NFL Nation: 2011 Week 9 NFL power rankings

NFL Power Rankings: AFC West style

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
2:30
PM ET
Here's a look at how the AFC West teams fared in our Week 8 NFL Power Rankings. I do not have a vote, but I do have an opinion:

San Diego Chargers

Power ranking: 15

My range: 13-15

Comment: Is a San Diego free fall about to begin?

Oakland Raiders

Power ranking: 17

My range: 14-16

Comment: The Raiders need to come out firing off the bye.

Kansas City Chiefs

Power ranking: 18

My range: 13-15

Comment: An 0-3 to 4-3 turn around hasn’t happened in the NFL in 11 years.

Denver Broncos

Power ranking: 28

My range: 27-29

Comment: The Broncos are lucky there are a couple of winless teams left.
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. 3

Record: 6-2

Comment: The Steelers' impressive win over the Patriots moves them up two spots to No. 3, which is the right spot for them. The only teams above them are the unbeaten Packers and the one-loss 49ers. Of course, you could argue that the Steelers should be No. 2 because they beat last week's No. 2 team (the Patriots).

RAVENS

Power Ranking: No. 4

Record: 5-2

Comment: The Ravens move back into the top 5 because the Patriots and Saints both lost. This is a generous ranking for the Ravens after losing at Jacksonville and struggling mightily in the first half against Arizona. Sure, you could say the Ravens should be above the Steelers because of their win head-to-head. But it's hard to make a case for that after Pittsburgh beat New England and the Ravens barely beat Arizona.

BENGALS

Power Ranking: No. 14

Record: 5-2

Comment: Over the past two weeks, the Bengals have moved up four spots but that's not enough. Cincinnati is one of nine teams with two or fewer losses, and the Bengals aren't close to breaking into the top 10. Four three-loss teams -- Jets, Falcons, Texans and Bears -- are all above them. Maybe a win at Tennessee on Sunday will convince voters.

BROWNS

Power Ranking: No. 24

Record: 3-4

Comment: No problem here with the Browns staying at No. 24. They did lose to the current No. 2 team on the road. The only head-scratcher is the Vikings (2-6) moving past them. Minnesota only beat the Panthers (2-6), right? Not sure if that deserves moving Vikings five spots to No. 23.

NFL Power Rankings: NFC North

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
2:00
PM ET
With three teams in the top 10, the NFC North continues to dominate ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings. A look at the latest rankings:

1. Green Bay Packers
Trending: No one forgot about them during last week's bye.

8. Detroit Lions
Trending: No change after a 45-10 victory at the Denver Broncos. It's worth noting the Lions have a higher winning percentage than four of the teams ranked above them.

10. Chicago Bears
Trending: No change after the bye week.

23. Minnesota Vikings
Trending: Up five after a 24-21 victory at the Carolina Panthers.

Related: ESPN.com's Playoff Predictor Insider, which utilizes algorithms developed by numberfire.com, is projecting the Packers, Lions and Bears to all make the playoffs.

NFL Power Rankings: Saints tumble

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
1:30
PM ET
The latest ESPN.com Power Rankings are out and the New Orleans Saints tumbled three spots to No. 6 after their stunning loss to the St. Louis Rams, who came into the game winless.

I guess the only real surprise is that the Saints didn’t drop more. Voters Paul Kuharsky and James Walker each put the Saints at No. 8. I’d side more with them than I would with Ashley Fox and Mike Sando, who each put the Saints at No. 6. My theory is that if you lose to a winless team, you should drop at least five spots.

The Atlanta Falcons had a bye Sunday, but they still climbed two spots to No. 12. Sando and Walker each voted the Falcons at No. 10. Are the Falcons a top-10 team? It would be hard to say that because they’ve played only one real solid game all season -- a victory against Detroit the week before the bye. But the Falcons are 4-3 and on a two-game winning streak as they get ready for a game with Indianapolis. You could go ahead and pencil in a win for Atlanta against a winless team, but the Saints’ loss to St. Louis showed that’s not a good idea.

The other two NFC South teams dropped slightly. Tampa Bay, which had a bye Sunday, dropped two spots to No. 19. I guess the voters are still thinking of that loss to Chicago in London before the bye.

The Panthers dropped two spots to No. 25. Carolina got pretty generous treatment in the rankings early on because the Panthers were losing some close games to good teams. But they lost a close game to a bad team (Minnesota) on Sunday, so they deserved to fall.
Off of two head-to-head games, the AFC South barely moved in the ESPN NFL Power Rankings. The Texans gained a spot and the Jaguars lost a spot after Houston beat Jacksonville. The Titans dropped a spot despite a win over the Colts, who remain parked in the final spot.

NFL columnist Ashley Fox saves the Colts from being the unanimous choice for 32nd. She thinks the Dolphins are worse.

I don’t find anything objectionable here, certainly not with my ballot, which you’ll find below. It counts for just one fifth of the total. Here's Mike Sando’s breakdown of how everyone voted.

Contact me with your feedback 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 (4)

3) Pittsburgh (6)

4) Buffalo (8)

5) Baltimore (5)

6) Detroit (6)

7) New England (2)

8) New Orleans (3)

9) NY Giants (7)

10) Philadelphia (20)

11) Houston (11)

12) Cincinnati (12)

13) Chicago (13)

14) Oakland (10)

15) Atlanta (17)

16) NY Jets (14)

17) Tennessee (19)

18) Kansas City (22)

19) San Diego (15)

20) Tampa Bay (16)

21) Washington (18)

22) Dallas (21)

23) Minnesota (29)

24) Carolina (23)

25) Jacksonville (24)

26) Cleveland (25)

27) Seattle (26)

28) Denver (27)

29) St. Louis (30)

30) Arizona (28)

31) Miami (31)

32) Indianapolis (32)

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
12:31
PM ET
Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers outrank Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings entering Week 9.

