NFL Power Rankings Week 11: Strength of schedule edition


Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) catches the game-winning touchdown as Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White, right, free safety Jordan Poyer (21) and strong safety Micah Hyde, left, defend during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 32-20. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Say it with us: “That’s why they play the games.”

Kyler Murray’s miracle throw — not to mention DeAndre Hopkins’ miracle catch — this past Sunday gave the Arizona Cardinals a last-second, shocking win over the Buffalo Bills, to level both teams at three losses on the season. It reminded us all that anything can happen, no matter how predictable the outcome may look.

That said, with so many tight divisional races it seemed like high time to take a look at team’s remaining schedules to see who gets the edge, and that’s exactly what our expert NFL panel did for this week’s power rankings.

This week, the panel includes editors Geoff Lowe and Craig Battle, and staff writers Mike Johnston and Emily Sadler.

Note: All strength of schedule numbers via Tankathon.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

2020 record: 9-0
Last week: 1
SOS remaining: .477

The league’s last undefeated team standing is 9-0 for the first time in franchise history. A date with the Jaguars should see them hit double digits, but a rematch against the Ravens just four days later on U.S. Thanksgiving will likely really test their grit and have that ’72 Dolphins squad watching closely. (ES)

2. Kansas City Chiefs

2020 record: 8-1
Last week: 2
SOS remaining: .531

The remaining slate for the Chiefs — winners of 17 of their last 18 games, including the playoffs — includes games against the cream of the NFC South in the Saints and Buccaneers, either of which could end up being a Super Bowl LV preview. (CB)

3. New Orleans Saints

2020 record: 7-2
Last week: 4
SOS remaining: .430

The Saints’ SOS number, which is third lowest in the NFL at the moment, won’t really matter if Drew Brees is impacted long-term by his fractured ribs and collapsed lung suffered against the 49ers. Brees hasn’t been great this season but are the Saints legit Super Bowl contenders with Jameis Winston behind centre? We have our doubts. The NFC bye and even home field advantage might be tough to maintain regardless of the winnable schedule. (MJ)

4. Buffalo Bills

2020 record: 7-3
Last week: 3
SOS remaining: .509

After a heartbreaking loss on Sunday in Arizona, the Bills get a much-needed bye before returning for a run at the AFC East title with the Dolphins suddenly lurking. Buffalo faces just two winning teams down the stretch – Pittsburgh and Miami – and should be expected to get to 10 or 11 wins this season. (GL)

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2020 record: 7-3
Last week: 9
SOS remaining: .519

The Bucs are averaging 38.3 points in their three games that have followed a loss. Tampa has a legitimate chance at a first-round bye. High-profile matchups against the Rams and Chiefs in the next two are followed by a relatively easy slate against the Vikings, Falcons (twice) and Lions in the final four weeks. (MJ)

6. Green Bay Packers

2020 record: 7-2
Last week: 6
SOS remaining: .492

Among their four “toughest opponents,” according to Tankathon, is a pair of games against the Bears. So, can we just call the division now, or… ? (ES)

7. Miami Dolphins

2020 record: 6-3
Last week: 11
SOS remaining: .477

Now winners of five straight, a run at the playoffs is looking good for the upstart Dolphins. What’s more, the AFC East title is definitely in play, and could be decided by a Week 17 clash with the Bills in Buffalo. Upcoming showdowns against the Broncos, Jets and Bengals could see Miami keep this streak rolling before a tough four-game run to end the season. (GL)

8. Arizona Cardinals

2020 record: 6-3
Last week: 13
SOS remaining: .500

Four divisional games — two against the Rams, and one each against the Seahawks and 49ers — will determine playoff seeding, but after Sunday’s miracle win over the Bills, Kyler Murray’s Cardinals suddenly look like a fantastic bet for the post-season. (CB)

