NFL Power Rankings: How they voted

Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.

Deep breaths.

Repeat after NFC East blogger Dan Graziano: Sure, the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins suffered crushing defeats in Week 3. Their seasons aren't unfolding quite as planned. But they aren't necessarily horrible, either.

"Yeah, I really am trying not to overreact to single games," Graziano said Monday in explaining his ballot for ESPN's newly released NFL Power Rankings. "Even my big jump for Seattle, I believe, came after two very good games by the Seahawks."

Not everyone agreed with Graziano's thinking, but there was a general consensus at the top. Four of five voters moved Houston into the No. 1 spot. That was enough for the Texans to end the San Francisco 49ers' one-week stay in the penthouse suite.

AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley was the lone Texans holdout. He put the Atlanta Falcons atop his ballot.

"It's based on their résumé of wins so far," he explained. "The Falcons began the season by winning at Kansas City, who had been predicted by some to win the AFC West. Atlanta went on to hand Peyton Manning his first loss and went across country to beat the previously undefeated Chargers on a short week of rest. The Falcons earned the right to be No. 1."

Fair enough.

Graziano dropped the Packers only two spots to No. 4 on his ballot despite their 14-12 defeat at Seattle. He took into account the way that game ended, with officials awarding a touchdown to Golden Tate despite evidence suggesting the Packers had made an interception.

"Obviously, I think we can consider that a tainted 1-2 record for the Packers," Graziano said. "And even if you want to call it legit, one loss was to the 49ers and the other was in Seattle, which is clearly an impossible place for a visiting team to play.

"I'm concerned about the way the Packers' offense has looked so far, but it's not as though they had serious personnel losses there. I assume they'll get it together. The defense looks much improved. We had them No. 1 in the preseason for a reason, and I haven't seen enough to convince me they shouldn't be one of the league's elite teams by the time it's all said and done."

And now, a closer look at the rankings for this week:

Falling (14): Pittsburgh Steelers (-7), Detroit Lions (-5), Denver Broncos (-4), Carolina Panthers (-4), New Orleans Saints (-4), Miami Dolphins (-4), Indianapolis Colts (-4), San Francisco 49ers (-3), Green Bay Packers (-3), New England Patriots (-3), Philadelphia Eagles (-2), San Diego Chargers (-2), Washington Redskins (-2), St. Louis Rams (-2).

Rising (17): Arizona Cardinals (+9), Minnesota Vikings (+8), Seattle Seahawks (+7), Baltimore Ravens (+3), Dallas Cowboys (+3), Buffalo Bills (+3), Oakland Raiders (+3), New York Giants (+2), Tennessee Titans (+2), Kansas City Chiefs (+2), Houston Texans (+1), Atlanta Falcons (+1), Chicago Bears (+1), Cincinnati Bengals (+1), New York Jets (+1), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1), Jacksonville Jaguars (+1).

Unchanged (1): Cleveland Browns.

Deadlocked: We broke no ties this week.

Like minds: All five voters ranked the Browns last. One spot separated highest and lowest votes for Houston, Atlanta, Cincinnati and the Jets.

Agree to disagree: Eleven spots separated highest and lowest votes for the Saints.

"This one's tough because they're 0-3 and it's an ugly 0-3," Graziano said. "If you base it only off what's happened this year, you'd call them one of the worst teams in the league. But Drew Brees is still the quarterback, and he's still got the same group around him he had last year, and that kind of stuff matters to me. I keep dropping them with each loss, but I'm not ready to say with conviction that they're worse than the Raiders or the Rams or the Panthers just because of three games. They've earned some benefit of the doubt, I believe."

OK, but what about that No. 19 ranking for the 1-2 Redskins? That was 10 spots higher than Hensley had them.

"They've scored more points than any other team in the league, and they've only had their best wide receiver for one half of one game so far," Graziano said. "The defense is atrocious, but I think the [Robert] Griffin [III]-led offense has been good enough so far that they deserve to outrank some of these teams that have shown less on both sides of the ball than they have on one."

A look at the teams generating high-low disparities of at least eight spots in the rankings:

  • Saints (11): Graziano ranked them 20th, higher than any other voter ranked them. Hensley ranked them 31st, lower than any other voter ranked them.

  • Redskins (10): Graziano 19th, Hensley 29th.

  • Chiefs (8): Graziano and Ashley Fox 22nd, Hensley 30th.

  • Buccaneers (8): Sando and John Clayton 19th, Fox 27th.

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 West ranked 11th on average, best for any division. This is the first time I can recall that the NFC West has posted the highest average for any division. The NFC East dropped from the top spot (12.2) into second at 12.5.

Two of our divisional bloggers on the panel -- Graziano (NFC East) and me (NFC West) -- continued to rank teams from our divisions higher on average than the other panelists ranked them. Hensley had in the past, but that changed this week.

Graziano's ranking for the Redskins largely accounted for his higher average for NFC East teams. I ranked the Rams 21st, higher than anyone else ranked them, despite a rough game at Chicago. The Rams have lost twice on the road to potential playoff teams from the NFC North. I think they'll give Seattle a run in Week 4 and remain competitive.

A voter-by-voter look at changes of at least six spots since last week:

  • Sando: Steelers (-7), Panthers (-6), Lions (-6), Chargers (-6), Seahawks (+6), Vikings (+8), Cardinals (+9).

  • Clayton: Colts (-6), Eagles (-6), Seahawks (+11), Cardinals (+12).

  • Graziano: Chargers (-6), Cardinals (+7), Seahawks (+10).

  • Hensley: Lions (-7), Saints (-7), Broncos (-6), Packers (-6), Steelers (-6), Redskins (-6), Cardinals (+6), Jaguars (+7), Vikings (+7), Titans (+7).

  • Fox: Broncos (-8), Saints (-7), Bills (+6), Bengals (+6), Cardinals (+7), Seahawks (+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.

For example, Baltimore ranks higher than Philadelphia even though the Eagles defeated the Ravens. Green Bay ranks higher than Seattle despite the final score from their game Monday night. The Giants outrank the Cowboys even though Dallas beat them in Week 1. There were a few other examples, as well.

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.