NFL Nation: 2012 Week 16 NFL power rankings

NFL Power Rankings: Denver tops AFC

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
1:05
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Here's a look at how the AFC West teams fared in the Week 16 Power Rankings. I do not have a vote, but I do have an opinion:

Denver Broncos
  • Power ranking: 2
  • My range: 1-2
  • Comment: This team made a big statement in Baltimore.
San Diego Chargers
  • Power ranking: 24
  • My range: 25-27
  • Comment: Bad teams get boatraced at home by fellow bad teams.
Oakland Raiders
  • Power ranking: 30
  • My range: 29-30
  • Comment: A shutout win over the Chiefs did nothing to impress the voters. It may say as much about the Chiefs as it does about the Raiders.
Kansas City Chiefs
  • Power ranking: 32
  • My range: 32
  • Comment: Really bad teams get worse as the season goes on. This is what is happening in Kansas City.

NFL Week 16 Power Rankings: NFC North

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
12:45
PM ET
Let's take a look at ESPN.com's Week 16 Power Rankings, which include three NFC North teams among the top 15 in the league:

6. Green Bay Packers
Trending: No change after a 21-13 victory over the Chicago Bears.
Comment: On Sunday, I suggested the Packers are as good as any team in the NFC. Sunday night's game between the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots suggested the 49ers are pretty good as well.

14. Chicago Bears
Trending: Down three after a 21-13 loss to the Packers.
Comment: Where will the Bears' free-fall end? Or will it? Their 1-5 slump has taken them from No. 3 to their current spot in the Power Rankings.

15. Minnesota Vikings
Trending: Up one after a 36-22 victory over the St. Louis Rams.
Comment: It's worth noting the Vikings gave the 49ers one of their three losses this season.

28. Detroit Lions
Trending: Down three after a 38-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Comment: Ugh. Enough said.

NFL Power Rankings: Falcons stay put

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
12:30
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The Atlanta Falcons are coming off their most impressive win of the season and they remain tied for the league’s best record. But that’s not enough for them to make a move in the latest edition of the ESPN.com Power Rankings.

The Falcons stayed at No. 5 for the second consecutive week with only John Clayton showing them much respect. Clayton had the Falcons at No. 1 on his ballot. He also had the Falcons at No. 1 last week, even before the 34-0 victory against the Giants. I talked to Clayton about his vote last week and he said he put the Falcons there because he thought their record should count for something. I talked to Clayton on Monday and he felt some vindication about his vote.

But the rest of the panelists placed the Falcons at No. 5 or No. 6, which I think is at least a couple spots too low.

The New Orleans Saints also recorded a shutout Sunday (41-0 against Tampa Bay) and they jumped four spots to No. 18. The Saints are the highest-ranked of the 6-8 teams, so I think it’s fair to say they’re the best 6-8 team in football.

Despite their horrendous performance, the Bucs fell only two spots to No. 20. The Carolina Panthers, who had a big win against San Diego, climbed three spots to No. 23. At this point, I think you could at least make a case the Panthers are better than the Bucs based on how both teams have played recently.

Power Rankings: An NFC East overhaul

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
12:29
PM ET
The NFC East has two teams in the top 10 in this week's Power Rankings... and neither of them is the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. Here's a look at the way our teams fared in the most recent poll.

8. Washington Redskins (Last week: 12). Well, this is new. How many of you figured before the season that the Redskins would rank ahead of the Giants, Ravens, Bears, Steelers and Saints in any Power Rankings poll this year? And yet there they are, ahead of all those teams and 19 others. The Redskins have won five in a row and look as though they could enter the playoffs as a hot team with a quarterback no one wants to face. Heck, they just won on the road with their backup. I have them 8th, up two spots from last week, and Mike Sando and Jamison Hensley put them 8th as well. Ashley Fox has them 11th and John Clayton put them 12th.

10. Dallas Cowboys (13). Also surging into the top 10 are the Cowboys, who just won two straight against a pair of AFC North teams that went 6-0 against the rest of the division this year. Dallas has won five of six overall, and it appears likely they'll get a chance at the division title in Week 17 in Washington. They haven't ranked this high since Week 2, when they were No. 10 after beating the Giants in their season opener. I have them at 10, up three spots from where I had them last week. Mike and Jamison each ranked them No. 9. Ashley has them at 12 and John has them at 13.

