NFL Power Rankings Week 11: Strength of schedule edition

NFL insider Ross Tucker joins Lead Off to discuss how good Lamar Jackson actually is when he's throwing the ball that consistently, and mixing with his amazing athleticism and running ability.

Somewhere, the 1972 Miami Dolphins are clinking glasses. With the 49ers’ loss to the Seahawks Monday, the last undefeated team in the NFL has bitten the dust.

The loss also drops the 49ers from the top spot our latest power rankings. But there’s little separating the teams at the top. First-round byes are up for grabs in both conferences, and will be at least partly determined by strength of schedule (SOS) the rest of the way — hence our theme of the week.

This week, the panel includes editor Geoff Lowe and staff writers Donnovan Bennett and Emily Sadler.

1. Baltimore Ravens

2019 record: 7-2
Last week: 4
SOS remaining: .556

Lamar Jackson has produced 2,738 passing and rushing yards through the first 9 games of the 2019 NFL season. That rate would equal 4,868 over a 16-game stretch. After his fourth consecutive game with a rushing TD, it’s hard to imagine he plays another game this year without one. His toughest remaining test will be a Week 13 game against San Francisco. (DB)

2. New England Patriots

2019 record: 8-1
Last week: 3
SOS remaining: .469

The Patriots return from their bye and jump into the toughest month of their schedule: at Eagles, vs. Cowboys, at Texans and vs. Chiefs. New England’s status as a top-two team in the AFC will likely be decided over the next four weeks. (GL)

3. Seattle Seahawks

2019 record: 8-2
Last week: 5
SOS remaining: .598

Seattle has the fourth-toughest remaining schedule and three consecutive prime-time games to start the final stretch of the season — that’s in addition to the wild overtime victory on the Monday Night Football stage. But all we’re thinking about is Week 17, when we get to see Russell Wilson & Co. go up against the 49ers again. (ES)

4. San Francisco 49ers

2019 record: 8-1
Last week: 1
SOS remaining: .614

Us, at the midway point of the season: OK, but the 49ers have yet to be truly tested. NFL schedule-makers: You were saying… ? (ES)

5. New Orleans Saints

2019 record: 7-2
Last week: 2
SOS remaining: .516

The Saints’ loss to the Falcons was uncharacteristic in every way. They’ve got a shot to set the record straight in Atlanta at the end of the month, just in time for a date with the 49ers. (ES)

6. Green Bay Packers

2019 record: 7-2
Last week: 7
SOS remaining: .455

Aaron Rodgers has two games this year without a TD pass, but Green Bay is still in great shape. The Seahawks beating the 49ers on Monday night means the Packers will have a chance to move into first place in the NFC with a win in San Francisco in two weeks after their bye week. (DB)

7. Minnesota Vikings

2019 record: 7-3
Last week: 8
SOS remaining: .535

Minnesota is 5-1 in their last six games after starting 2-2. With games left against the Seahawks and Packers, the Vikings have a chance to prove they deserve to be considered among the NFC’s elite. (DB)

8. Kansas City Chiefs

2019 record: 6-4
Last week: 6
SOS remaining: .500

Four games against division opponents will determine the Chiefs’ playoff seeding. Their Week 14 matchup against the Patriots will give us an idea of their playoff fate.

They’ll be just fine if Patrick Mahomes and Mecole Hardman can keep doing things making the highlight reels like they did Sunday. (ES)

9. Houston Texans

2019 record: 6-3
Last week: 13
SOS remaining: .554

The AFC South leaders, coming off a Week 10 bye, face just two teams with a sub-.500 record over the last seven weeks of the season. Houston’s place as an AFC contender will be challenged as the Texans face both the Ravens and Patriots in the next three weeks, then a pair of clashes with the Titans in the last three weeks that will likely decide the division. (GL)

10. Buffalo Bills

2019 record: 6-3
Last week: 9
SOS remaining: .508

Buffalo got off to its best start since 1993 thanks to a really soft schedule to start the season, but now things get real and it feels like it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Bills have winnable games against the Dolphins and Broncos before a four-week stretch that will determine whether Sean McDermott’s team will play in January: at Cowboys, vs. Ravens, at Steelers, and at Patriots. (GL)

11. Pittsburgh Steelers

2019 record: 5-4
Last week: 16
SOS remaining: .383

Don’t count the Steelers out of the playoff race just yet. They were 0-2 when they traded a first-rounder for Minkah Fitzpatrick, and they’ve gone 5-2 since. With two touchdowns, the Steelers’ safety has more scores than several offensive stars this season, including Odell Beckham Jr., Leonard Fournette and Davante Adams. (DB)

12. Los Angeles Rams

2019 record: 5-4
Last week: 10
SOS remaining: .591

Dates with the 49ers, Seahawks, Ravens and Cowboys will certainly test the strength of the Rams’ patchwork offensive line. For the sake of Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, we’re hoping it doesn’t break. (ES)

13. Carolina Panthers

2019 record: 5-4
Last week: 11
SOS remaining: .500

All this Cam Newton talk has us looking ahead to next year, while the Panthers are still very much still in it this season. If they can steal one of two matchups against the division-rival Saints, we might get to see what Christian McCaffrey can do in the post-season. (ES)

14. Dallas Cowboys

2019 record: 5-4
Last week: 12
SOS remaining: .516

The Cowboys land right in the middle of the pack when it comes to strength of remaining schedule, which is why Sunday night’s loss to the Vikings could end up being a tough pill to swallow. Dallas faces four teams with plus-.500 records in the Patriots, Bills, Rams and Eagles, but also have tough outs at Detroit and at Chicago. The only guaranteed ‘W’ on Dallas’s remaining schedule is Week 17 at home against Washington. (GL)

