NFL Nation: 2012 Week 3 NFL power rankings

The AFC North has two teams in the top 10 in the latest ESPN.com Power Rankings. Unfortunately, the division also has the worst-ranked team in the league, the Cleveland Browns.

Being the homer that I am, I ranked the AFC North teams higher than the other panelists ranked them. I ranked AFC North teams at 15.5 on average, slightly higher than John Clayton ranked them (15.75).

Here's how the AFC North teams fared in the Week 3 power rankings:

BALTIMORE RAVENS

ESPN Power Ranking: No. 6

My ranking: No. 6

2012 record: 1-1

Comment: The Ravens rightfully dropped three spots after a one-point loss at Philadelphia. For some reason, our power rankings have the Ravens one spot ahead of the Eagles. I have Philadelphia at No. 5. I did put the Ravens ahead of the Patriots after New England was upset by Arizona.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

ESPN Power Ranking: No. 9

My ranking: No. 10

2012 record: 1-1

Comment: The Steelers moved up two spots from last week after easily handling the New York Jets. Once again, the power rankings put the Steelers ahead of the Broncos even though Pittsburgh lost at Denver to open the season. I had the Broncos one spot ahead of the Steelers.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

ESPN Power Ranking: No. 16

My ranking: No. 17

2012 record: 1-1

Comment: The Bengals inched up two spots after holding off the Browns. This is a fair ranking because the Bengals haven't resembled the team that went to the playoffs last season. I differed with the power rankings in that I had the Bengals one spot behind the Seahawks.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

ESPN Power Ranking: No. 32

My ranking: No. 29

2012 record: 0-2

Comment: The Browns are the worst team in the NFL, according to the power rankings. I had the Browns higher, but I was in the minority. The other four voters had Cleveland at No. 32. My stance is the Browns have been in both games this season, losing by a total of eight points. Oakland, Kansas City and Jacksonville have all looked worse this season.

If you want to see all of my rankings, you can click here.
There was a big riser and a steep fall in the AFC East for ESPN.com's Power Rankings.

The reigning AFC champion New England Patriots fell from the top spot after Sunday’s surprising upset to the Arizona Cardinals. New England (1-1) dropped to No. 5 this week and has a huge game upcoming against the Baltimore Ravens (1-1).

Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins (1-1) moved up five spots after their dominant win over the Oakland Raiders. The Dolphins have their highest spot of the season thus far at No. 25.

Here are the full Power Rankings for Week 3 in the AFC East:
The Bills (1-1) didn't get much respect after crushing the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday. Buffalo improved two spots. The Jets dropped just one spot after a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL Power Rankings: NFC South

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
1:25
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ATLANTA -- After Monday night’s victory against Denver, the Atlanta Falcons are one of the top three teams in the NFL.

That’s according to ESPN.com’s Power Rankings. The Falcons, who were No. 6 last week, jumped up to No. 3 and trailed only the 49ers and Texans.

I don’t think that’s too high a ranking for the Falcons. But I do think they’ll need to be more consistent to stay near the top. Their offense carried them in Week 1, but was relatively quiet Monday night and the defense had to carry them against the Broncos.

After the Falcons, there is a steep drop off until the rest of the NFC South teams. The Carolina Panthers, coming off a victory against New Orleans on Sunday, jumped four spots to No. 19. I think Carolina has the potential to be rated much higher, but the Panthers have to win some more games to prove that.

Despite losing to the New York Giants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stayed put at No. 21, although Tom Coughlin reportedly had them at No. 33 on his ballot. Seriously, Tampa Bay’s effort in a road game against the Giants came up short, but it got the attention of a lot of people.

Finally, the New Orleans Saints are the lowest-ranked team from the NFC South. That’s the first time I can remember that happening.

The Saints fell eight spots to No. 24. The Saints still have enormous talent and it’s hard to imagine them being ranked so low. But that’s what happens when you start off 0-2.
Here's a look at how the AFC West teams fared in Week 3 Power Rankings. I do not have a vote, but I do have an opinion:

Denver Broncos

Power ranking: 10

My range: 10-12

Comment: The Broncos nearly won on the road after spotting the Falcons a 20-0 lead. This is not a bad team.

San Diego Chargers

Power ranking: 11

My range: 5-7

Comment: The Chargers are one of six undefeated teams. Their ranking should reflect it.

Kansas City Chiefs

Power ranking: 28

My range: 24-26

Comment: The Chiefs fell nine spots this week. They deserved it.

Oakland Raiders

Power ranking: 30

My range: 25-27

Comment: Oakland’s depth concerns are playing out. It might get worse before it gets better with three tough games on the horizon.

Power Rankings: What to make of Eagles?

