NFL Nation: 2010 Week 12 Power Rankings

Beast makes a move in Power Rankings

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
3:30
PM ET
Each Tuesday during the NFL regular-season our panel of experts boldly reveal the ESPN.com Power Rankings. In the Week 12 edition, the NFC East starts to regain its dignity. The Philadelphia Eagles held their ground at No. 6, but the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins each made significant progress toward relevance.

The shroud of secrecy that once enveloped the voting process is no more because of a brave man named Mike Sando, whose Excel spreadsheets have changed our lives forever. The NFC West blogger once again pulls back the curtain to reveal the names of the voters and their bias against our beloved division. Let no man put asunder what Jason Garrett has built in Dallas. And ye of little faith who doubted Mike Shanahan must repent based on his Skins' gutsy effort in Nashville. Now, let's get on with it:

6. Philadelphia Eagles -- Sando and AFC North blogger James Walker both had the Eagles at No. 5, but they were neutralized by John "The Professor" Clayton's harsh "7." Clayton had both the Steelers and Packers ahead of the Eagles. Walker shocked everyone with his eighth place vote for the New York Jets. Paul Kuharsky from the quaint AFC South division had the Jets No. 1 overall.

10. New York Giants -- This seems about right for a team that actually showed a lot of resolve in the second half against the Eagles. Everyone had the Giants at "10" except Walker, who recorded a "12" on his ballot. Walker's anti-New York/New Jersey stance is something we'll continue to track.

18. Washington Redskins -- Sando called this a "market correction." He felt like he was too hard on the Skins following their loss to the Eagles, so he had them at "17" on his ballot. Clayton, who hailed the Skins as the co-favorites in the NFC East following the Donovan McNabb trade, gave them their lowest vote at No. 20.

24. Dallas Cowboys -- The Cowboys tied for the biggest move of the week, vaulting five spots following a 35-19 win over the Detroit Lions. I think voters were waiting to see if this Jason Garrett thing was for real. Walker gave the Cowboys their highest vote at No. 23.

The division makes a big move: The Beast is now ranked third among all eight divisions. They've been in the fifth spot for much of the season, so the Cowboys and Redskins moving up a combined eight spots really helped. The Beast trails only the NFC South and AFC East in the rankings. And it looks like Sando gave the Beast its highest marks with an average ranking of "14." Clayton, who has supported the NFC East in the past, came in with a bruising 15.5 average. Thanks for spending some time with us today.

AFC North Power Rankings Analysis

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
2:23
PM ET
The AFC North split four games in Week 11.

Here is how the results impacted ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings.

Baltimore Ravens (7-3)

Cumulative vote: No. 3

Walker's vote: No. 3

Analysis: The Ravens moved up one spot in ESPN.com's Power Rankings. Baltimore beat the Carolina Panthers, 37-13, in a game that was a bit closer than the final score indicated. Still, the defense for Baltimore looked great, recording two pick-sixes, and that's when this team is at its best. This is fair placement for the Ravens, considering they lost to the two teams rated above them this season: the Atlanta Falcons (8-2) and New England Patriots (8-2).

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3)

Cumulative vote: No. 5

Walker's vote: No. 4

Analysis: The Steelers stayed at No. 5 for the second week in a row. They were edged by the New York Jets (No. 4) with a big help from AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky's No. 1 vote. ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton voted New York No. 2, which I don't quite understand. I dropped the Jets three spots this week to No. 8, because I'm not impressed with them barely beating bad teams. You can see my explanation here.

Cleveland Browns (3-7)

Cumulative vote: No. 23

Walker's vote: No. 24

Analysis: The Browns were making a slow climb to respectability but dropped two spots this week to No. 24. After playing competitive against the NFL's elite, the bar was raised for Cleveland. But amid new expectations it couldn't beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, despite repeated attempts by Jacksonville (six turnovers) to give away the game. The Browns have a couple quality wins but they're only 3-7. Cleveland finished 5-11 last year and needs to get on a winning streak immediately to significantly improve on that record.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-8)

Cumulative vote: No. 30

Walker's vote: No. 31

Analysis: The Bengals reached the 30s for the first time this season. I voted the Bengals No. 31, but I strongly considered ranking them last because no team is playing uglier football right now. Not even the two teams ranked behind Cincinnati -- Carolina and Detroit -- would give up 35 unanswered points to the lowly Buffalo Bills (2-8), who were ranked No. 28 this week. If the Bengals don't show up Thursday against the Jets, it could get ugly.

