Power rankings: How the voters voted

Look out for the San Diego Chargers.

They jumped into the second spot, overtaking New Orleans, in ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings for Week 17.

The Chargers' 10-game winning streak is the NFL's longest after Indianapolis pulled Peyton Manning and other starters, helping to turn a 15-10 Colts lead into a 29-15 Jets victory.

The Colts' defeat did not affect the team's standing in our rankings. All four panelists pictured in the chart -- me, John Clayton, Paul Kuharsky and Jeff Chadiha -- left Indianapolis in the top spot.

There was enough shuffling among the top 10 spots to produce results demanding explanation.

Take the Patriots, for instance. They pounded the Jaguars -- and fell one spot in the rankings. How could that happen? Here is how: All four panelists left New England's ranking unchanged from last week, but I moved up the Cowboys on my ballot -- enough to move Dallas past the Patriots for the No. 9 ranking by a slim margin.

The issue, as always, becomes how to balance a team's overall performance against recent results.

Clayton took a big-picture approach, leaving the Saints second on his ballot despite New Orleans' second consecutive defeat. Chadiha dropped the Saints from second to fourth on his ballot, creating room for the Vikings to move up one spot on his ballot -- even after Minnesota's second consecutive defeat.

I had already moved down the Vikings to sixth last week. They fell another spot on my ballot after losing to the Bears. The Saints fell from second to third on my ballot last week, and to fourth this week.

The playoffs will help settle these arguments in relatively short order.

And now, a look inside the rankings ...

Rising: The Jets and Texans each rose five places, the largest gains from last week. The Steelers rose three spots. The Panthers and Bears each rose two. The Chargers, Eagles, Cowboys, Falcons, 49ers, Bills, Browns and Bucs each rose one spot.

Falling: The Giants dropped six spots, the largest drop from last week. The Jaguars and Dolphins each fell four places. The Titans fell three and the Seahawks fell two. The Chiefs, Redskins, Raiders, Patriots, Vikings and Saints each dropped one spot. All four panelists left New England's ranking unchanged from last week, but the Cowboys moved past the Patriots.

Unchanged: Rankings for the Colts, Cardinals, Bengals, Packers, Ravens, Broncos, Lions and Rams did not change from last week.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties this week.

Groupthink: All four panelists ranked the Colts first, the Raiders 24th, the Lions 31st and the Rams 32nd.

Agree to disagree: The Seahawks generated the widest gap -- seven places -- between highest and lowest votes. Eleven other teams also generated disparities of at least four spots:

  • Seahawks (7): Chadiha ranked them 23rd, higher than any other panelist ranked them. Sando ranked them 30th, lower than any other panelist ranked them.

  • Giants (6): Clayton 16th, Sando 22nd.

  • Bears (5): Sando 20th, Chadiha 25th.

  • Vikings (4): Chadiha third, Sando and Kuharsky seventh.

  • Bengals (4): Kuharsky fifth, Chadiha ninth.

  • Cowboys (4): Sando sixth, Chadiha 10th.

  • Patriots (4): Chadiha sixth, everyone else 10th.

  • Steelers (4): Sando and Kuharsky 11th, Chadiha 15th.

  • Falcons (4): Chadiha 13th, everyone else 17th.

  • Panthers (4): Sando and Kuharsky 18th, Clayton 22nd.

  • 49ers (4): Sando 19th, Kuharsky 23rd.

  • Bucs (4): Sando 26th, Kuharsky 30th.

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 AFC South ranked 13.6 on average, higher than teams from any other division. Teams from the NFC West ranked 21.3, lower than teams from any other division.

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least four spots since the Week 16 rankings:

  • Sando: Giants (-9), Dolphins (-6), Jaguars (-5), Seahawks (-4), Titans (-4), Panthers (+4), Bears (+4), Jets (+4), Steelers (+5)

  • Clayton: Giants (-4), Jets (+4), Texans (+4)

  • Kuharsky: Giants (-7), Dolphins (-4), Jets (+4), Bears (+5), Texans (+6)

  • Chadiha: Giants (-5), Texans (+4), Jets +6)

For download: An Excel file -- available here or 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 has defeated.

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.