NFL Nation: 2011 Week 3 Power Rankings

Recapping AFC North Power Rankings

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
2:38
PM ET
As a division, the AFC North ranks fifth in the ESPN Power Rankings. Here's how our voters (I don't have a vote) ranked the AFC North teams in Week 3:

RAVENS

Power ranking: 7

Record: 1-1

Comment: Ravens fell three spots, but it easily could have been more after their showing at the Titans, a team that isn't expected to go to the playoffs.

STEELERS

Power ranking: 9

Record: 1-1

Comment: No love for the Steelers, who fell one spot despite shutting out the Seahawks. The Falcons and Texans both moved into the top 10, which pushed Pittsburgh down.

BENGALS

Power ranking: 28

Record: 1-1

Comment: The Bengals were impressive even in defeat at Denver, which clearly shows in the power rankings. Cincinnati, which had been ranked last in the preseason and in Week 1, moved up two spots.

BROWNS

Power ranking: 29

Record: 1-1

Comment: The Browns made the biggest leap of any AFC North team, climbing three spots after beating the Colts.

2011 NFC West power rankings: Week 3

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
2:15
PM ET
The Seattle Seahawks rank 32nd in our power rankings heading into Week 3 even though the Kansas City Chiefs received two additional last-place votes.

All five voters ranked Seattle between 30th and 32nd. The Chiefs drew a No. 24 vote from Ashley Fox to go with three last-place votes and one No. 31 vote. As a result, the Chiefs' average ranking (30.2) was slightly higher than the 30.8 for Seattle.

I went with the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams and Seattle, in that order. But I'll probably pick the Seahawks to win at home against the Cardinals in Week 3 based on home-field advantage and Arizona's defensive struggles.

One or two quick thoughts per NFC West team:
  • Arizona: The Cardinals got their running game going against the Washington Redskins. Seattle's defense is strongest against the run. How well will the Cardinals protect the passer in Seattle?
  • San Francisco: The 49ers, like the Rams, have already lost at home. They play three of their next four on the road, where bad things are more likely to happen. That makes bouncing back from the Dallas Cowboys game tougher.
  • St. Louis: The Rams are relying upon too many backup types while key starters miss time to injury. Their margin for error is diminished. They've also been less disciplined than anticipated.
  • Seattle: The Seahawks' offense would benefit from playing against less formidable defensive front sevens than the ones San Francisco and the Pittsburgh Steelers lined up against them. But how much would it benefit? Perhaps only a little.

The chart singles out how power rankings voters ranked NFC West teams.
The team that’s held up the top of the ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings for the AFC South for as long as I’ve been voting is sinking like a rock.

Want to put a value on Peyton Manning to the Colts? In power ranking terms, it’s roughly 25 spots.

The 0-2 Colts stand at 30th in the new edition of our poll, ahead of just Seattle and Kansas City. One of our five panelists, Mike Sando of the NFC West, put Indianapolis 32nd.

Reminder: I’m just one of five ballots. You’ll find a roundup of all of them HERE. Mine is also below.

I welcome your venom in my mailbag, just please make it accurate venom.

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. New England (2)
  3. NY Jets (3)
  4. New Orleans (6)
  5. Houston (7)
  6. Baltimore (5)
  7. Atlanta (10)
  8. Philadelphia (4)
  9. Detroit (11)
  10. Pittsburgh (8)
  11. Tampa Bay (13)
  12. Chicago (9)
  13. Dallas (18)
  14. San Diego (12)
  15. Washington (21)
  16. Tennessee (25)
  17. NY Giants (15)
  18. Buffalo (24)
  19. Oakland (14)
  20. St. Louis (19)
  21. Arizona (20)
  22. Jacksonville (16)
  23. Miami (23)
  24. Carolina (27)
  25. San Francisco (22)
  26. Denver (29)
  27. Cincinnati (28)
  28. Cleveland (32)
  29. Indianapolis (17)
  30. Minnesota (30)
  31. Seattle (31)
  32. Kansas City (26)

