 team. At least there are no four-loss teams above the Bengals.

BROWNS

Power Ranking: No. 28

Record: 3-6

Comment: The Browns are right where they should be after losing to the previously one-win Rams at home. They dropped three spots and are the lowest-ranked three-win team for a reason. Their three wins have come against Seattle (No. 24), Miami (No. 29) and Indianapolis (No. 32). It's been a steady decline for the Browns since peaking at No. 21 in Week 4.

NFL Week 11 Power Rankings: NFC North

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
2:35
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Let's take a quick look at ESPN.com's Week 11 Power Rankings, which still include three NFC North teams among its top 10:

1. Green Bay Packers
Trending:
It's been unanimous since Week 4.

5. Chicago Bears
Trending:
Up four after a 37-13 victory over the Detroit Lions

10. Detroit Lions
Trending:
Down three after getting crushed at Soldier Field.

27. Minnesota Vikings
Trending:
Down three after Monday night's 45-7 disaster at Lambeau Field.

NFL Power Rankings: AFC West style

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
2:30
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Here's a look at how the AFC West teams fared in our Week 11 NFL Power Rankings. I do not have a vote, but I do have an opinion:

Oakland Raiders

Power ranking: 16

My range: 13-15

Comment: The Raiders are in position to go to the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

San Diego Chargers

Power ranking: 18

My range: 18-20

Comment: The Chargers have to show they are capable of winning a game at this point.

Denver Broncos

Power ranking: 19

My range: 19-21

Comment: The Broncos are becoming one of the more interesting teams in the league.

Kansas City Chiefs

Power ranking: 21

My range: 20-22

Comment: With Matt Cassel out for perhaps the year, the tumble could continue.

NFL Power Rankings: AFC South

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
1:33
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The Texans produced the widest split in this week’s edition of the ESPN.com’s NFL Power Rankings -- with a fourth-place vote from John Clayton and a 14th-place vote from James Walker.

I judged them to be between that, at eighth, and they stand at ninth.

Their win at Tampa Bay gave them a boost, but the loss of quarterback Matt Schaub to a foot injury worked to offset it.

So they stand ninth heading into their bye. The AFC South fell to last overall among the eight divisions: Our four teams average 20.5th, while the NFC West is at 19.5th.

I’m one-fifth of the ballot. Mike Sando breaks down the whole vote here.

If you want to contact me with your feedback, please do so via Twitter or the mailbag.

Here’s the AFC South:


As for my complete ballot, the number in parenthesis is where I had the team ranked last week.
1) Green Bay (1)

2) San Francisco (2)

3) New Orleans (7)

4) Pittsburgh (4)

5) Chicago (11)

6) New England (14)

7) Baltimore (3)

8) Houston (8)

9) NY Giants (6)

10) Detroit (5)

11) Dallas (20)

12) Cincinnati (9)

13) Atlanta (10)

14) NY Jets (12)

15) Tennessee (16)

16) Buffalo (13)

17) Oakland (17)

18) Tampa Bay (21)

19) Denver (28)

20) Kansas City (18)

21) San Diego (19)

22) Arizona (30)

23) Philadelphia (15)

24) Washington (22)

25) Minnesota (23)

26) Seattle (29)

27) Jacksonville (25)

28) Cleveland (26)

29) Carolina (24)

30) St. Louis (30)

31) Miami (31)

32) Indianapolis (32)

NFL Power Rankings: Saints No. 3

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
1:30
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The latest ESPN.com Power Rankings are out and the New Orleans Saints have taken another step toward the top.

After defeating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime Sunday, the Saints moved up from No. 4 to No. 3. They are behind only the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers as NFC teams now hold the first three spots in the rankings.

Despite the loss to the Saints, the Falcons didn’t lose any ground in the rankings. They stayed at No. 13 for the second straight week.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have tumbled to their lowest ranking of the season. They dropped two spots to No. 20.

After using a series of moral victories to get up into the mid-20s, the Carolina Panthers are now back to the exact spot they were in to start the season. They’re No. 31.

Power Rankings: Patriots back in top 10

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
1:30
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Thoughts of the New England Patriots' demise were greatly exaggerated.

Most people wrote off New England after its two-game losing streak and being underdogs heading into last weekend's game against the New York Jets. But Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick were masterful again in a convincing 37-16 victory.

Here is how that game and others in the AFC East impacted ESPN.com's latest Power Rankings:

New England Patriots (6-3)

Power ranking: No. 8 (up four spots)

Walker's vote: No. 8 (same)

Analysis: I refused to write off the Patriots and kept them in the top 10 last week, despite their struggles. New England dropped a whopping seven spots after back-to-back losses to two quality teams in the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Patriots bounced back with a huge road win over the Jets that completed a season sweep and most likely clinched the AFC East division. New England has the NFL's easiest strength of schedule the rest of the way and should get hot down the stretch. The Patriots will host the Tyler Palko-led Kansas City Chiefs next on "Monday Night Football."