Week 12 Power Rankings: NFC North

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
2:15
PM ET
Our esteemed group of ESPN.com power rankers is slowly closing the gap between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. Slowly.

The Bears moved up five spots here in Week 12, but the Packers remain the best NFC North team in the minds of our panel. The details:

7. Green Bay Packers
Trending:
No change after a 31-3 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

12. Chicago Bears
Trending:
Up five spots after a 16-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

25. Minnesota Vikings
Trending:
Down one after a 31-3 loss to the Packers.

31. Detroit Lions
Trending:
No change after a 35-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Dolphins take a Power Rankings plunge

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
2:00
PM ET
Three AFC East teams were triumphant in Week 11, but only one of them moved up in this installment of ESPN.com's Power Rankings.

The New England Patriots held steady at No. 2 because last week's leaders, the Atlanta Falcons, also won.

The New York Jets slipped one spot despite their harrowing victory over the Houston Texans. The Miami Dolphins plummeted more than any other team.

So for the first time all season, the Buffalo Bills were the lone AFC East team to gain ground in the Power Rankings.

How about that?

ESPN.com's Power Rankings pundits include senior writer John Clayton, AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky, AFC North blogger James Walker and NFC West blogger Mike Sando.

2. New England Patriots

Previous rank: 2

My take: The Patriots look like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Their offense has remained potent and diverse, while their young defense continues to mature every week. The Patriots' defense looked a little lost for much of the second half Sunday, letting the Indianapolis Colts get back into the game. But the Patriots sealed a mammoth victory in the fleeting seconds by picking off Peyton Manning for a third time.

4. New York Jets

Previous rank: 3

My take: The Jets mean different things to different voters. Kuharsky had them ranked first on his ballot. Walker had them ranked eighth. I don't agree with either of them, but I lean more Kuharsky's way. What the Jets did could be dismissed as luck if it happened once or twice, but not this many times. They are an elite team with enough playmakers to bail them out. And the Jets are the only team still undefeated on the road.

19. Miami Dolphins

Previous rank: 14

My take: No team dropped farther in the Power Rankings. Given all of their injuries and the fact they were down to their third-string quarterback, the Dolphins were rated too highly last week. They were shut out at home by the Chicago Bears, sending the Dolphins five spots back down the ladder and closer to the bottom third of the order.

28. Buffalo Bills

Previous rank: 30

My take: The Bills are proving they're not the NFL's worst team. A two-point victory over the Detroit Lions was nice, but to score 35 straight points in the second half to win on the road was a compelling statement. After nearly two months rated at rock bottom, the Bills moved up two spots for the second straight week. They leapfrogged the Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals and look like they could pull past the No. 27 Denver Broncos and No. 26 San Francisco 49ers soon enough.

Power Rankings: How the voters voted

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
2:00
PM ET
Tensions tend to run a little higher as NFL teams move toward December stretch runs. Just ask ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings voters.

In one corner, we have AFC North blogger James Walker slapping a No. 8 ranking -- that's right, eight -- on the 8-2 New York Jets.

In the other corner, we have AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky fanning Rex Ryan with an imaginary palm frond. He's got the Jets ranked No. 1.

"I had them first last week and they won," Kuharsky said. "Have they been fortunate the last several weeks? Sure. Top teams often are."

What say you, Mr. Walker?

"Name the last quality team the Jets beat this season," Walker said. "You have to go all the way back to Week 2 against New England. The seven teams I rate ahead of New York have comparable records and beat quality opponents. Two teams -- Green Bay and Baltimore -- beat the Jets head-to-head."

Let's take this conversation in another direction before someone gets hurt.

