NFL Nation: 2010 Week 6 Power Rankings

Here are the new ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings, where the AFC South rode three wins to get back to top-division status. The four teams’ average spot is 12.3, best in the league ahead of the AFC North (13.6).

As the only loser in the division, the Texans dropped six spots to 13th, one spot behind the Titans. I left Houston at No. 7.

That may be too high, but I couldn't move the teams I had directly behind them ahead of them -- they beat Indy, I am unsure of what the Patriots will be without Randy Moss and they had a bye, Philadelphia only beat the 49ers and Chicago only beat Carolina.

I kept the Steelers at No. 1 off their bye, but shifted a lot of teams around in the top 10.

Please keep in mind I’m just one-fourth of the Power Rankings. You can see the four ballots here in Mike Sando’s post.

Recapping the division:


I differed from the other three voters by at least four spots on Chicago. The Bears are seventh, I have them 11th. Props to them for finding a way without Jay Cutler against the Panthers. But I’m not scoring up much for wins over Carolina these days.

Week 6 Power Rankings: NFC North

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
2:25
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Our esteemed panel of voters has appropriately calibrated its Week 6 Power Rankings to the current standings in the NFC North. The details:

7. Chicago Bears
Trending:
Up four spots after a 23-6 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

8. Green Bay Packers
Trending:
Down five spots after a 16-13 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins.

20. Minnesota Vikings
Trending:
Down five spots after a 29-20 loss to the New York Jets.

28. Detroit Lions
Trending:
Up three spots after a 44-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

NFC South take on the Power Rankings

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
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We’ve discussed it several times already, but now it’s official. The Atlanta Falcons are the best team in the NFC.

That’s because the ESPN.com Power Rankings say so. Our voters have the red-hot Falcons at No. 4, behind three AFC teams -- the Steelers, Ravens and Jets. I won’t argue on the Steelers and I haven’t seen the Ravens and Jets in person. But I thought there was no doubt the Falcons were the best in the NFC and the voters backed it up.

After a dismal loss to the Cardinals, the Saints tumbled all the way to No. 9. I’ve been having some fun with John Clayton this season because he tends to rank the Saints pretty low. But I think I might call Clayton the voice of reason this week because he’s got the Saints at No. 14. At the moment, at least, that might be more accurate than calling them a top-10 team.

The voters still aren’t sold on the 3-1 Buccaneers. I understand the reluctance, but the Bucs probably should be a little better than No. 16 in my eyes. But if the Bucs knock off the Saints this week, I’m going to call Clayton and lobby him to give Tampa Bay a spot in the top 10.

Finally, there is the sad story of the Carolina Panthers. They are No. 31, according to the voters, although I’ve got to give credit to Mike Sando for putting Carolina at No. 32. I can’t imagine a worse team. Then again, I have seen some video clips of the Buffalo Bills, who have a lock on No. 32. The Bills are bad, but, hey, it means the Panthers still have something to shoot for.

Power Rankings balance out AFC East

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
2:09
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The AFC East is polarized in ESPN.com's Power Rankings.

The New York Jets continue to inch toward the top, while the Buffalo Bills are entrenching themselves at the bottom.

In between, the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins had bye weeks but still managed some interesting movement.

Let's take a look at the assessments of ESPN.com's Power Rankings panel: senior writer John Clayton, AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky, AFC North blogger James Walker and NFC West blogger Mike Sando.

3. New York Jets

Previous rank: 4

My take: They're behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, and it's difficult to argue. The Ravens defeated the Jets at the Meadowlands on opening night. The Steelers have played to a high level and are welcoming their quarterback after a four-game suspension. Clayton had the Jets voted No. 1 on his ballot, which I don't agree with at this point. I'm closer to siding with Sando and Kuharsky, who listed the Jets fourth.

6. New England Patriots

Previous rank: 8

My take: The Patriots took a week off, traded future Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss and climbed two spots because the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers slipped in the poll. The Patriots seemingly have collected more question marks rather than addressed them as the season has progressed, yet they're up four spots from their preseason rating and have risen two straight weeks. The Patriots can justify such treatment with a victory over the Ravens on Sunday in Gillette Stadium.