15. Philadelphia Eagles

2019 record: 5-4
Last week: 14
SOS remaining: .415

If the Eagles can manage to go 1-1 at home against the Patriots and Seahawks over the next two weeks, a path to the playoffs opens for them. They play the Giants twice, Dolphins and Washington all in the final five weeks of the season. Win all of those, and a Week 16 clash with the Cowboys in Philadelphia will likely decide the NFC East. (GL)

16. Oakland Raiders

2019 record: 5-4
Last week: 17
SOS remaining: .364

The second-easiest second-half schedule means Oakland’s farewell tour could have a silver lining… and, uh, maybe a wild-card spot? (ES)

17. Indianapolis Colts

2019 record: 5-4
Last week: 15
SOS remaining: .531

Everything is up in the air now that the Colts have lost to the Dolphins. If the team that showed up Sunday is what we’re to expect from Indy going forward, the team will struggle given how tough the remaining schedule is. We fully expect Frank Reich to get his team ready to bounce back, but the Colts have a lot to prove in the second half of the season. (GL)

18. Tennessee Titans

2019 record: 5-5
Last week: 21
SOS remaining: .611

Three wins in their last four — including a statement victory over the Chiefs on Sunday — have put the Titans back in the playoff hunt. Their reward? The third-toughest remaining schedule in the league, which includes two against the division-leading Texans. (CB)

19. Chicago Bears

2019 record: 4-5
Last week: 22
SOS remaining: .545

The Bears beat a banged-up Lions team for their first win in six weeks. Their remaining schedule is tough, but in football — like in life — timing is everything. Luckily, their next opponent is the Rams, who are also decimated due to injuries. (DB)

20. Jacksonville Jaguars

2019 record: 4-5
Last week: 20
SOS remaining: .446

It’s hard to know what to expect from this team with Nick Foles taking over under centre, but given the Jaguars’ remaining schedule it’s very likely this team will be in the AFC South conversation if Foles injects some dynamism to the offence. Look out for the Jags as a second-half riser. (GL)

21. Los Angeles Chargers

2019 record: 4-6
Last week: 18
SOS remaining: .544

The Chargers needed a win over Oakland last Thursday. They didn’t get it. The divisional loss means it’ll be an uphill battle in the second half of the season, and the league’s 11th-hardest schedule won’t help. (ES)

22. Cleveland Browns

2019 record: 3-6
Last week: 25
SOS remaining: .352

Cleveland snapped a four-game losing streak with a win over the Buffalo Bills. That gives them their first home win this season. The Browns can make history Thursday night: After beating the Ravens in Week 4, a win over the Steelers would mark the first time they’ve beaten both AFC North rivals in the same season. They have the easiest schedule in the NFL the rest of the way. (DB)

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2019 record: 3-6
Last week: 27
SOS remaining: .468

This number should also factor into the Buccaneers’ ability to defeat themselves — opponents aside, the league’s fourth-most penalized team hasn’t made things easy for itself. (ES)

24. Atlanta Falcons

2019 record: 2-7
Last week: 28
SOS remaining: .556

Sunday’s unexpected victory over the Saints gave new life to everyone’s favourite Paul Rudd meme.

With the 49ers, revenge-seeking Saints, and Panthers (times two) coming up down the stretch, they might want to savour that. (ES)

25. Detroit Lions

2019 record: 3-5-1
Last week: 19
SOS remaining: .477

Matt Stafford has broken bones in his back and is considered week-to-week. Problem is their remaining schedule is so tough and stocked with elite defences, and even a small absence from Stafford would nullify their slim playoff hopes. (DB)

26. Arizona Cardinals

2019 record: 3-6-1
Last week: 23
SOS remaining: .618

Coming up: San Francisco, Seattle, L.A. Rams, Rams again, Pittsburgh. Talk about throwing Kyler Murray into the fire, just as he’s heating up. (ES)

27. Denver Broncos

2019 record: 3-6
Last week: 24
SOS remaining: .568

If rookie QB Drew Lock can hold his own against teams like the Vikings, Texans, Bills and Chiefs, there might be some glimmers of hope in Denver. (ES)

28. Miami Dolphins

2019 record: 2-7
Last week: 30
SOS remaining: .406

The Dolphins have gone from a team we never thought would sniff a victory to winners of back-to-back games. Miami still has tough dates against divisional rival New England and Philadelphia, but the two New York teams and the Bengals are still in their future. Four or five wins is a distinct possibility. (GL)

29. Washington Redskins

2019 record: 1-8
Last week: 29
SOS remaining: .469

While Washington’s schedule is the 12th-easiest remaining, it’s entirely plausible this team doesn’t win another game now that rookie Dwayne Haskins has been named as the permanent starter. We’re looking at the Jets this upcoming weekend or their Week 16 matchup against the Giants as Washington’s best shot at another win. (GL)

30. New York Jets

2019 record: 2-7
Last week: 31
SOS remaining: .413

Adam Gase’s team has been through the worst of its schedule, although a Thursday night clash with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens on the road looms large. But games against Cincinnati, Washington and Miami means Gang Green will play a role in the “fight” for the No. 1 pick. (GL)

31. New York Giants

2019 record: 2-7
Last week: 26
SOS remaining: .455

Now losers of six straight, things don’t get any easier for the Giants once they return from the bye in Week 12. Big Blue goes to Chicago, hosts Green Bay and then travels to Philadelphia for a Monday-night showdown to cap Week 14. That six-game skid stretching to nine is a distinct possibility. (GL)

32. Cincinnati Bengals

2019 record: 0-9
Last week: 32
SOS remaining: .444

Not sure the Bengals started this year hoping to tank, but they’re now in pole position for the top pick in the draft. An upcoming game against the openly rebuilding Miami Dolphins might be the tank bowl we’ve all been waiting for. (DB)

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