NFL Nation: 2012 Week 2 NFL power rankings

NFL Power Rankings, AFC West style

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
2:30
PM ET
Here's a look at how the AFC West teams fared in Week 2 Power Rankings. I do not have a vote, but I do have an opinion:

Denver Broncos
  • Power ranking: 9
  • My range: 8-10
  • Comment: The world saw Peyton Manning play and the Broncos are likely on the march upward.
San Diego Chargers
  • Power ranking: 14
  • My range: 12-14
  • Comment: Philip Rivers played mistake free and the defense was improved at Oakland. This is a team to watch.
Kansas City Chiefs
  • Power ranking: 19
  • My range: 16-18
  • Comment: Right now, the Chief aren’t that good. I think that will change.
Oakland Raiders
  • Power ranking: 25
  • My range: 22-24
  • Comment: The Raiders started sloppy and they are going to be ranked fairly low right now.

NFL Power Rankings: Three of bottom 22

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
2:00
PM ET
Week 1 result produced minimal movement for the teams of the AFC South in the new edition of the ESPN NFL Power Rankings.

The Texans moved up one spot to fourth thanks to their win over Miami and Green Bay’s loss to San Francisco. (I’d still rate the Packers as better, personally.)

The Titans dropped four spots while the Jaguars and Colts stayed where they were -- with little or no room to drop.

Recapping:



Here’s Mike Sando’s breakdown of the voting, so you know who’s responsible for all this.

I’ve got no beef with anything there, how about you?

NFL Power Rankings: NFC South

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
1:23
PM ET
The ESPN.com Week 2 Power Rankings are out and it’s no great surprise the Atlanta Falcons are rising and the New Orleans Saints are falling.

The Falcons are No. 6 this week, after looking so impressive in Sunday’s 40-24 victory at Kansas City. The Falcons were No. 10 in the Week 1 rankings.

The Saints are No. 16. New Orleans hasn’t been a middle-of-the-pack team since 2008. But, after watching them in Sunday’s loss to Washington, I don’t see how you can put the Saints anywhere else but in the middle of the pack right now. They were No. 11 in Week 1.

The voters treated Tampa Bay very nicely. The Bucs are No. 21, after opening the season at No. 25. That’s a nice jump and it’s deserved after a big victory against Carolina. But this team is only one win removed from a 10-game losing streak. With road games coming up against the Giants and the Cowboys, the Bucs will either climb into the teens or plummet into the late 20s.

I’m somewhat surprised that Carolina fell only one spot after its ugly loss to Tampa Bay. The Panthers now are No. 23, after opening at No. 22.

Power Rankings: Patriots are No. 1

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
1:00
PM ET
ESPN.com released its Week 2 Power Rankings. The AFC East finished 2-2 on the opening weekend.

Here are this week’s rankings in the division:
New England’s dominant performance against the Tennessee Titans and a loss by the Green Bay Packers earned the Patriots the No. 1 spot. New England probably won’t lose that top billing this week. The Patriots will be big favorites at home Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals (1-0).

The Jets didn’t get much respect for their dominant win over Buffalo. Yes, New York moved up four spots to No. 17, but the Jets are still rated in the bottom half of the NFL. The Bills, as a result, had one of the biggest drops. They moved down five spots to No. 24. The Bills have a lot of work to do to earn the respect of the Power Rankings panel.

Miami continues to toil among the worst teams in the NFL. The Dolphins dropped three places to No. 30.

Power Rankings: Champs take a tumble

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
1:00
PM ET
There are few greater challenges, in covering, observing and discussing the NFL than to resist overreacting to one game. There are few greater obstacles to that effort than the ESPN.com weekly Power Rankings. Never more volatile than in Week 2 of the regular season, they have nonetheless arrived, and this is how our division's teams rank this week:

7. New York Giants (Last week: 3). Just one loss, yes, but this is a Super Bowl champion that obviously came in with more questions about it than most. With many still wondering whether to believe last year's 9-7 regular season or the 4-0 postseason record, an ugly home loss to a division rival in the middle of the rankings was enough to make the champs this week's biggest fallers. Mike Sando and John Clayton moved them all the way down to No. 12. Ashley Fox and I rank them the highest, at No. 5. I had them at No. 2 last week, and I believed I had good reasons for that, so I wasn't going to let one game throw all of those good reasons out the window. The teams that passed them in my rankings -- San Francisco, New England and Houston -- all played very well both last year and in Week 1. I thought about putting Baltimore ahead of them, too, but held off. Maybe I'm being too careful, but if last year didn't teach us all -- and me in particular -- that the Giants deserved some benefit of the doubt, then we'll never learn anything.

