One of the NFL's more fascinating weekends shook up ESPN's Power Rankings.
Voters agreed on the top (Green Bay) and bottom (Kansas City). A food fight broke out in between. New Orleans, New England, Detroit, Baltimore and Buffalo rounded out the top six even though there was little consensus among voters.
John Clayton honored won-lost records in moving 3-0 Detroit and 3-0 Buffalo into the top three spots on his ballot. Paul Kuharsky left the Bills all the way down at No. 10, eight spots lower than the New England team they defeated Sunday. Ashley Fox showed similar restraint on Buffalo while listing the Lions eighth, lower than anyone else ranked them.
We've got some explaining to do, in other words.
"Normally, in the third week of the season, I try to take account of who beat teams where and when," Clayton said. "I put Detroit and Buffalo near the top because they are 3-0 and they have quality wins. The Lions have two road victories. Impressive. The Bills have beaten the Patriots and a Raiders team that is making some noise of being in contention for the playoffs."
What say you, Kuharsky?
"I see the Patriots' loss to the Bills as a blip -- a great result for Buffalo, but a blip for the Patriots," he said. "Brady's not throwing picks like that again this season. I jumped the Bills eight spots, which is a ton. I never jump a mid- or low-ranked team that beats a high-ranked team all the way above the team they've beaten. It gives too much weight to one game."
James Walker joined me and Fox in listing Green Bay, New Orleans and New England at the top. I put the Lions and Bills in my top five. They did not. I would have moved the Bills past the Patriots if they had beaten New England on the road or if they had controlled the game from start to finish. Buffalo's comeback was impressive and compelling, but not quite enough for me to move the Bills all the way past New England on my ballot.
"The challenge this early is weighing which teams are playing well versus which teams are truly better," Walker said. "Is Philadelphia a better team than Oakland? Absolutely. Are the Eagles playing better than Oakland right now? Probably not. It’s a delicate balance weighing the short and long term."
Baltimore and Tampa Bay were among the teams languishing on some ballots despite their victories. And the previously unbeaten Houston Texans dropped all the way to No. 17 on Fox's ballot following their defeat at New Orleans.
"I really look at Nos. 8-18 as being virtually interchangeable at this point," Fox said. "They are good, but not yet great teams. All have the potential of moving up significantly, or falling off. I penalized the Texans because they have beaten two of the worst teams in the league in Indianapolis and Miami, and then collapsed against one of the best. But they certainly could be back in the top 10 in a matter of weeks."
And now, a closer look at the rankings heading into Week 4 ...
Rising (14): Buffalo Bills (+10), Cleveland Browns (+8), Seattle Seahawks (+8), Detroit Lions (+7), Oakland Raiders (+7), New York Giants (+6), Carolina Panthers (+5), San Diego Chargers (+3), San Francisco 49ers (+3), Baltimore Ravens (+2), Dallas Cowboys (+2), New Orleans Saints (+2), Tennessee Titans (+2), Cincinnati Bengals (+1).
Falling (15): Atlanta Falcons (-11), Philadelphia Eagles (-11), St. Louis Rams (-9), Chicago Bears (-8), Arizona Cardinals (-4), Jacksonville Jaguars (-4), Miami Dolphins (-4), New York Jets (-4), Houston Texans (-3), Denver Broncos (-2), Minnesota Vikings (-2), Kansas City Chiefs (-1), New England Patriots (-1), Pittsburgh Steelers (-1), Washington Redskins (-1).
Deadlocked: We broke three ties this week. Tennessee prevailed over Washington at No. 15 based on the third tiebreaker (which team won most recently). Seattle prevailed over Jacksonville at No. 24 based on the third tiebreaker. Miami prevailed over Indianapolis at No. 29 based on the fourth tiebreaker (previous ranking).
Like minds: All voters ranked the Packers first and the Chiefs 32nd.
Agree to disagree: The Texans generated the largest gap between highest and lowest votes. Walker ranked them fifth, higher than any voter ranked them. Fox ranked them 17th, lower than any voter ranked them. A look at the six teams generating gaps of at least eight spots between high and low votes:
Texans (12): Walker fifth, Fox 17th.
Ravens (10): Kuharsky and Walker fourth, Clayton 14th.
Steelers (9): Fox sixth, Clayton 15th.
Raiders (9): Clayton eighth, Walker 17th.
Bucs (8): Kuharsky ninth, Sando 17th.
Vikings (8): Walker 23rd, Kuharsky 31st.
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 East overtook the AFC North as the highest-ranked division 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 eight spots since last week:
Sando: Falcons (-11), Bears (-11), Eagles (-9), Cardinals (-8), Rams (-8), Raiders (+8), Giants (+8), Lions (+8), Bills (+8).
Clayton: Falcons (-11), Bears (-11), Rams (-10), Jaguars (-8), Giants (+8), Seahawks (+8), Raiders (+11), Bills (+12).
Kuharsky: Falcons (-10), Eagles (-10), Rams (-8), Bills (+8), Raiders (+8).
Walker: Falcons (-9), Cardinals (-8), Eagles (-8), Giants (+9), Bills (+10).
Fox: Eagles (-10), Rams (-9), Texans (-8), Chiefs (-8), Browns (+9), Bills (+10), Seahawks (+10).
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.