New York Jets (5-4)

Power ranking: No. 14 (down three spots)

Walker's vote: No. 12 (down three spots)

Analysis: The Jets had their three-game winning streak halted by the Patriots. It was a big loss, but New York has to rebound quickly with Thursday night's game against the Denver Broncos. I still like this Jets team. They have their flaws, particularly on offense. But the Jets are a tough matchup for anyone when they're clicking. The key game to watch for New York will be in two weeks against the Buffalo Bills. The Jets will be going for the sweep in what could be a playoff eliminator for one of these teams.

Buffalo Bills (5-4)

Power ranking: No. 17

Walker's vote: No. 19

Analysis: The Bills continue their dramatic slide down the Power Rankings. Buffalo was a fixture in the top 10 last month but is playing ugly football the past two weeks. Buffalo has been outscored 71-18 in losses to the Jets and Dallas Cowboys. November and December is when the good teams separate from the pack and make a push for the playoffs. The Bills aren’t stepping up but early wins still keep them in the hunt.

Miami Dolphins (2-7)

Power ranking: No. 29 (up two spots)

Walker's vote: No. 27 (up three spots)

Analysis: The Dolphins are the hottest team in the AFC East and moved up two spots. They won their second straight with a 20-9 victory over the Washington Redskins. We’ve said all season that Miami has the talent to give teams trouble. The Dolphins’ biggest issue was execution. Now that the team is executing well, it is playing closer to its potential. Miami is suddenly a dangerous opponent on Sunday for the Bills.

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys rising

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
1:30
PM ET
Oh yes it's Power Rankings day here at ESPN.com, and you know what that means. Time to see where our division's teams have landed in the latest edition of our weekly NFL power poll.

7. New York Giants (Last week: 6): Not surprisingly, very little movement for the Giants off a close road loss to the No. 2-ranked team in the Power Rankings. The only thing that pushed the Giants down at all was the Bears jumping from No. 9 to No. 5 off of their very impressive victory against the Lions. As I wrote Monday, there was no reason for anyone to change their opinion on the Giants based on Sunday's result. If you thought they were a top-10 team before they lost in San Francisco, you can still think that. If you thought they'd been playing over their heads and shouldn't be ranked this high, you can still think that. You guys all know on which that side of the fence I fall.

12. Dallas Cowboys (15): Dallas tied the Bengals for 11th in this week's rankings but lost the tiebreaker due to Cincinnati's better overall record. Still, a three-spot jump based on a dominating victory over the Bills has the Cowboys knocking on the door of the top 10. And given their upcoming schedule -- games against the Redskins, Dolphins and Cardinals -- they have the opportunity to make a big move in these rankings over the next three weeks. If they slip up, their ranking will deservedly be punished for it. But if they can keep their roll going against those lesser teams, they have a chance to move into elite company here pretty soon.

22. Philadelphia Eagles (16): Last week's Monday night loss to the up-and-coming Bears wasn't enough to knock the Eagles down in the rankings, but Sunday's el foldo against the 23rd-ranked Cardinals sure was. Only five teams in the league have worse records than the Eagles, who are the most disappointing team in the NFL this year, so they should count themselves lucky to be ahead of 10 teams in the rankings.

26. Washington Redskins (22): Five weeks ago, they were ranked 10th in this poll. They have not won since, and are now far more likely to settle somewhere near their preseason rank of 28th than in those lofty Week 5 and Week 6 heights. Things have gotten away from the Redskins quickly. I think they're ranked about where they should be, but Miami and Carolina are behind them and have a case, since they both beat Washington head-to-head.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
12:30
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Here's a nightmare scenario for Arizona Cardinals fans: Kevin Kolb flounders while a reborn Matt Leinart leads the Houston Texans deep into the playoffs.

The 7-3 Texans' outlook minus injured starting quarterback Matt Schaub framed the biggest debate our voters faced in putting together ESPN's NFL Power Rankings through Week 10.

John Clayton ranked them fourth and Ashley Fox had them fifth. Paul Kuharsky ranked them eighth. I had Houston 11th and James Walker voted them 14th despite four consecutive double-digit victories and a No. 8 ranking last week.

"I was conflicted on the Texans," Fox said, "and decided to rank them based on past performance, rather than the potential for future failure. We will see."