17. Miami Dolphins

Previous rank: 13

My take: The Dolphins dropped four spots during their bye week. Walker listed them 22nd on his ballot, which is taking the Dolphins way too lightly. I realize the Dolphins have lost back-to-back games at home, but they're not a bottom-third team. They're not going to surrender 21 points off special teams on a regular basis. At least I don't think they will.

32. Buffalo Bills

Previous rank: 32

My take: The Bills aren't the only winless team. The San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers also are in the conversation for the NFL's worst, but the Bills have stated the most compelling case so far. They have allowed 30 points in four straight games. Bills owner Ralph Wilson on Monday told the Associated Press the turnaround will take three more years. Yeesh.
ESPN.com’s NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 6 were released Tuesday. Here are my thoughts on how the AFC West teams fared in the rankings:

Kansas City Chiefs

Power Ranking: 10

My Power Ranking range: 7-9.

Why: Perhaps no team in the history of the NFL lost by double digits and didn’t lose any respect. The Chiefs showed they are for real in a 19-9 loss at Indianapolis.

San Diego Chargers

Power Ranking: 21

My Power Ranking range: 14-16

Why: The Chargers are a very good team, but they are really killing themselves.

Denver Broncos

Power Ranking: 23

My Power Ranking range: 21-23

Why: Injuries are taking a big toll on this spunky team.

Oakland Raiders

Power Ranking: 25

My Power Ranking range: 23-25

Why: The Raiders have a manageable upcoming season, so they are primed to make a move.

AFC North Power Rankings analysis

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
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This is a historic day for our community as the AFC North is dominant atop ESPN.com's latest Power Rankings.

The Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) and Baltimore Ravens (4-1) are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. This is the first time two AFC North teams have occupied the top spots in my three seasons doing the division blog.

Here is how the entire division fared:

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)

Cumulative vote: No. 1

Walker's vote: No. 1

Analysis: With the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints losing, there is no debate which is the No. 1 team this week. The Steelers received three first-place votes from our panel. ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton ranked Pittsburgh No. 3 behind the New York Jets and Ravens. I've received plenty of e-mails saying I'm jumping on Pittsburgh's bandwagon, but I disagree. For a month I explained that as soon as franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returns and the team is at full strength, my vote will go up. After five weeks Pittsburgh is currently the NFL's most complete team with Roethlisberger under center.

Baltimore Ravens (4-1)

Cumulative vote: No. 2

Walker's vote: No. 2

Analysis: Baltimore got a big push in the Power Rankings after pummeling the Denver Broncos 31-17. I thought the Ravens were underrated at No. 6 last week, and now the panel is finally catching on. Still, I'm sure Baltimore fans will complain that this ranking is too low after the Ravens beat the No. 1 team (Steelers) and the No. 3 team (Jets) on the road. It's a valid point. But the "Roethlisberger factor" was too big in the final vote.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-3)

Cumulative vote: No. 22

Walker's vote: No. 23

Analysis: The Bengals have playoff talent but too often they execute like a five-win team. Therefore, a No. 22 ranking is about right for this group. Penalties, turnovers and head-scratching coaching decisions are reasons this group is below .500 heading into the bye. I agree with ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer that Cincinnati is one of the NFL's biggest disappointments. It's a long season, but the Bengals are quickly approaching "pretender" status. A tough slate of upcoming games against Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis after the bye will determine if the Bengals are a legit contender for a playoff spot this year.

Cleveland Browns (1-4)

Cumulative vote: No. 29

Walker's vote: No. 30

Analysis: In what I think will be a season-long struggle, the Browns failed to string together consecutive wins with a loss to the Falcons. The Browns dropped two spots to No. 29 this week. With the Browns down to Colt McCoy and Brett Ratliff as the only two healthy quarterbacks, I placed them at No. 30. Cleveland has been competitive, but there aren't many teams it could beat right now with a rookie quarterback. Sunday's game against Pittsburgh could get ugly.