AFC East Power Rankings analysis

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
2:00
PM ET
The AFC East went 3-1 in Week 2 and improved to 6-2 overall. Here is how the fast start impacted ESPN.com's Power Rankings:

New England Patriots (2-0)

Result: W, 35-21 vs. San Diego

Power ranking: No. 2 (same)

Walker's vote: No. 1 (same)

Analysis: The Patriots held firm at No. 2. For weeks, I've been the only voter to rank New England No. 1. But NFC West blogger Mike Sando has joined the fray and also voted the Patriots No. 1 for the first time this week. The Patriots have been dominant, in large part, due to quarterback Tom Brady. The defense still has things to work on. But New England should get a good test this week on the road against undefeated Buffalo.

New York Jets (2-0)

Result: W, 32-3 vs. Jacksonville

Power ranking: No. 3 (up two spots)

Walker's vote: No. 4 (up one spot)

Analysis: The AFC East has two teams in the top three, making the division one of the strongest in the NFL. New York was dominant in a 32-3 win over Jacksonville. The Jets' defense was tremendous and the offense was solid in some areas. I liked how New York got tight end Dustin Keller involved. I think the Jets have a great chance to win every time Keller has a big game in the middle. The running game still baffles me. Is it the offensive line, the running backs or both? I'm still trying to figure that out. But a solid, 2-0 start for New York is what matters most.

Buffalo Bills (2-0)

Result: W, 38-35 vs. Oakland

Power ranking: No. 16 (up 11 spots)

Walker's vote: No. 17 (up four spots)

Analysis: I mentioned last week that Buffalo was rated too low after its Week 1 blowout of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills were No. 27, six spots lower than Kansas City. But an exciting win over the Oakland Raiders gave Buffalo its just due. The Bills were the biggest risers this week, jumping 11 spots to No. 16. The Bills have a chance to make another jump if they pull the upset at home against New England. The AFC East blog will be in Buffalo to cover that game.

Miami Dolphins (0-2)

Result: L, 23-13 vs. Houston

Power ranking: No. 25 (up one spot)

Walker's vote: No. 24 (down four spots)

Analysis: It's funny how Miami's second straight loss moved the Dolphins up one spot. Sometimes that happens. Miami is getting respect for losing to two of the top teams in the AFC (New England and Houston). I've covered both games, and the Dolphins certainly are not a team without talent. They're a team that can't execute and put it all together at key moments. I'm curious to see how Miami performs this week against the Cleveland Browns (1-1). For one, it's a road game. Miami usually plays with a lot of confidence away from home. Second, it's a must-win game if Miami plans to get back in the AFC East race.

Power Rankings: Redskins rising

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
2:00
PM ET
It's Power Rankings day here at ESPN.com, and the voters have spoken. Here's how our division's teams fared this week:

6. Philadelphia Eagles (Last week's ranking: 3). The Eagles drop from their elite perch following their Sunday night loss in Atlanta and the injury to Michael Vick. Their ranking appears to have been hurt especially by John Clayton ranking them 11th, which strikes me as a tad harsh. I mean, it's not as though no one's gone to Atlanta and lost the past couple of years. The run defense and the pass protection -- two preseason areas of concern -- looked worrisome. And without Vick, I agree that they're not a top-five team. But they're still loaded in a lot of places, and Vick isn't guaranteed to miss time. I'd rank them above the Texans, who moved ahead of them into fifth.

13. Dallas Cowboys (13). The overtime win in San Francisco kept Dallas right where they were last week, which I think it's about right for now. I still think they'll end up being better than the Bears (10) and Lions (11) before it's all said and done, but based on what we've seen so far you couldn't put them ahead of Detroit just yet. The defense has outperformed expectations, but the injuries they have on offense could make it tough to score for the next few weeks, so they'll do well just to hang in the middle of the pack for now.