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
1:00
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Yes, the new Power Rankings are out. Here's at look at where our division's teams stand this week:

7. Philadelphia Eagles (Last week: 12). That's where I ranked them, though I have to say I struggled. Yes, they're 2-0, which can only be said of five other teams. Yes, that's all that matters, and yes, they've shown an impressive amount of grit and toughness to overcome nine turnovers and win their games each by one point. But on the flip side ... they've committed nine turnovers and only won each game by one point. I'm not the only one struggling to figure out where to rank them. Ashley Fox, clearly not a believer, has them 10th. Jamison Hensley has them fifth. And yes, I agree that it seems a bit incongruous that they're ranked behind the Ravens after beating them. But I doubt anyone who's watched the Eagles so far this year has a clear idea of what to make of them, and I think they remain a difficult team to trust.

8. New York Giants (7). Rare that a team drops a spot after winning, but it speaks to the jumble in the NFC East and the confusing way these teams have come out of the gate. The Giants have looked very bad in seven of their eight quarters so far, but their brilliant fourth quarter against the Buccaneers has them at 1-1 instead of 0-2. Ashley ranks them fifth, John Clayton has them 11th and I have them sixth, still one spot ahead of Philly because I'm determined not to underestimate them this year and I believe they have earned more benefit of the doubt than have the Eagles. I can't deny they've looked much shakier than this ranking indicates, and I have to believe the ranking is due more to what we saw from them last year than what they've shown so far in 2012.

15. Dallas Cowboys (10). As great as Week 1 was for Dallas, the Week 2 loss in Seattle was just as bad, and so they're right back in the range in which they began the season. Three of us have them ranked 13th, Ashley has them 15th and Mike Sando has them 16th. They actually tied for 14th with Arizona but lost out on a tiebreaker (overall record). My inclination is to keep them right here in the middle until they show some kind of sustained proof that they belong any higher.

20. Washington Redskins (15). A bad loss in St. Louis and bad injury news on the defense has pushed the Redskins back down the ladder. I seem to still be the only thing keeping them this high, as I put them 16th while Sando put them 22nd and Clayton and Jamison have them at 23. I still think they're better than people are inclined to assume they'll be, but they've been throwing dirt on their benefit of the doubt for years now. And if the defense is banged up, that's going to hurt them in the standings and the rankings going forward. I guess that, while I expect that to happen, I thought it was fair to wait and see first before dropping them back into the 20s.

Anyway, enjoy. I know you always do.

NFL Power Rankings: Texans are second

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
12:18
PM ET
You’re No. 2.

The Houston Texans stand second in the new edition of the ESPN NFL Power Rankings, trailing only unanimous No. 1 San Francisco.

The 49ers won in Green Bay and over Detroit. Those are far better wins than the Texans’ victories over Miami and at Jacksonville.

Houston moved up two spots, and the Colts gained five off their win. Winless Tennessee dropped four places, and winless Jacksonville dropped two.

Recapping:

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

The loser of Jaguars-Colts Sunday will pretty much be assured of one of the last spots next week. If the Titans lose to Detroit, Tennessee will be right there with their AFC South brethren.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
12:00
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The San Francisco 49ers enter Week 3 as the consensus No. 1 team in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings.

They have now completed the journey to the top spot from the No. 32 ranking they held before Alex Smith's first game as a rookie in 2005.

The 49ers are now 15-3 during the regular season under Jim Harbaugh after claiming 14 total victories over the 2009 and 2010 seasons combined.

Of course, we knew the 49ers would be good this season. They opened the regular season at No. 5. Few expected the Arizona Cardinals to keep pace with them in the standings through the first two games, particularly with New England on the schedule. The Cardinals, coming off a 20-18 road shocker over the Patriots, now have a 7-1 record over their past eight games. They won seven of their final nine last season and have ridden a dominant defense to a 2-0 record in 2012.

One of our five Power Rankings panelists, Jamison Hensley, bucked perception by making the Cardinals his preseason pick to win the NFC West.

What was he thinking?

"There are always teams in the NFL that finish strong the season before and carry that over into the following year," he said Tuesday. "The Cardinals are a classic example of that after winning seven of their last nine in 2011."

OK, but surely there had to be more. The Cardinals entered this season with serious questions at offensive tackle. Kevin Kolb and John Skelton hadn't exactly impressed at quarterback, either.

"I've always considered Ken Whisenhunt to be among the most underrated coaches in the league," Hensley said. "That's why I picked Arizona as the surprise winner of the NFC West and that's why I'm not surprised by their strong start. Of course, I can't really gloat. The 49ers have been the best team in the NFL so far."