Power rankings: How the voters voted

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
1:43
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AFC teams claimed the top three spots in ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 6, with the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints tumbling seven spots to No. 9, their lowest ranking since Week 2 last season.

Voters marked down the Saints dramatically -- John Clayton voted them 14th -- without giving the Arizona Cardinals a corresponding bounce for knocking off New Orleans, 30-20. The Cardinals became the second team in NFL history to score 30 or more points without a rushing or passing touchdown.

The idle Pittsburgh Steelers held onto the No. 1 spot for a third consecutive week. Ben Roethlisberger's return becomes a top storyline for Week 6. Beating Cleveland at home shouldn't be too much to ask. The Steelers are the only team ranked among the top five with a home game on the schedule in Week 6.

"The Steelers are essentially getting two bye weeks with the Browns likely starting rookie Colt McCoy at quarterback," said AFC North blogger James Walker, who moved the Steelers into the top spot on his ballot for the first time this season.

If the Steelers falter, will any other team emerge as a clear choice as the best team in the league? Second-ranked Baltimore can make a strong case by winning at New England. The third-ranked Jets, voted first on Clayton's ballot for a second consecutive week, visit the Denver Broncos. The fourth-ranked Atlanta Falcons visit Philadelphia and the fifth-ranked Indianapolis Colts visit Washington.

Let's dig deeper inside the rankings heading into Week 5 ...

Rising (15): The Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers each rose seven places, the largest gains from last week. The Washington Redskins and New York Giants rose five spots apiece. The Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Colts, Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens each improved four places. The Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions rose three spots apiece. The New England Patriots rose two places. The New York Jets, Falcons and Cardinals improved by one spot each.

Falling (14): The San Diego Chargers fell nine spots, the largest decline since last week. The Saints fell seven spots. The Houston Texans fell six. The Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings each dropped five places. The Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins fell four spots each. The Cleveland Browns, Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams each fell two places. The Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks fell one spot each.

Unchanged (3): Rankings for the Kansas City Chiefs, Steelers and Buffalo Bills remained unchanged.

Deadlocked: We broke five ties this week. The Rams edged the Seahawks at No. 26 on the first tiebreaker (head-to-head results). The Bucs edged Miami at No. 16, the Jaguars edged the Cowboys at No. 18 and the Browns edged the 49ers at No. 29 on the second tiebreaker (overall record). The Titans prevailed over the Texans at No. 12 on the third tiebreaker (which team won most recently). The fourth tiebreaker, previous ranking, did not come into play.

Like minds: Three panelists ranked the Steelers first. Three ranked the Ravens second. Three ranked the Panthers 31st. Three ranked the Bills 32nd.

Agree to disagree: The Saints and Texans generated the largest gaps between high and low votes. Six other teams produced disparities of at least six places:
  • Saints (9): Kuharksy fifth, Clayton 14th.
  • Texans (9): Kuharsky seventh, Sando 16th.
  • Chargers (8): Walker 16th, Sando and Clayton 24th.
  • Redskins (7): Clayton seventh, Kuharsky 14th.
  • Eagles (7): Kuharsky 10th, Walker 17th.
  • Dolphins (7): Kuharsky 15th, Walker 22nd.
  • Jaguars (6): Walker 15th, Sando and Kuharsky 21st.
  • Cowboys (6): Sando 15th, Clayton 21st.
Power rankings histories: These colorful layered graphs show where each NFL team has ranked every week since the 2002 season.

Ranking the divisions: The AFC South, displaced by the AFC North last week as the highest-ranked division on average, took back the top spot. 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 more than five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Chargers (-13), Texans (-9), Saints (-7), Eagles (+6), Bucs (+7), Redskins (+10)
  • Clayton: Texans (-12), Bengals (-7), Saints (-7), Chargers (-7), Packers (-6), Dolphins (-6), Vikings (-6), Redskins (+6), Giants (+7), Titans (+12)
  • Kuharsky: Giants (+6)
  • Walker: Titans (+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.

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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