The Atlanta Falcons held onto the top spot for a second consecutive week. They might have a tough time holding that spot, however. They play three road games between home games against Green Bay and New Orleans. That's a tough stretch.

My ballot featured the equivalent of three market corrections. The Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins had been ranked a little too low previously. I moved both higher and knocked down the injury-depleted Miami Dolphins.

Let's dig deeper inside the rankings heading into Week 12 ...

Rising (11): Chicago Bears (+5), Dallas Cowboys (+5), Washington Redskins (+3), Jacksonville Jaguars (+3), San Diego Chargers (+2), Kansas City Chiefs (+2), Buffalo Bills (+2), Baltimore Ravens (+1), Indianapolis Colts (+1), New Orleans Saints (+1), St. Louis Rams (+1).

Falling (13): Miami Dolphins (-5), Tennessee Titans (-4), Oakland Raiders (-4), New York Giants (-2), Cincinnati Bengals (-2), Arizona Cardinals (-2), New York Jets (-1), Houston Texans (-1), Minnesota Vikings (-1), Seattle Seahawks (-1), San Francisco 49ers (-1), Denver Broncos (-1), Cleveland Browns (-1).

Unchanged (8): Rankings remained unchanged from last week for the New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Bucs, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties this week.

Like minds: All four voters ranked the Colts ninth, the Bucs 11th and the Panthers 32nd. The Falcons, Patriots, Packers, Saints, Giants, Bengals and Lions drew the same ranking from at least three panelists.

Agree to disagree: Voters disagreed by seven spots on rankings for the Jets and Titans. Seven other teams generated disparities of at least four places.
  • Jets (7): Kuharsky ranked them first, higher than any other voter ranked them; Walker ranked them eighth, lower than any other voter ranked them.
  • Titans (7): Kuharsky 13th, Walker 20th.
  • Chargers (5): Sando 12th, Kuharsky 17th.
  • Seahawks (5): Clayton 18th, Kuharsky 23rd.
  • 49ers (5): Clayton 24th, Kuharsky 29th.
  • Bears (4): Walker 10th, Sando 14th.
  • Texans (4): Walker 18th, Clayton 22nd.
  • Browns (4): Kuharsky 20th, Walker 24th.
  • Broncos (4): Kuharsky 24th, Sando 28th.
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 South again enjoyed the highest rankings on average. 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 at least five spots since last week:
  • Sando: Bears (+7), Redskins (+7), Dolphins (-6)
  • Clayton: Jaguars (+6), Bears (+5), Dolphins (-5), Raiders (-5)
  • Kuharsky: none
  • Walker: Dolphins (-6)
For download: An Excel file -- available here -- showing how each voter voted this week and in past weeks.

The worksheet labeled "sked" shows remaining schedule strengths based on current power rankings.

The Bengals, Bears and Cowboys each play a league-high four games against teams currently ranked in the top 10. The Colts, Broncos, Chiefs and Cardinals play none. The Bengals' remaining opponents average a 9.5 ranking, highest in the league. The Cardinals' opponents average a league-low 26.2.

The Steelers' remaining opponents have 2.5 median victories this season, the lowest figure in the league. The team does play two teams ranked in the top 10, however.

The file also 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 Titans and Texans each has defeated a league-high four teams currently ranked higher than them. The Bills are the only team ranked lower than 14th without at least one victory over a higher-ranked team.

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.
Despite an impressive shutout victory on the road at San Francisco, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t crack the top 10 in the latest ESPN.com Power Rankings.

They stayed put at No. 11 for the second straight week, despite losses by two top-10 teams (the Colts and Giants). All four voters had the Bucs (7-3) at No. 11 and that prevented the NFC South from getting three teams in the top 10 for the first time this year.

The Atlanta Falcons remained the No. 1 team for the second straight week. They had three first-place votes while AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky had the Falcons (8-2) at No. 3.

The 7-3 New Orleans Saints moved up one spot to No. 8 with their victory against Seattle. Although the NFC South is home of the top-rated team in the Power Rankings, it also has the No. 32 team.

The 1-9 Carolina Panthers held onto No. 32 for the second straight week, and all four voters had them as the worst team in the NFL.

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