12. New York Giants (7). Biggest drop in the poll, and why not after a 34-0 shellacking at the hands of the Falcons in Atlanta? No one knows what to do with the Giants, who have lost four out of six to give away their division lead. We keep expecting them to stabilize, but they refuse. They could finish relatively far from this spot in either direction at this point and it wouldn't be a surprise. I have them at No. 11, and it's the first time I've dropped them out of the top 10 all year. Ashley put them 9th, Clayton 14th.

29. Philadelphia Eagles (27). Their ugly loss to the Bengals was five days ago, so the memory is fading, but we remember enough to know the Eagles are among the league's very worst teams. I don't see how they could get to 32 from there, but I guess anything's possible. I put them 29 and so did Clayton and Jamison. Sando has them 28, Ashley 30. Doesn't make a lot of difference. You don't usually hear too much complaining about this portion of the rankings.

So what do you guys think?

Power Rankings: Patriots' fall from grace

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
12:20
PM ET
It's not easy to stay on top.

The New England Patriots enjoyed just one week at No. 1 in ESPN.com's Power Rankings. The reigning AFC champs were riding high after a blowout victory over the Houston Texans.

However, New England failed to keep that momentum going the following week and suffered a 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It was the first loss for New England since Oct. 14.

The defeat knocked the Patriots out of the top spot in the Power Rankings. New England fell three places to No. 4.

Here are the full rankings for the AFC East:
Miami won, as expected, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-3. With other teams losing, the Dolphins were able to climb into the teens. New York saw its playoff chances end in Tennessee against the Titans and fell two spots to No. 21. The Bills lost their second consecutive game with an embarrassing 50-17 defeat to the Seattle Seahawks.

Power Rankings: Broncos top Texans again

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
12:16
PM ET
Teams change over time and the Broncos may be playing better football than the Texans right now.

Still, I’m uncomfortable with a poll where the Broncos (second) outrank the Texans (third), since Houston won 31-25 in Denver in Week 3.

Here's the newest edition of ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings.

I used to vote and know it’s tough to measure current level of play against early-season results. But when teams that played each other were right next to each other on the ballot, I typically put the team that won the head-to-head ahead.

Here’s our weekly look at how the AFC South stands.


And here is Mike Sando’s weekly breakdown of how the voters voted.

NFL Power Rankings: AFC North outlook

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
12:00
PM ET
It's been a disappointing season for the AFC North, especially this past month. But the division still is the third-best, based on the Power Rankings. The average rankings for the four teams in the AFC North is 15.2. Only the NFC West (13.1) and NFC East (15.1) are higher.

Here's a recap of the Week 16 Power Rankings:

BALTIMORE RAVENS

ESPN Power Ranking: No. 11

My ranking: No. 11

2012 record: 9-5

Comment: The Ravens dropped three spots after getting routed by the Broncos, which is tied for the second-biggest fall of the week. Baltimore, though, is getting used to tumbling down the Power Rankings. The Ravens were No. 4 before going on their three-game losing streak. This marks the first time they've been out of the top 10 this season.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

ESPN Power Ranking: No. 13

My ranking: No. 13

2012 record: 8-6

Comment: The Bengals inch up on spot after a sloppy win in Philadelphia. Cincinnati isn't getting much respect from the voters. Of the six 8-6 teams, only the Vikings are ranked lower than the Bengals. The Redskins, who are also 8-6 and lost to the Bengals earlier this year, are No. 8.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

ESPN Power Ranking: No. 16

My ranking: No. 16

2012 record: 7-7

Comment: The Steelers have lost four of their past five games, but they've only dropped a total of seven spots. They're the only team in the top half of the rankings who doesn't have a winning record. Being at No. 16 matches Pittsburgh's lowest ranking of the season (the Steelers were 16th in Week 5, when they were 1-2).