10. Dallas Cowboys (14). A move into the top 10 for the team that knocked off the Giants, and 10th is exactly where I personally had the Cowboys this week after ranking them 15th to start the season. My own rankings still have them ahead of the Broncos, who outrank them in the overall poll, and one spot behind the Eagles, who do not. I don't deny that they looked better than the Eagles (and, of course, the Giants) in Week 1, but again, I really believe it's important not to overreact to a Week 1 performance but rather to incorporate it into the body of evidence with which we were already working. A four-spot jump seems very fair for Dallas off of its excellent opener. Should the Cowboys continue to look that good, I have little doubt that they will continue to move up.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (7). I'm looking up and down this list trying to find a team that fell five spots after actually winning its opening game. Can't find one. That tells you a lot about the way the Eagles looked in their ugly squeaker of a comeback victory in Cleveland on Sunday. The worst part about that game for Michael Vick and the Eagles was that it puffed on the glowing embers of many of the same old 2011 doubts, so that if you were hesitant about ranking the Eagles high because they disappointed you last year, it was easy to knock them down a few pegs. I dropped them from No. 3 to No. 9, so a six-spot drop for me in spite of their victory, but I think it's justified since the initial ranking was based on a belief that those 2011 Eagles would get better. Evidence that they might not, even one game's worth, was in this case cause for a correction. Sando has the Eagles 13th and Ashley has them 14th while Clayton put them No. 8. Wide variety of opinion on the Eagles, who have a chance to earn some faith back if they can look good against Baltimore on Sunday at home.

15. Washington Redskins (24). Congratulations to Robert Griffin III and the Redskins, who made the biggest jump of any team in this week's rankings. If you go down to the Superdome and win that impressively -- especially behind a rookie quarterback -- you deserve a big bump. I moved them from 19th to 13th in my own rankings, and as you can see I was highest on them among our voters even before the season started. Other than Griffin, a few things looked better about the Redskins than many had the right to expect -- most notably the play of the secondary against the Saints' passing offense. Looking at the teams right behind them on the list, it's hard to make the case that they don't belong right where they are this week.

AFC North in the Week 2 Power Rankings

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
12:56
PM ET
The ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings are out. Here are my thoughts on where the AFC North teams are ranked:

Baltimore (3rd): The Ravens spanked the Bengals on Monday night on national television, but if I had a vote, I would have Baltimore fourth or fifth overall rather than third. Green Bay, which lost just one regular-season game last year, and possibly Houston, which had a very similar Week 1 as the Ravens did, would be the teams I probably would have ahead of the Ravens. This isn’t to take anything away from Baltimore, as clearly its offense will be much more difficult to defend in 2012 than in previous seasons. But I am still concerned a bit with the defense that isn’t as good as it has been in the past. On Monday, until the game was out of reach, the only way the Ravens pressured the quarterback was from blitzing defensive backs. For some reason, the Bengals refused to pick that up and block it. I still see the Terrell Suggs injury as a massive problem.

Pittsburgh (11th): When looking at teams ahead of Pittsburgh in the Power Rankings after Week 1, I can’t make a firm argument that the Steelers are misplaced at 11. But I don’t think there is any shame in losing Sunday night in a difficult place to play in a game that two prominent defensive starters (James Harrison, Ryan Clark) didn’t dress and the right side of the offensive line was injured in the first half. Pittsburgh was firmly in my top five for my personal preseason power rankings, and there is no reason to think that they are no longer a big-time contender. But for where we stand today, Dallas at 10 is probably the only team I would put behind the Steelers.

