So much for the AFC East.
New England and Buffalo suffered the largest drops in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 10, with the Patriots leaving the top 10 for the first time since they were 11th back in Week 14 of the 2009 season. The seven-spot drop to No. 12 left New England with its lowest ranking since the 2008 team was 17th without Tom Brady.
The Patriots lost a little mystique Sunday when the New York Giants ended Brady's 31-game home winning streak during the regular season. The outcome caught at least one of our Power Rankings voters by surprise. AFC East blogger James Walker had left the Giants 16th on his previous three ballots, but he moved them up to seventh this week and sought forgiveness.
"I apologize for under-voting the Giants," Walker said. "I thought they were overrated and didn’t have a true identity. But New York keeps winning and beat the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. I will not underrate them any longer."
The Bills joined the Patriots at 5-3 and in dropping seven spots from last week. Buffalo's No. 14 ranking is the Bills' lowest since sitting at No. 16 heading into Week 3.
And now, a closer look at the latest rankings ...
Rising (12): Dallas Cowboys (+6), Denver Broncos (+5), Cincinnati Bengals (+4), Houston Texans (+3), New York Giants (+3), New Orleans Saints (+2), New York Jets (+2), Arizona Cardinals (+1), Baltimore Ravens (+1), Chicago Bears (+1), Detroit Lions (+1), Tampa Bay Bucs (+1).
Falling (13): Buffalo Bills (-7), New England Patriots (-7), Oakland Raiders (-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (-2), San Diego Chargers (-2), Atlanta Falcons (-1), Carolina Panthers (-1), Cleveland Browns (-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (-1), Kansas City Chiefs (-1), Minnesota Vikings (-1), Seattle Seahawks (-1), St. Louis Rams (-1).
Deadlocked: We broke two ties this week. New Orleans edged Pittsburgh at No. 4 on the third tiebreaker (which team won most recently). Cincinnati edged the Jets for the 10th spot on the second tiebreaker (better record). The first tiebreaker, head-to-head results, did not come into play.
Like minds: All five panelists ranked the Packers first. Four ranked the Texans eighth. All five ranked the Redskins 22nd or 23rd. All five ranked the Colts last.
Agree to disagree: Eight spots separated the highest and lowest votes for the Bears. A look at the seven teams producing disparities of at least six spots between highest and lowest votes:
Bears (8): Sando ranked them sixth, higher than any other voter ranked them. Clayton ranked them 14th, lower than any other voter ranked them.
Bengals (6): Clayton seventh, Walker 13th.
Jets (6): Fox seventh, Sando 13th.
Patriots (6): Walker eighth, Kuharsky 14th.
Cowboys (6): Walker 14th, Kuharsky 20th.
Buccaneers (6): Sando 15th, Kuharsky 21st.
Broncos (6): Fox 22nd, Kuharsky 28th.
Steelers (6): Sando, Kuharsky and Walker fourth, Clayton ninth.
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 North rank 10.7 on average, just ahead of teams from the AFC North (10.8). The NFC South is third at 15, well behind the top two.
A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least five spots since last week:
Sando: Bills (-7), Patriots (-7), Giants (+5).
Clayton: Raiders (-9), Patriots (-6), Steelers (-5), Jets (+5), Eagles (+5).
Kuharsky: Bills (-9), Patriots (-7), Eagles (-5), Falcons (+5).
Walker: Bills (-9), Patriots (-5), Ravens (+5), Cowboys (+5), Broncos (+7), Giants (+9).
Fox: Patriots (-6), Chargers (-6), Cowboys (+6), Texans (+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.
Houston is the only one of our top 11 teams that has defeated a team ranked higher than it. The Texans beat Pittsburgh. The 17th-ranked Chargers are the lowest-ranked team with a record of .500 or better and zero victories over any teams ranked higher than them.
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.