Yeah, we saw that coming back in Week 1.

The 49ers were 26th then. The Patriots were first. Not now.

San Francisco, at 6-1, edged 6-2 Pittsburgh for the No. 2 spot behind Green Bay in the latest rankings. Both teams received two second-place votes, one third-place vote and two fourth-place votes. The first tiebreaker, head-to-head results, did not come into play. The 49ers prevailed on the second tiebreaker, overall record.

"I think the 49ers have earned it with their record," said voter Paul Kuharsky, who joined me in ranking the 49ers second. "I'm not sure I'd expect them to beat, say, New England or New Orleans, but I can't let my affection for some teams like the Pats and Saints this season over-influence my picture of right now."

Having watched the 49ers every week and the Saints some weeks, including in their unfathomable defeat to previously winless St. Louis, I think Frank Gore could rush for 200 yards against New Orleans. I think the 49ers would overwhelm the Saints' offensive line and handle them on special teams. More on San Francisco in a bit.

Five of the top six teams from last week changed position in the latest rankings.

The 7-0 Packers remained first following their bye. The 49ers moved up two spots from fourth after beating Cleveland for their fifth consecutive victory outside the NFC West. The Steelers moved up two spots to third after beating the Patriots. Baltimore moved up two spots to fourth, trailing Pittsburgh despite a dominating victory over the Steelers in Week 1.

The Patriots and Saints each tumbled three spots following defeats, but voter James Walker left New England third on his ballot. He joined Ashley Fox in ranking the Steelers second. John Clayton ranked Baltimore second and the 49ers third.

"Beating Tom Brady and the Patriots carries a lot of weight," Walker said in explaining why he ranked the Steelers two spots higher than the 49ers. "I don't think that's something the 49ers can do. Plus, the Steelers are more of a proven commodity, coming off a Super Bowl appearance."

Fox spent Sunday in Pittsburgh and also came away impressed. She pointed to the Steelers' ability to keep Brady off the field.

"Had they been able to score touchdowns in the red zone, the game would've been a rout," Fox said. "It was as impressive a performance as I've seen so far this season. That's why I moved Pittsburgh up."

The 49ers were second on my ballot because they've produced a consistent formula for winning. They run the ball effectively, play phenomenal defense, dominate on special teams and keep turnovers to a minimum.

Questions about Smith's limitations at quarterback are valid. So far, however, he has come through. He threw the winning touchdown pass in the final two minutes to beat Detroit at Ford Field. At Philadelphia, he completed 9 of 9 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns during the third quarter as the 49ers overcame a 20-point deficit to win.

And now, a closer look at the latest rankings ...

Rising (11): Philadelphia Eagles (+6), Minnesota Vikings (+5), Kansas City Chiefs (+3), Atlanta Falcons (+2), Baltimore Ravens (+2), Cincinnati Bengals (+2), New York Giants (+2), Pittsburgh Steelers (+2), San Francisco 49ers (+2), Houston Texans (+1), St. Louis Rams (+1).

Falling (13): San Diego Chargers (-6), Dallas Cowboys (-3), New England Patriots (-3), New Orleans Saints (-3), Carolina Panthers (-2), Oakland Raiders (-2), Tampa Bay Bucs (-2), Washington Redskins (-2), Arizona Cardinals (-1), Denver Broncos (-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (-1), Seattle Seahawks (-1), Tennessee Titans (-1).

Unchanged (8): Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets.

Deadlocked: We broke two ties this week. The 49ers prevailed over the Steelers at No. 2. The Giants edged the Bears at N0. 9, also on the second tiebreaker (better record).

Like minds: All five panelists had the Packers first. Four of five panelists -- everyone but Fox -- had the Dolphins 31st and the Colts 32nd. She had them flipped.

Agree to disagree: The Eagles and Raiders produced the largest disparity between high and low votes. Kuharsky ranked the Eagles 10th, 10 spots higher than Clayton ranked them.

"The Eagles have one of the biggest up arrows of anyone right now," Kuharsky said. "They are up because they are hot, and look like the team I had ranked high at the start."

A look at the seven teams producing disparities of at least six spots between highest and lowest votes:
  • Eagles (10): Kuharsky 10th, Clayton 20th.
  • Raiders (10): Clayton 11th, Sando 20th.
  • Jets (9): Fox seventh, Kuharsky 16th.
  • Giants (8): Clayton eighth, Walker 16th.
  • Chargers (8): Fox 11th, Kuharsky 19th.
  • Lions (7): Walker fifth, Fox 12th.
  • Bills (6): Kuharsky fourth, Fox 10th.
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 holds a narrow lead over the AFC North for the highest ranking on average, 10.9 to 11.0. The AFC East is third at 14.0. The NFC West lags at No. 8, behind the AFC South.


A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Chargers (-6).
  • Clayton: Chargers (-9), Bengals (+10).
  • Kuharsky: Patriots (-5), Saints (-5), Vikings (+6), Eagles (+10)
  • Walker: Cowboys (-6), Chargers (-6), Saints (-5), Bengals (+5), Texans (+5), Eagles (+6).
  • Fox: Cowboys (-6).
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, Buffalo and the Giants are the only top 10 teams with victories over teams ranked higher than them this season. Oakland, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville are the only teams with two victories over higher-ranked teams. No team owns three such victories.

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.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFL SCOREBOARD

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