Kuharsky, our AFC South blogger, suspects Leinart could outperform expectations fewer than two years after the Cardinals decided they were better off with Derek Anderson, John Skelton and Max Hall.

"I'm not going to jump to write off the Texans with the Schaub news," Kuharsky said. "Gary Kubiak knows quarterbacks and he loves Leinart."

Cardinals fans would be happy to offer their Leinart video collections. But as ESPN Stats & Information pointed out, Leinart has a slightly above average 52.9 Total QBR on 147 plays since 2008, counting playoffs. He completed 21 of 31 passes for 220 yards and a 73.9 QBR against Tennessee in his last regular-season start in 2009.

"The Texans missed on their last try at a quality backup with Dan Orlovsky," Kuharsky said. "I don't think they'll miss twice in a row. I expect they have enough to win with Leinart playing. But, like everyone, I need to see him play."

And now, a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 11 ...

Rising (12): Arizona Cardinals (+6), Oakland Raiders (+5), Tennessee Titans (+5), Chicago Bears (+4), Denver Broncos (+4), New England Patriots (+4), Seattle Seahawks (+4), Dallas Cowboys (+3), Jacksonville Jaguars (+2), Miami Dolphins (+2), New Orleans Saints (+1), Pittsburgh Steelers (+1)

Falling (15): Philadelphia Eagles (-6), Carolina Panthers (-5), Washington Redskins (-4), Baltimore Ravens (-3), Buffalo Bills (-3), Cleveland Browns (-3), Detroit Lions (-3), Minnesota Vikings (-3), New York Jets (-3), Kansas City Chiefs (-2), Tampa Bay Bucs (-2), Cincinnati Bengals (-1), Houston Texans (-1), New York Giants (-1), San Diego Chargers (-1)

Unchanged (5): Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams.

Deadlocked: We broke two ties this week. Cincinnati prevailed over Dallas at No. 11 based on the second tiebreaker, overall record. Denver prevailed over Tampa Bay at No. 19 on the third tiebreaker, which team won most recently. The first tiebreaker, head-to-head results, did not come into play.

Like minds: All five panelists ranked the Packers first, the 49ers second and the Colts last.

Agree to disagree: Last week, eight spots separated the highest and lowest votes for the Bears. That margin shrunk to five this week, with Chicago moving into the top five for the first time this season. Walker and I ranked the Bears fourth. I've had them in the top eight for a month after admittedly underrating them earlier in the season.

"The Bears are going to be the playoff team no one wants to face in January," Walker said. "They’re not catching the Packers in the standings, so Chicago will be a dangerous wild card. The Bears match up with anyone because they can beat you with offense, defense or special teams."

A look at the eight teams, including Chicago, producing disparities of at least five spots between highest and lowest votes:
  • Texans (10): Clayton fourth, Walker 14th.
  • Browns (7): Clayton 24th, Sando and Walker 31st.
  • Redskins (6): Clayton 23rd, Walker and Fox 29th.
  • Bears (5): Sando and Walker fourth, Fox ninth.
  • Chiefs (5): Fox 19th, Sando 24th.
  • Cardinals (5): Sando, Kuharsky and Fox 22nd, Clayton 27th.
  • Seahawks (5): Sando 21st, Clayton and Kuharsky 26th.
  • Vikings (5): Kuharsky and Walker 25th, Clayton and Fox 30th.
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 fell from 10.7 to 11.3 in average ranking, but that was still good enough to keep the top spot among divisions, well ahead of the AFC North (12.5 average ranking). The NFC West, coming off its first 4-0 week since realignment in 2002, stands seventh this week, ahead of the AFC South.


A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Browns (-9), Eagles (-5), Cardinals (+7), Cowboys (+7), Raiders (+7), Seahawks (+7).
  • Clayton: Ravens (-5), Panthers (-5), Lions (-5), Vikings (-5), Eagles (-5), Bears (+6), Titans (+6).
  • Kuharsky: Eagles (-8), Panthers (-5), Lions (-5), Cardinals (+5), Bears (+6), Patriots (+8), Cowboys (+9), Broncos (+9).
  • Walker: Eagles (-8), Redskins (-7), Cardinals (+5), Broncos (+5), Bears (+6), Raiders (+6), Seahawks (+7).
  • Fox: Panthers (-6), Vikings (-6), Jets (-6), Redskins (-6), Cowboys (+5), Cardinals (+7).
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.

Baltimore is the only one of our top eight teams with a victory over a team ranked higher this week. The sixth-ranked Ravens own two victories over the fourth-ranked Steelers. The Chargers are 18th and have not defeated any of the teams ranked higher than them. They are the only team ranked between 12th and 31st without at least one victory over a higher-ranked team.

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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