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NFL Power Rankings Week 9: Who feasts on turkey over the second half of the season?

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Schedule luck has an unsung impact on narratives shaping the league. Who will rise and fall based on their upcoming opponents?

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos
One of these guys has been as expected. The other is Diontae Spencer.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror and the Broncos on a bye, this feels like a good week to zoom back out and take a look around the league. Is there a chance Denver can make a little noise over the final seven games? How hard would it be to tank?

Quick Disclaimer: As always, the Power Rankings are based upon how I see each team’s chances at winning the 2019 Lombardi. That means some teams will be lower than their record indicates and some teams will be lower than previous opponents they beat.

The Tank is on.

32. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bungles benched Andy Dalton and will look to move him this off-season. Nothing says “committed to the world of suck” quite like starting a rookie third rounder over a $100 million guy to see “what you have.”

31. New York Jets

After toppling a tank, it’s fair to wonder if Adam Gase survives 2019.

30. Washington

Dwayne Haskins means they’re sort of compelling. Sort of.

29. Miami Dolphins

Brian Flores fooled around and stole a win. Has anyone put money on him receiving walking papers?

28. Atlanta Falcons

My dark horse contender for the third pick in the draft. Unlike the other teams down in the cellar, Atlanta has a really rough schedule down the final half of the year.

27. New York Giants

So my fantasy team “Pickle Rick” went into last night’s game with a 37.1 lead with Saquon Barkley yet to play facing off against Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot. We won by 11. To say I should have bid on Christian McCaffrey back in August is a bit of an understatement.

Maybe next year

26. Cleveland Browns

Every way you turn, the Browns are a disaster.

Needless to say, Whitehead was released yesterday.

25. Arizona Cardinals

Guess who has the second hardest schedule in football over the back half of the season?

24. Denver Broncos

With the Broncos looking at a 1.2% chance of making the playoffs, the rebuild is most certainly on. It’s fair to wonder if their upcoming schedule is already having an impact on the plan with Drew Lock and his return from injured reserve. Bringing him back this past week in order to start immediately after the bye would have sacrificed him to Everson Griffin and Danielle Hunter in Minnesota. I’ve already written about the most optimal start for him.

23. Chicago Bears

One of the great “what-if” scenarios that will haunt Chicago is how the Bears went into camp with no capable replacement for Mitch Trubisky. Things got so bad a healthy chunk of the fan base was pining for Andy Dalton this past month. The current defense is championship caliber and faces an off-season cap crunch that could decimate the core.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Turnover prone offense and young defense makes for a 2-6 record. Even still, the pieces are there to drag Pete Carroll and the Seahawks into a 34-all overtime. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the Bucs approach this off-season. Bruce Arians will have a very real ability to shape the team as he sees fit with 27 expiring contracts and something like $83 million in cap space.

21. Tennessee Titans

Before the Titans wandered into Carolina, they looked a lot like a team that made a quarterback swap a little too late to take advantage of their strong defense. Then Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers’ talented receivers made mincemeat of Dean Pees’ defense while Ryan Tannehill did his best Marcus Mariota impression.

They still have dates with the Colts and finish their season with a Texans-Saints-Texans sandwich. Maybe next year.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars

I’d feel a lot better about the Jags if they weren’t shaving their Minshew in the middle of Movember for Nick Foles.

So you’re saying there’s a chance...

19. Detroit Lions

Lions fans I respect believe Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn deserve more time. It remains an open question if the Fords provide it.

18. Los Angeles Chargers

I was too wrapped up in the Broncos game to see L.A shock the Cheeseheads, but holy cow, they dominated, eh? Going to be fun walking into class on Tuesday.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

Something tells me Pittsburgh fans are going to become insufferable as they beat up on teams like the Browns (twice), Bengals, Cardinals, and Jets over the next two months.

16. Oakland Raiders

It’s hard to believe Antonio Brown threw this same team into turmoil two months ago. They’ve made it to .500 with one of the toughest schedules in the league and face a bit of a cake walk to finish. The Bungles, Jets, and Titans could mean Fangio has a chance at spoiling Jon Gruden’s playoff aspirations to close the year.

15. Carolina Panthers

With reports coming out about Cam Newton’s health complications, it’s looking more and more likely that Kyle Allen gets an extended audition to prove he’s the guy. Life in the NFC South means Ron Rivera will probably need more Superman than Clark Kent to guide the Cats back into the dance.

Sweating the standings

14. Philadelphia Eagles

The Vikings loss helped the Iggles playoff aspirations. A date with the Patriots after a bye does not. Bill Belichick is close to automatic with an extra week to prepare.

13. Buffalo Bills

I fully expect the Buffalo Bills to continue smacking around the hapless teams pushed in front of them and wind up the fifth seed. Then they’ll be “disrespected” as teams maneuver to get to face off against Josh Allen in January.

12. Indianapolis Colts

Jacoby Brissett’s health concerns are the biggest factor here. Even as good as Frank Reich is, stumbling down a bumpy road with a third string quarterback would hurt.

11. Los Angeles Rams

For all of the washing of hands over Sean McVay, Jared Goff, and Todd Gurley, it’s Wade Phillips’ defense that has helped keep LA in the hunt for a shot at redemption this year. Now that Jalen Ramsey’s had a couple weeks to get acquainted with the scheme, things could get interesting quick.

Here’s a quick look at their next final slog: Steelers, Bears, Ravens, Cards, Seahawks, Cowboys, Niners, and a rematch with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray to finish the regular season.

10. Minnesota Vikings

Just as soon as I accept the Vikes as legitimate playoff contenders, they get robbed beat by the Chiefs’ backup quarterback.

9. Dallas Cowboys

Scheduling gods can be cruel: Jason Garrett got to play three games against New York teams, two against Washington, and Miami so far. The fact they’re sitting at 5-3 despite this is a bit concerning. Up next are the Vikings, Lions, Patriots, Bills, Bears, and Rams.

You can’t convince me Jerry Jones doesn’t have Lincoln Riley’s number on speed dial. Just in case.

8. Seattle Seahawks

Remember when there was doubt about Russell Wilson as the clear MVP?

7. Kansas City Chiefs

I’m sure if you told Reid he’d split the games with Minny and Green Bay starting Matt Moore, he’d gladly take it. It’s going to be fascinating to see how they manage Patrick Mahomes’ health with a game against the Raiders to open December before a trip to Foxboro.

6. Houston Texans

A win while the rest of the AFC South takes a Lump could be big with the Ravens, Colts and Patriots looming. Deshaun Watson will be battle tested by the time Wild Card weekend comes around.

5. Green Bay Packers

In some alternate dimension I’d try and explain to you how the Broncos played Green Bay tough and smacked around the Chargers that beat up on Matt LaFleuer’s team, so they’re clearly better than 3-6.

But I’m too lazy, so I adjusted all three rankings.

True Contenders

4. Baltimore Ravens

Hard to believe Lamar Jackson can pull off another stunner in January, but Sunday revealed who the true second best team in the AFC is.

3. San Francisco 49ers

Why do I have the lone unbeaten at 3?

Jimmy G.

2. New Orleans Saints

The game on December 8th between Sean Payton and Kyle Shanahan is going to be so much fun.

1. New England Patriots

You didn’t really think I was going to slide them down because they aren’t undefeated, did you?