NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

September, 20, 2011

More than a few Buffalo Bills fans wanted to know what it would take for voters to give their team a little respect in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings.

"Please tell me why you and your friends that do the power rankings have the Bills ranked below the Chiefs when the Bills went into Arrowhead and won by 34 points," Mike from Coal Valley, Ill., wrote last week. "I just really would like some sort of explanation."

We've got one for you, Mike: We were wrong, but now we're right -- at least for a week.

The Bills' Week 2 victory over Oakland, though narrow, was enough for voters to push Buffalo up a league-best 11 places. The Bills are 16th overall heading into their Week 3 game against the New England Patriots, who remained second behind Green Bay despite picking up another first-place vote (mine). That is the Bills' highest ranking since the 2008 team was fourth in Week 8. That team slumped to a No. 23 finish, losing seven of eight at one point.

The current Bills stand 15 spots higher than the Chiefs and 14 above Indianapolis. For the Colts, losing at home to Cleveland sent them sliding down ballots as voters concluded the team was doomed, not just diminished, without Peyton Manning.

AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky dropped the Colts 12 spots, the largest drop for Indianapolis on any ballot. Last week, Kuharsky had billed that Browns-Colts game as one that would determine whether Indy was average or plain horrible. Now we know.

The Colts weren't the only team heading south for the winter. The Chiefs dropped 17 spots on John Clayton's ballot after getting blown out again and losing Jamaal Charles to a knee injury. They fell 10 spots in the rankings, the largest drop from last week.

The Seattle Seahawks, shut out at Pittsburgh, hit a new low by displacing Cleveland as the last-ranked team. They dropped one spot after previously never ranking lower than 29th (2008, Week 14) since 2002.

And now, a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 3 ...

Rising (13): Buffalo Bills (+11), Tennessee Titans (+8), Houston Texans (+5), Washington Redskins (+4), Denver Broncos (+4), Atlanta Falcons (+3), Cleveland Browns (+3), New York Jets (+2), New Orleans Saints (+2), Carolina Panthers (+2), Cincinnati Bengals (+2), Detroit Lions (+1), Miami Dolphins (+1).

Falling (15): Kansas City Chiefs (-10), Indianapolis Colts (-7), Jacksonville Jaguars (-6), Philadelphia Eagles (-3), Baltimore Ravens (-3), Chicago Bears (-3), San Diego Chargers (-3), Arizona Cardinals (-3), Oakland Raiders (-2), St. Louis Rams (-2), Minnesota Vikings (-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (-1), New York Giants (-1), San Francisco 49ers (-1), Seattle Seahawks (-1).

Unchanged (4): Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties this week.

Like minds: Only one spot separated highest and lowest votes for the Packers, Patriots and Jets. Two votes separated votes for the Cowboys and Seahawks.

Agree to disagree: The Titans generated the largest gap between highest and lowest votes. I ranked them 14th, higher than any voter ranked them. Ashley Fox ranked them 25th, lower than any voter ranked them. A look at the six teams generating gaps of at least eight spots between high and low votes:
  • Titans (11): Sando 14th, Fox 25th.
  • Vikings (10): James Walker 20th, Kuharsky 30th.
  • Colts (9): Fox 23rd, Sando 32nd.
  • 49ers (8): Walker 18th, Fox 26th.
  • Dolphins (8): Kuharsky 23rd, Fox 31st.
  • Chiefs (8): Fox 24th, three voters 32nd.
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 held onto the highest average ranking (11.8) for any division despite slipping slightly. The AFC East was close behind at 11.9 after another impressive victory from Buffalo. 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: Chiefs (-10), Chargers (-5), Jaguars (-5), Titans (+5), Browns (+5), Texans (+6), Broncos (+6), Bills (+12).
  • Clayton: Chiefs (-17), Eagles (-8), Vikings (-6), Ravens (-5), Rams (-5), Jets (+5), Broncos (+6), Texans (+7), Lions (+8), Bills (+12).
  • Kuharsky: Colts (-12), Jaguars (-6), Chiefs (-6), Raiders (-5), Cowboys (+5), Bills (+6), Redskins (+6), Titans (+9).
  • Walker: Jaguars (-7), Chiefs (-6), Titans (+7).
  • Fox: Colts (-7), Dolphins (-7), Raiders (-5), Bills (+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.

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.

Mike Sando | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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