Eight weeks down, nine weeks to go.  The playoff picture is starting to clear up, but there are still many teams in flux.  If you’ve been following the power ratings for a few weeks you may notice that there isn’t a ton of movement in the rankings from week to week.  That’s because the numbers don’t overreact to one game of football no matter how good or bad a team may look.

For those new to the ratings, these are 100% FORWARD LOOKING.  This isn’t a ranking of how good teams have been so far, it’s how good we project them going forward.  So just because some team is ahead in the standings or has a head-to-head win doesn’t vault them up the rankings.  Let’s take a look going into Week 9:

Tier 1: Superbowl Favorites

(1) New England Patriots

(2) Pittsburgh Steelers

(3) Seattle Seahawks

The Patriots remain in the number one position as they have all season long.  There were questions about their defense early on, but low and behold they keep winning games again.  On a neutral field, our numbers say New England would be favored against anyone else in the NFL.

The Steelers and Seahawks swapped places from last week’s rankings but the difference between the two teams is minimal.  The Steelers allowed a ton of yardage but played “bend but don’t break” defense to stifle the Lions in the redzone last week.  Russell Wilson led a game-winning drive against the Texans to show why he’s still one of the best quarterbacks in the league with the game on the line.

Tier 2: Next Best Things

(4) Kansas City Chiefs

(5) Philadelphia Eagles

(6) Dallas Cowboys

The Chiefs didn’t necessarily look pretty, but again managed a double-digit win against a division for on Monday Night Football.  We pegged them last week as a team with value to win their division and they all but locked it up as the rest of the AFC West struggled again in Week 8.

The Eagles have the best record in the NFL and have looked damn good doing it.  So why are they ranked 5th in the league instead of 1st?  One of the culprits has been an easy schedule for Philadelphia thus far.  Here are the rankings for the teams they have played so far: 23, 4, 24, 18, 26, 13, 23, 31.  The one time they played an elite team?  That was a loss at Kansas City.  That’s not to say the Eagles are bad or overrated or any of that other hot-take bullshit that spews out of the mouths of the uninformed.  The Eagles are a good football team but just haven’t shown enough to be favored over the league’s elite teams at this point.

Tier 3: Playoff Contention

(7) Minnesota Vikings

(8) Atlanta Falcons

(9) Jacksonville Jaguars

(10) New Orleans Saints

(11) Houston Texans

(12) Baltimore Ravens

(13) Carolina Panthers

The Vikings may be the most under the radar team in the NFL.  Our simulations currently give them the 6th best odds of winning the Superbowl but nobody seems to notice so far.

The Falcons underlying statistics are still very good and the talent that got Atlanta to the Superbowl last year is still mostly intact.  There are some worrisome signs that the hangover from last year is real but the numbers still like them going forward.

Jacksonville and New Orleans couldn’t have different quarterback situations but are nearly even in the power ratings.  Both teams are utilizing defense and running, but if you need the late drive to win the game, the Saints still have the clear advantage.

Houston’s defensive starters keep dropping like flies but it doesn’t seem to matter if Deshaun Watson keeps dropping them dimes.  The Texans have found their quarterback of the future and the immediate future likes their chances.

Baltimore and Carolina are both tough teams to get a read on.  Both are lingering around the .500 mark but the simulations give both teams a better than 50% chance to wind up in the playoffs.

Tier 4: Slow Your Roll

(14) Oakland Raiders

(15) Buffalo Bills

(16) Los Angeles Rams

Oakland has disappointed, Buffalo and L.A. have been pleasant surprises.  Interesting stories so far but still have to temper expectations, even this far into the season.  We literally just saw Buffalo beat Oakland by 20, right? Again, doesn’t matter to the numbers.  Last week, the Bills closed as 2.5-point favorites meaning oddsmakers though Oakland was a tick better than Buffalo (assuming three points for home-field advantage).  The numbers still see it the same way.

Tier 5: Any Given Sunday

(17) Detroit Lions

(18) Los Angeles Chargers

(19) Tennessee Titans

(20) Cincinnati Bengals

All four of these teams rate below average but are all good enough to not take them for granted.  It seems like you could make the case for these teams beating almost anybody but also for losing to almost anybody.  That’s why we love this league.

Tier 6: Good Bad Teams

(21) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(22) Denver Broncos

(23) Washington Redskins

These are the best bad teams the NFL has to offer.  You take a look at some of the names on their rosters and think they could have a good team, but then you remember that these teams are actually bad and they can’t have nice things.

Tier 7: New Territory

(24) New York Giants

(25) Green Bay Packers

Two of the marquee franchises in uncommon circumstances.  Both teams have lost their franchise player but aren’t in a position to rebuild either.  The Packers have the better chance to make the playoffs due to their record but at this point it seems like both teams and their fanbases will just be playing out the string without any playoff implications involved.

Tier 8: Not Going to Happen

(26) Arizona Cardinals

(27) Chicago Bears

(28) Miami Dolphins

(29) New York Jets

Miami has the best chance of making the playoffs (8%) out of this group due to their accrued wins but none of these teams have enough talent to make a viable run at the playoffs.

Tier 9: Draft Hunters

(30) San Francisco 49ers

(31) Indianapolis Colts

(32) Cleveland Browns

The 49ers have already made their draft play by acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo for a 2nd rounder next year.  The Colts made the mistake of accidentally winning a couple of games which puts the Browns in the driver’s seat for the number one pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.  I can’t wait to see which franchise quarterback they pass on next.