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NFL Power Rankings Week 9: AFC, NFC Standings and Pre-MNF Predictions

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorOctober 30, 2017

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 29: Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster #19 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball after a making a catch against cornerback Nevin Lawson #24 of the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 29, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The contenders and pretenders are beginning to sort themselves out as the NFL season reaches the midway point.

On one hand, the Philadelphia Eagles, who won just seven games last season, have already matched that total in half that time.

On the other hand, the Oakland Raiders, who won the AFC West in 2016, are now in last place in the division and three games out of first.

Here's a look at projected power rankings following the Monday Night Football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos. For the record, the pick is that the Chiefs hold serve and beat the Broncos at home.

           

Projected Week 9 Power Rankings After Monday Night Football

1. Philadelphia Eagles (7-1)

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)

3. Kansas City Chiefs (6-2)

4. New England Patriots (6-2)

5. Minnesota Vikings (6-2)

6. Seattle Seahawks (5-2)

7. New Orleans Saints (4-2)

8. Buffalo Bills (5-2)

9. Los Angeles Rams (5-2)

10. Carolina Panthers (5-3)

11. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3)

12. Atlanta Falcons (4-3)

13. Houston Texans (3-4)

14. Dallas Cowboys (4-3)

15. Tennessee Titans (4-3)

16. Washington Redskins (3-4)

17. Green Bay Packers (4-3)

18. Baltimore Ravens (4-4)

19. Miami Dolphins (4-3)

20. Los Angeles Chargers (3-5)

21. Denver Broncos (3-4)

22. Detroit Lions (3-4)

23. Chicago Bears (3-5)

24. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4)

25. Oakland Raiders (3-5)

26. New York Jets (3-5)

27. Arizona Cardinals (3-4)

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5)

29. Indianapolis Colts (2-6)

30. New York Giants (1-6)

31. San Francisco 49ers (0-8)

32. Cleveland Browns (0-8)

      

All-Pennsylvania Super Bowl?

Right now, the leaders in each conference are the two Pennsylvania teams, as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles top the AFC and NFC, respectively.

Both teams look like they are here to stay. The Steelers are firing on all cylinders and have a new star in rookie wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, who hauled in a 97-yard touchdown catch against the Detroit Lions on Sunday night.

The defense has been fantastic all year, and the Steelers have two of the best skill position players in the game in running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

As for the Eagles, quarterback Carson Wentz looks like an MVP candidate, while wideout Nelson Agholor is clearly the league's most improved player (one fact: he's improved his catch rate by more than 16 percent, per Pro Football Reference).

The defense is hard-hitting and playing well, and that's without No. 1 cornerback Ronald Darby, who is still rehabilitating a preseason ankle injury.

It wouldn't be a big surprise to see these teams face off in the Super Bowl, although both have some serious competition looming in potential playoffs.

            

Party Like It's 1999?

If you had the Buffalo Bills residing in second place in the AFC East just one half game back of the New England Patriots, then you either live in Western New York or are a liar, as they weren't predicted to do much of anything after trading some of their best players prior to the regular season.

Credit needs to be given where it is due, however, as first-year head coach Sean McDermott has done a tremendous job building an excellent defense in Orchard Park, New York. The Oakland Raiders struggled all day in a 34-14 loss on Sunday night, as Buffalo stymied the running and passing attacks.

The Bills haven't made the playoffs since 1999, when their season ended in heartbreak with the Music City Miracle. Although the end of the regular season is still two months away, the AFC standings are breaking right for Buffalo, and it could break that 17-year drought.

The Bills currently lead the wild-card race at 5-2, and only two teams sit one game back (the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars). That being said, the Dolphins certainly don't look like a playoff team after losing 40-0 to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday.

The Bills' schedule will get tough down the stretch, with two games agains the Patriots and one versus the Kansas City Chiefs, but they are currently in the driver's seat to make their first playoff appearance this century.

         

How 'Bout Them Cowboys?

The Dallas Cowboys are two drives away from being 6-1 and a half game back of the Eagles in the NFC East. Alas, efforts against the Los Angeles Rams (35-30 loss) and the Green Bay Packers (35-31 defeat) fell just short.

Still, not counting an ugly Week 2 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Cowboys have actually looked good this season. Their four wins have been by a combined 71 points, or an average victory total of 17.75 points per game.

Prior to the Cowboys' win over the Washington Redskins in rainy and windy conditions, which led to running back Ezekiel Elliott carrying the ball 33 times, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott accounted for 14 total touchdowns over a four-game span.

The second-year pro out of Mississippi State looked like one of the best signal-callers in the league through the first half of the season, and he and Elliott form a dynamic one-two punch out of the backfield.

The defense has been hit and miss all season, but the Cowboys have a strong pass rush led by edge-rusher Demarcus Lawrence, who has accrued 9.5 sacks.

A fantastic pass rush can mask other weaknesses on defense, so if the 25-year-old keeps up this streak, then the Cowboys could be making their second straight playoff appearance.

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