15. Washington Redskins (19). That's a 13-spot jump in two weeks from a team that began the season ranked 28th on this list. Only the Bills (11 spots), Titans (eight spots) and Texans (five spots) made bigger jumps this week than did the Redskins, who vault into the top half of the list. Based on the way they've played so far, they've earned the spot, and clearly they never belonged down at 28 in the first place (as at least one astute and ruggedly handsome blogger said at the time). You could even make the case to rank them ahead of San Diego, Dallas or Tampa Bay -- the three teams directly ahead of them -- based only on the way they've played so far. But I think it's fair to put them where they are right now until we see more. If they're 3-0 this time next week, I expect another big jump, not to mention a lot of Rex Grossman feature stories in national publications.

18. New York Giants (17). One of only two teams (along with the Steelers) to win their Week 2 game and drop in the rankings, the Giants surely suffered for how awful they looked in their Monday Night Football victory over the Rams. They have major issues still to solve, especially on the health front, and they look awful in the secondary and shaky in the run game. Ashley Fox has them ranked 14th, which saves them from dropping further. Three of the five voters ranked the Giants in the 20s. Personally, based on results so far, the only team behind them I think I might move ahead of them is Oakland, but that's no sure thing. They're in about the right spot, for me, but you could see the bottom dropping out with a few more injuries.

So yeah. That's Power Rankings for Week 3. Your thoughts?

Week 3 Power Rankings: NFC North

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
2:00
PM ET
I'm guessing ESPN.com's Week 3 Power Rankings will stir you up a bit, especially those who reside in the eastern time zone portion of our division.

The Detroit Lions' 2-0 start wasn't enough to vault them over the 1-1 Chicago Bears in this week's voting. The Lions did get a No. 5 vote from ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton, but overall they sit one spot behind the Bears at No. 11. Still, the NFC North's composite ranking of 11.8 continues to make us the highest power-ranked division in the NFL.

The details:

1. Green Bay Packers
Trending:
No change after a 30-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

10. Chicago Bears
Trending: Down three spots after a 30-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

11. Detroit Lions
Trending: Up one after a 48-3 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

26. Minnesota Vikings
Trending:
Down two after a 24-20 home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Reviewing AFC West Power Rankings

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
1:30
PM ET
The following is a look at how the AFC West teams fared in our Week 3 NFL Power Rankings. I do not have a vote, but of course, I have an opinion:

San Diego Chargers

Power ranking: 12

My range: 8-10

Why: I still think the Chargers are one of the better teams in the league after losing at New England. They were in that game. They were not embarrassed.

Oakland Raiders

Power ranking: 20

My range: 17-19

Why: The Raiders should be 2-0. Now, they have to quickly move on and prepare for the schedule to stiffen.

Denver Broncos

Power ranking: 24

My range: 23-25

Why: Denver needed to win one of those two home games to start the season. Now, it needs to show it can compete on the road.

Kansas City Chiefs

Power ranking: 31

My range: 31-32

Why: What can you say? The Chiefs have been blasted in two games. They are horrible right now.

NFC South in the Power Rankings

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
1:30
PM ET
The newest edition of the ESPN.com Power Rankings are out and the NFC South is on the rise.

The division’s got two teams in the top 10, highlighted by the New Orleans Saints at No. 4. The Atlanta Falcons are No. 8 and I’ve got a slight gripe with that. The Philadelphia Eagles, the team the Falcons defeated Sunday night, are No. 6.

Shouldn’t the Falcons be ahead of “The Dream Team’’? I think so, but John Clayton and Paul Kuharsky were the only members of the voting panel to see it that way.

Despite a victory against Minnesota, the members of the voting panel remained lukewarm on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who came in at No. 14. I can’t really argue with that one. Tampa Bay won, but started very badly against a Minnesota team that’s not very good. The Bucs need to play a four-quarter game before they really get respect.

Although they’re 0-2, the Carolina Panthers slowly are climbing out of the dregs of the rankings. They’re up to No. 27 and Kuharsky even had them at No. 24 on his ballot.

Power Rankings: How the voters voted

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
1:30
PM ET

More than a few Buffalo Bills fans wanted to know what it would take for voters to give their team a little respect in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings.

"Please tell me why you and your friends that do the power rankings have the Bills ranked below the Chiefs when the Bills went into Arrowhead and won by 34 points," Mike from Coal Valley, Ill., wrote last week. "I just really would like some sort of explanation."