Cincinnati (18th): As I somewhat alluded to with my response to Baltimore being ranked third overall, I feel as though Monday’s game was slightly more of a reflection on how poor Cincinnati is rather than how dominant the Ravens are. Of course, it was a combination of both, but the Bengals played a very poor game. In reviewing their roster, what areas are they clearly above average? I would say they are above average with their No. 1 wide receiver (A.J. Green), left tackle (Andrew Whitworth), with Geno Atkins at one defensive tackle spot and probably at tight end (Jermaine Gresham). That’s about it. Now, their deficiencies are not as glaring as the true bottom-feeders of the league, but their secondary and interior offensive line are clearly problem spots. I would have the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Panthers, Titans, Bills and Seahawks ahead of Cincinnati.

Cleveland (31st): This is spot on. The only team in the NFL that I would rank worse than the Browns is Miami. Our voters placed the Colts behind Cleveland rather than Miami, but that is an argument for another time. At home, the defense was impressive Week 1 against an extremely rusty Michael Vick, but the offense, specifically the passing game, gives this team little hope of competing. Maybe the Browns can and will go back to their original plan of having the entire offense go through a now-healthy Trent Richardson, which could help. But for now, the Browns belong at 31.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
12:16
PM ET
The San Francisco 49ers opened Alex Smith's rookie season dead last in ESPN's 2005 NFL Power Rankings.

Seven years later, the 49ers have emerged from Week 1 with two first-place votes from our five panelists -- nearly enough to overtake New England for the top spot.

There was a tie at the top and the Patriots prevailed on the fourth and final tiebreaker, previous week's ranking. The teams had not played head to head. They had the same 1-0 record. Both won last week.

John Clayton, Jamison Hensley and Ashley Fox listed the Patriots atop their ballots. Dan Graziano and I moved up the 49ers from fourth to first following San Francisco's 30-22 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Clayton moved up the 49ers from fourth to second, leaving New England at No. 1.

Hensley moved the 49ers from ninth to second. He dropped the Packers from first to fourth. He bumped the Patriots from second to first.

Fox moved up the 49ers three spots to No. 2. She dropped the New York Giants from first to fifth. She moved the Patriots up one spot into first on her ballot.

"I gave serious consideration to having the Niners leapfrog the Patriots," Fox said. "They looked like the most complete team in Week 1. But ultimately, I kept New England higher because I know what I'm getting with their offense. Does that make me an Alex Smith non-believer? I don't think so, but I do want to see more from him and the San Francisco offense."

Graziano saw the 49ers frequently last season while covering the NFC East. Why did he rank them first?

"I thought they deserved the top spot for now," he said, "based on last year's performance, which included a tough playoff win and an OT playoff loss, plus the way they looked IN Green Bay against the team I had No. 1 last week, plus where they were already ranked, plus the disappointing openers by the Giants and Eagles."

The 49ers haven't held the top spot in our rankings since at least 2002, the earliest year for which we track results. What's the hurry?

The 49ers are home against Detroit in Week 2. The Patriots are home against Arizona.

And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:

Falling (13): Seattle Seahawks (-6), Philadelphia Eagles (-5), New Orleans Saints (-5), Buffalo Bills (-5), Green Bay Packers (-4), New York Giants (-4), Tennessee Titans (-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (-3), Miami Dolphins (-3), Cincinnati Bengals (-2), Kansas City Chiefs (-2), Detroit Lions (-1), Carolina Panthers (-1).

Rising (16): Washington Redskins (+9), Atlanta Falcons (+4), Denver Broncos (+4), Dallas Cowboys (+4), New York Jets (+4), Tampa Bay Bucs (+4), Baltimore Ravens (+3), Arizona Cardinals (+3), San Francisco 49ers (+2), Minnesota Vikings (+2), New England Patriots (+1), Houston Texans (+1), Chicago Bears (+1), San Diego Chargers (+1), Oakland Raiders (+1), St. Louis Rams (+1).

Unchanged (3): Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts.

Don't scratch that head yet: Teams rise and fall in relation to other teams, not just in relation to their own performances. For example, the Cardinals dropped one spot in the rankings despite ranking higher on all five ballots. The Redskins and Jets leapfrogged them.