9. Indianapolis Colts

2020 record: 6-3
Last week: 10
SOS remaining: .524

Key matchups with Pittsburgh and Las Vegas could determine playoff spots and/or seeding, while a second win over Tennessee would go a long way towards securing a division title. (MJ)

10. Baltimore Ravens

2020 record: 6-3
Last week: 5
SOS remaining: .461

Sure, their strength of schedule isn’t so bad – but that doesn’t factor in Mother Nature. (ES)

11. Los Angeles Rams

2020 record: 6-3
Last week: 12
SOS remaining: .508

See the Cardinals’ write-up above. The Rams will have to fight through two games against Arizona and one against the Seahawks in the NFL’s toughest division the rest of the way. Sunday’s win against Seattle will give the squad hope on that score after the loss to the surprise Dolphins before the bye. (CB)

12. Seattle Seahawks

2020 record: 6-3
Last week: 7
SOS remaining: .377

The bad news for the Seahawks: They are bleeding points and Russell Wilson has thrown seven INTs in three games. The good news: They have the easiest remaining schedule, featuring several would-be gimmes against NFC and AFC East bottom feeders, which should give them time to figure things out. (CB)

13. Tennessee Titans

2020 record: 6-3
Last week: 8
SOS remaining: .508

Three games in a row upcoming against the Ravens, Colts and Browns are going to be a grind. The Titans have lost three of four matchups since starting left tackle Taylor Lewan’s season ended with a torn ACL. (MJ)

14. Las Vegas Raiders

2020 record: 6-3
Last week: 14
SOS remaining: .444

Was the Week 5 win against Kansas City — in Kansas City, no less — a fluke? They’ll get a chance to prove it wasn’t this coming Sunday in a game in Vegas. The Raiders have now won three straight vs. the Browns, Chargers and Broncos on the backs of a resurgent run game. (CB)

15. Cleveland Browns

2020 record: 6-3
Last week: 17
SOS remaining: .445

Back-to-back tough matchups at the Titans and against the Ravens to open December will be huge indicators of the Browns’ playoff fate. But considering the strength of the AFC North and the crowded playoff race within the conference overall, it could all come down to a season finale against the Steelers, who could very well still be undefeated by then. (ES)

16. Minnesota Vikings

2020 record:
Last week: 20
SOS remaining: .439

Three straight wins and the fourth easiest strength of schedule in the league… is that hope we see on the horizon? (ES)

17. New England Patriots

2020 record: 4-5
Last week: 21
SOS remaining: .453

Two straight wins, including an impressive win in the rain over the Ravens on Sunday night, has breathed life into the Patriots. But New England’s strength-of-schedule number is a bit deceiving as a remaining game versus the 0-9 Jets brings the number down. Games against the Bills, Rams, Cardinals and Dolphins will all be big challenges for the Patriots. (GL)

18. San Francisco 49ers

2020 record: 4-6
Last week: 16
SOS remaining: .527

With the number of injuries here and the fact this team plays in the NFC West, remaining opponents almost don’t matter — Football Outsiders gives San Francisco just a 4.3 per cent shot at making the playoffs. The 49ers taking the field the rest of the way are basically auditioning for 2021. (CB)

19. Chicago Bears

2020 record: 5-4
Last week: 15
SOS remaining: .463

If we’ve learned anything from their downward spiral of four straight losses it’s that Chicago’s toughest opponent of all is actually themselves. (ES)

20. Cincinnati Bengals

2020 record: 2-6-1
Last week: 18
SOS remaining: .469

This season was never really about the wins and losses, which is a good thing considering there are more losses on the way. (ES)

21. Philadelphia Eagles

2020 record: 3-5-1
Last week: 19
SOS remaining: .571

A division loss over the weekend is another killer for the underachieving Eagles as the team enters its toughest stretch of the season. Over the next four weeks, Philadelphia faces four teams with a combined record of 25-11. The NFC East is a historically bad division, but the Eagles will likely still need to win at least one of those four to feel better about hanging on to top spot. (GL)