We've got one for you, Mike: We were wrong, but now we're right -- at least for a week.

The Bills' Week 2 victory over Oakland, though narrow, was enough for voters to push Buffalo up a league-best 11 places. The Bills are 16th overall heading into their Week 3 game against the New England Patriots, who remained second behind Green Bay despite picking up another first-place vote (mine). That is the Bills' highest ranking since the 2008 team was fourth in Week 8. That team slumped to a No. 23 finish, losing seven of eight at one point.

The current Bills stand 15 spots higher than the Chiefs and 14 above Indianapolis. For the Colts, losing at home to Cleveland sent them sliding down ballots as voters concluded the team was doomed, not just diminished, without Peyton Manning.

AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky dropped the Colts 12 spots, the largest drop for Indianapolis on any ballot. Last week, Kuharsky had billed that Browns-Colts game as one that would determine whether Indy was average or plain horrible. Now we know.

The Colts weren't the only team heading south for the winter. The Chiefs dropped 17 spots on John Clayton's ballot after getting blown out again and losing Jamaal Charles to a knee injury. They fell 10 spots in the rankings, the largest drop from last week.

The Seattle Seahawks, shut out at Pittsburgh, hit a new low by displacing Cleveland as the last-ranked team. They dropped one spot after previously never ranking lower than 29th (2008, Week 14) since 2002.

And now, a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 3 ...

Rising (13): Buffalo Bills (+11), Tennessee Titans (+8), Houston Texans (+5), Washington Redskins (+4), Denver Broncos (+4), Atlanta Falcons (+3), Cleveland Browns (+3), New York Jets (+2), New Orleans Saints (+2), Carolina Panthers (+2), Cincinnati Bengals (+2), Detroit Lions (+1), Miami Dolphins (+1).

Falling (15): Kansas City Chiefs (-10), Indianapolis Colts (-7), Jacksonville Jaguars (-6), Philadelphia Eagles (-3), Baltimore Ravens (-3), Chicago Bears (-3), San Diego Chargers (-3), Arizona Cardinals (-3), Oakland Raiders (-2), St. Louis Rams (-2), Minnesota Vikings (-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (-1), New York Giants (-1), San Francisco 49ers (-1), Seattle Seahawks (-1).

Unchanged (4): Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties this week.

Like minds: Only one spot separated highest and lowest votes for the Packers, Patriots and Jets. Two votes separated votes for the Cowboys and Seahawks.

Agree to disagree: The Titans generated the largest gap between highest and lowest votes. I ranked them 14th, higher than any voter ranked them. Ashley Fox ranked them 25th, lower than any voter ranked them. A look at the six teams generating gaps of at least eight spots between high and low votes:
  • Titans (11): Sando 14th, Fox 25th.
  • Vikings (10): James Walker 20th, Kuharsky 30th.
  • Colts (9): Fox 23rd, Sando 32nd.
  • 49ers (8): Walker 18th, Fox 26th.
  • Dolphins (8): Kuharsky 23rd, Fox 31st.
  • Chiefs (8): Fox 24th, three voters 32nd.
Power rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: The NFC North held onto the highest average ranking (11.8) for any division despite slipping slightly. The AFC East was close behind at 11.9 after another impressive victory from Buffalo. 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: Chiefs (-10), Chargers (-5), Jaguars (-5), Titans (+5), Browns (+5), Texans (+6), Broncos (+6), Bills (+12).
  • Clayton: Chiefs (-17), Eagles (-8), Vikings (-6), Ravens (-5), Rams (-5), Jets (+5), Broncos (+6), Texans (+7), Lions (+8), Bills (+12).
  • Kuharsky: Colts (-12), Jaguars (-6), Chiefs (-6), Raiders (-5), Cowboys (+5), Bills (+6), Redskins (+6), Titans (+9).
  • Walker: Jaguars (-7), Chiefs (-6), Titans (+7).
  • Fox: Colts (-7), Dolphins (-7), Raiders (-5), Bills (+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.

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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