Deadlocked: We broke three ties this week. New England prevailed over San Francisco at No. 1. Cincinnati edged Kansas City at No. 18. Tennessee emerged over Carolina and Buffalo in a three-way tie at No. 22.

Like minds: The 49ers were first or second on every ballot. Two spots separated high and low votes for the Patriots, Texans, Saints, Jets and Colts.

Agree to disagree: Five teams generated disparities of seven spots between high and low votes.

A look at the teams generating high-low disparities of at least six spots in the rankings:

  • Panthers (7): Fox had them 20th, higher than any other voter ranked them. Graziano had them 27th, lower than any other voter had them.
  • Cardinals (7): Hensley 18th, Clayton 25th.
  • Chiefs (7): Graziano 17th, Hensley 24th.
  • Cowboys (7): Hensley sixth, Fox 13th.
  • Giants (7): Graziano and Fox fifth, Sando and Clayton 12th.
  • Rams (6): Graziano 23rd, Hensley 29th.
  • Seahawks (6): Sando 22nd, Graziano 28th.
  • Raiders (6): Hensley 21st, Fox 27th.
  • Chargers (6): Fox 10th, Clayton 16th.
  • Eagles (6): Clayton eighth, Fox 14th.
  • Falcons (6): Clayton fifth, Hensley 11th.
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 East averaged a league-high 11.0 ranking, up from 11.5 last week and well ahead of the runner-up NFC North (13.3).

Our divisional bloggers on the panel -- Graziano (NFC East), Hensley (AFC North) and me (NFC West) -- ranked the divisions we cover as high or higher than other voters ranked them. Are we right?

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least four spots since last week:

  • Sando: Giants (-9), Seahawks (-8), Bills (-6), Eagles (-6), Titans (-4), Jets (+4), Falcons (+6), Cowboys (+6), Redskins (+9).
  • Clayton: Seahawks (-10), Giants (-6), Eagles (-5), Bills (-4), Saints (-4), Packers (-4), Ravens (+4), Vikings (+4), Falcons (+5), Buccaneers (+5), Broncos (+8), Redskins (+9).
  • Graziano: Eagles (-6), Panthers (-5), Chiefs (-5), Saints (-5), Seahawks (-5), Dolphins (-4), Buccaneers (+4), Cowboys (+5), Broncos (+6), Rams (+6), Redskins (+6).
  • Hensley: Bengals (-9), Titans (-8), Saints (-6), Steelers (-6), Bills (-4), Giants (-4), Falcons (+4), Broncos (+4), 49ers (+7), Redskins (+11).
  • Fox: Eagles (-5), Steelers (-5), Panthers (-4), Giants (-4), Jets (+6), Redskins (+8).
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 Cowboys rank lower than the Giants even after defeating them. No other team ranks lower than a team it has defeated. That will change as the season progresses. As much as voters might want to honor head-to-head results, the best team on a given day isn't always the best team overall. A Cardinals upset over the Patriots wouldn't vault Arizona into the No. 1 spot, for example.

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.

NFL Week 2 Power Rankings: NFC North

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
12:00
PM ET
Let's take a look at ESPN.com's Week 2 Power Rankings from an NFC North perspective:

5. Green Bay Packers
Trending: Down four spots after Sunday's 30-22 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Comment: The Packers saw their year-long run atop the Power Rankings end with their first season-opening loss in six years. But fair is fair: The loss came to a 49ers team now ranked No. 2 overall.

8. Chicago Bears
Trending: Up one after a 41-21 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Comment: The Bears could make a big move with a victory Thursday night at Lambeau Field.

13. Detroit Lions
Trending: Down one after needing a last-second touchdown to defeat the St. Louis Rams at home, 27-23.
Comment: The Lions will have a tough time rising in Week 2. They play at the 49ers on Sunday night.

28. Minnesota Vikings
Trending: Up two after a 26-23 overtime victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Comment: Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFL SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 11/20
Sunday, 11/23
Monday, 11/24
WEEKLY LEADERS