22. Atlanta Falcons

2020 record: 3-6
Last week: 22
SOS remaining: .677

The Falcons are coming off a bye after handily beating the Broncos in Week 9. On paper, they face the toughest schedule down the stretch in the entire NFL. They play the remaining AFC West teams, which means hosting the Raiders and tough road games against the Chiefs and Chargers. They also play the Saints and Bucs a combined four times in the final seven weeks of the regular season. Yikes. The good news for fans is if the Falcons embrace playing the role of spoilers, then we could see some entertaining shootouts. (MJ)

23. Detroit Lions

2020 record: 4-5
Last week: 26
SOS remaining: .515

The NFL schedule-makers paved a path for the Lions to build up a little playoff hope (at Panthers, vs. Texans, at Bears) only to fritter it away in the fourth quarter of the season (vs. Packers, at Titans, vs. Buccaneers, vs. Vikings). Fitting, really. (ES)

24. Carolina Panthers

2020 record: 3-7
Last week: 23
SOS remaining: .500

Carolina fell off track after a nice 3-2 start. A favourable schedule down the stretch will go to waste since pretty much the only shot the Panthers have at making the post-season is them winning out. (MJ)

25. Los Angeles Chargers

2020 record: 2-7
Last week: 24
SOS remaining: .484

Hear me out: Aside from the heartbreaking nature of the losses, is this season maybe working out perfectly for the Chargers? Their rookie QB is killing it AND they’re not playing themselves out of chance at a top draft pick. That’s a win-win despite their schedule looking like a lose-lose-lose-lose. (CB)

26. Denver Broncos

2020 record: 3-6
Last week: 25
SOS remaining: .600

Insult to injury? The Broncos are 3-6 and just about to head into the toughest part of their season. Next to Jacksonville, Cincinnati and the Jets, Denver has the lowest playoff odds in the league. (CB)

27. New York Giants

2020 record: 3-7
Last week: 30
SOS remaining: .528

The Giants will feel good about their chances in the NFC East after Sunday’s win over the rival Eagles, improving New York’s division record to 3-2 this season. But Big Blue will be run through the gauntlet over the final weeks of the season with games against Seahawks, Cardinals, Browns and Ravens. (GL)

28. Houston Texans

2020 record: 2-7
Last week: 27
SOS remaining: .523

The offence will be tested against the Pats, Bears and Colts (twice) as another disappointing season winds down in Houston. We’ll see how much pride these Texans have and who shows they want to be there next season. (MJ)

29. Dallas Cowboys

2020 record: 2-7
Last week: 28
SOS remaining: .385

Another blow to Cowboys fans is the fact their team returns from the bye with the second-easiest remaining schedule in the league. If Dak Prescott was still at the helm, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Dallas winning six of its last seven games. For the optimistic Cowboys fans: the team still has three division games left and remain very much alive in their woeful division. (GL)

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

2020 record: 1-8
Last week: 29
SOS remaining: .656

Jags fans hoping to land the No. 1 overall pick can take comfort in knowing Jacksonville has an incredibly difficult conclusion to their season. They face exclusively teams that have imposing defences and/or dominant rushing attacks. If the Jags get to three wins it’ll be a surprise. (MJ)

31. Washington Football Team

2020 record: 2-7
Last week: 31
SOS remaining: .462

Sunday’s failed miraculous comeback in Detroit will be a tough one to swallow for Washington as the Football Team had a chance to keep pace with the Giants and Eagles in the NFC East. Washington faces just two teams that currently own a winning record the rest of the way, but their 29th-ranked scoring offence will make it hard to take advantage. (GL)

32. New York Jets

2020 record: 0-9
Last week: 32
SOS remaining: .571

We’re officially on 0-16 watch for the Jets given the tough remaining strength of schedule (tied for fourth-hardest) and the struggles we’ve seen from the team so far this season. Games against the Chargers and Patriots are the Jets’ only matchups remaining against teams with sub-.500 records. (GL)

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