CLEVELAND BROWNS

ESPN Power Ranking: No. 22

My ranking: No. 23

2012 record: 5-9

Comment: The Browns dropped a couple of spots after losing to Kirk Cousins and the Redskins. Cleveland remains in the top 25 for the third straight week. Here's another positive: The Browns are the highest-ranked 5-9 team (better than the Panthers, Chargers and Bills).

Here are my rankings:

1. 49ers

2. Patriots

3. Broncos

4. Texans

5. Falcons

6. Packers

7. Seahawks

8. Redskins

9. Cowboys

10. Giants

11. Ravens

12. Colts

13. Bengals

14. Bears

15. Vikings

16. Steelers

17. Rams

18. Jets

19. Saints

20. Dolphins

21. Buccaneers

22. Panthers

23. Browns

24. Chargers

25. Bills

26. Cardinals

27. Titans

28. Lions

29. Eagles

30. Raiders

31. Chiefs

32. Jaguars

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
11:50
AM ET
ESPN's John Clayton raised eyebrows around here when he ranked the Atlanta Falcons atop his power rankings ballot last week.

The Falcons had just suffered a 30-20 defeat to Carolina, after all. They were looking as if they would again become playoff chumps, not potential Super Bowl champs.

The view is a little different this week after the Falcons scored a 34-0 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in Week 15. But with San Francisco knocking off previously top-ranked New England, the 49ers have assumed the No. 1 spot in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 16.

The Falcons remained stuck at No. 5 despite again getting Clayton's highest regards. Atlanta might have to prove itself in the playoffs before our other voters come around.

Jamison Hensley, Ashley Fox and I ranked the 49ers first on our ballots. Dan Graziano became the first of our voters to rank the Denver Broncos No. 1 this season. That helped the Broncos rank second overall, ahead of Houston, New England and those potentially underrated Falcons. Green Bay held firm at No. 6, and Seattle jumped three spots into the seventh slot after its second consecutive game with at least 50 points. Graziano moved Seattle up five spots, the largest jump for any team on his ballot.

Falling (12): New York Giants (-5), New England Patriots (-3), Baltimore Ravens (-3), Chicago Bears (-3), Detroit Lions (-3), Tampa Bay Bucs (-2), New York Jets (-2), Cleveland Browns (-2), Philadelphia Eagles (-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (-1), San Diego Chargers (-1), Buffalo Bills (-1).

Rising (11): Washington Redskins (+4), New Orleans Saints (+4), San Francisco 49ers (+3), Seattle Seahawks (+3), Dallas Cowboys (+3), Carolina Panthers (+3), Miami Dolphins (+2), Tennessee Titans (+2), Arizona Cardinals (+2), Cincinnati Bengals (+1), Minnesota Vikings (+1).

Unchanged (9): Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties this week.

Like minds: All five panelists ranked the Seahawks seventh and the Rams 17th.

Agree to disagree: At least five spots in the rankings separated high and low votes for eight teams. The Jets produced the widest disparity.

A look at the highest and lowest votes for the eight teams in question:
  • Jets (6): Clayton and Hensley 18th, Sando and Graziano 24th.
  • Falcons (5): Clayton first, Sando sixth.
  • Ravens (5): Clayton eighth, Fox 13th.
  • Giants (5): Fox ninth, Clayton 14th.
  • Bears (5): Clayton 10th, Fox 15th.
  • Panthers (5): Sando 20th, Fox 25th.
  • Chargers (5): Clayton 22nd, Fox 27th.
  • Titans (5): Sando 23rd, Graziano 28th.
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 West overtook the NFC North and AFC North as the highest-rated division on average. The NFC East was second, followed by the AFC North, NFC North, NFC South, AFC South, AFC East and AFC West. The AFC East and AFC South tied for sixth with an average ranking of 17.25.

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Cardinals (+5), Titans (+5), Saints (+6).
  • Clayton: Giants (-6), Lions (-5), Buccaneers (-5), Panthers (+5).
  • Graziano: Bears (-5), Seahawks (+5).
  • Hensley: Dolphins (+5).
  • Fox: none.
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.

For example, the Packers and Patriots outrank the Seahawks even though Seattle defeated both teams.

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.
  • Resort 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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