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

Falling (15): Kansas City Chiefs (-9), New Orleans Saints (-8), Dallas Cowboys (-5), Washington Redskins (-5), Oakland Raiders (-5), New England Patriots (-4), Chicago Bears (-4), Tennessee Titans (-4), Baltimore Ravens (-3), Jacksonville Jaguars (-2), New York Giants (-1), Denver Broncos (-1), New York Jets (-1), Minnesota Vikings (-1), Cleveland Browns (-1).

Rising (15): Seattle Seahawks (+9), Arizona Cardinals (+6), Philadelphia Eagles (+5), Miami Dolphins (+5), Indianapolis Colts (+5), Carolina Panthers (+4), St. Louis Rams (+4), Atlanta Falcons (+3), San Diego Chargers (+3), Houston Texans (+2), Pittsburgh Steelers (+2), Cincinnati Bengals (+2), Buffalo Bills (+2), San Francisco 49ers (+1), Green Bay Packers (+1).

Unchanged (2): Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Deadlocked: We broke two ties this week. Arizona prevailed over Dallas at No. 14 on the second tiebreaker, overall record. Seattle prevailed over the New York Jets at No. 17 based on the third tiebreaker, which team won a game most recently.

Like minds: All five panelists voted the 49ers No. 1. One spot separated high and low votes for the Texans, Falcons and Jaguars.

Agree to disagree: Seven teams generated disparities of six 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): Ashley Fox ranked them 16th, higher than any other voter ranked them. Dan Graziano ranked them 23rd, lower than any other voter ranked them.
  • Redskins (7): Graziano 16th, John Clayton and Hensley 23rd.
  • Giants (6): Fox fifth, Clayton 11th.
  • Bengals (6): Clayton 15th, Fox 21st.
  • Buccaneers (6): Clayton and Hensley 19th, Fox 25th.
  • Saints (6): Graziano 18th, Clayton and Hensley 24th.
  • Chiefs (6): Graziano 25th, Hensley 31st.
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 ranked 12.2 overall on average, best for any division. Teams from the NFC West averaged 13.6, which ranked second. The NFC North was third with a 14.4 average.

Our divisional bloggers on the panel -- Graziano (NFC East), Hensley (AFC North) and me (NFC West) -- continued to rank teams from our divisions higher than the other panelists ranked them. Graziano had a 10.5 average for the NFC East, two spots higher than any other panelist on average. Hensley ranked AFC North teams at 15.5 on average, slightly higher than Clayton ranked them (15.75). I ranked NFC West teams at 12.25 on average, higher than anyone else ranked them (Hensley 12.75).

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Chiefs (-11), Saints (-9), Bears (-6), Redskins (-6), Cowboys (-5), Chargers (+5), Cardinals (+6), Eagles (+7), Seahawks (+7), Rams (+8).
  • Clayton: Chiefs (-9), Saints (-9), Redskins (-9), Titans (-7), Raiders (-6), Colts (+5), Rams (+5), Cardinals (+8), Seahawks (+8).
  • Graziano: Chiefs (-8), Cardinals (+6), Dolphins (+6), Seahawks (+8).
  • Hensley: Raiders (-9), Saints (-8), Redskins (-8), Cowboys (-7), Chiefs (-7), Patriots (-7), Cardinals (+6), Colts (+6), Falcons (+7), Rams (+7), Seahawks (+10).
  • Fox: Chiefs (-8), Saints (-8), Patriots (-6), Titans (-6), Bears (-5), Bills (+5), Seahawks (+5), Falcons (+6), 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.

For example, the Eagles rank lower than the Ravens even though Philadelphia defeated Baltimore in Week 2.

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 3 Power Rankings: NFC North

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
12:00
PM ET
At 1-1, no NFC North team is completely satisfied with its start to the 2012 season. All told, however, none of them should have much argument with their status in ESPN.com's Week 3 Power Rankings. Three of our teams are still ranked among the top 13. The details:

4. Green Bay Packers
Trending: Up one after last Thursday's 23-10 victory over the Chicago Bears.
Comment: The San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons are the only teams ranked ahead of the Packers. That sounds about right at the moment.

12. Chicago Bears
Trending: Down four after last Thursday's meltdown at Lambeau Field.
Comment: I'm surprised the Bears didn't fall further after quarterback Jay Cutler revealed he can still lose control in adverse situations.

13. Detroit Lions
Trending: Unchanged after a 27-19 loss to the now top-ranked 49ers.
Comment: The Lions are 1-1 with an offense that admittedly hasn't hit its stride yet. A victory in San Francisco would have been difficult regardless. Damage minimized.

29. Minnesota Vikings
Trending: Down one after a 23-20 loss to the now No. 28-ranked Indianapolis Colts.
Comment: At this point, our power rankings view the Vikings more poorly than every team but the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns. Yikes.

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