In the movie Moneyball, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) uses this analogy to explain his team's payroll situation relative to the rest of Major League Baseball in 2002: "There are rich teams, there are poor teams, then there's 50 feet of crap, then there's us."
A similar sentiment can be used to explain the current NFL landscape. There are clear Super Bowl contenders, and there is a gigantic middle class. Then there is a large gap, and then there are some deeply flawed teams with small mathematic (but not realistic) playoff chances.
We'll take a look at a few middle-class teams who could crash the Super Bowl contender group in addition to providing a full set of power rankings.
NFL Power Rankings
1. Los Angeles Rams (6-0)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-1)
3. New Orleans Saints (4-1)
4. New England Patriots (4-2)
5. Los Angeles Chargers (4-2)
6. Baltimore Ravens (4-2)
7. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2)
8. Miami Dolphins (4-2)
9. Chicago Bears (3-2)
10. Washington Redskins (3-2)
11. Carolina Panthers (3-2)
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1)
13. Minnesota Vikings (3-2-1)
14. Green Bay Packers (2-2-1)
15. Seattle Seahawks (3-3)
16. Tennessee Titans (3-3)
17. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
18. Houston Texans (3-3)
19. Dallas Cowboys (3-3)
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3)
21. New York Jets (3-3)
22. Cleveland Browns (2-3-1)
23. Detroit Lions (2-3)
24. Atlanta Falcons (2-4)
25. Denver Broncos (2-4)
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4)
27. Buffalo Bills (2-4)
28. San Francisco 49ers (1-4)
29. Indianapolis Colts (1-5)
30. Arizona Cardinals (1-5)
31. New York Giants (1-5)
32. Oakland Raiders (1-5)
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers are 4-2 even though their top defensive player (edge-rusher Joey Bosa) has missed the entire season with a foot injury. The Bolts' only losses have been to the 6-0 Los Angeles Rams and 5-1 Kansas City Chiefs.
Bosa is expected to return some time after the bye week, which will take place after Sunday's game with the Tennessee Titans. With him back in the mix, the Chargers could emerge as the conference's best team. The Bolts offense is already one of the game's best, as it hasn't scored fewer than 23 points in a game yet (for context, the league average is 24.0 points).
The defense has improved in recent weeks, allowing just 10 points against the Oakland Raiders before soundly beating the Cleveland Browns, 38-14. With Bosa back, L.A. could return to its 2017 form, when the team allowed the third-fewest points in the NFL.
The Chargers look like a sleeping giant that could give the AFC playoff field significant problems.
The Baltimore Ravens offense has been inconsistent all season save for long passes between quarterback Joe Flacco and wideout John Brown, but the top-notch defense will keep this team alive against any opponent it faces. The team has allowed 14 or fewer points in five of six contests, which is remarkable considering the record amount of points teams are putting up this year.
Baltimore's problem is that its schedule is rather unforgiving. The next four teams on the docket (the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals) all have winning records. The Ravens are home for three of the four, but that's a tough stretch for anyone.
Still, the defense just held a professional football team to 106 yards on the road. Although the Titans offense is struggling this year, that's a remarkable feat against anyone. This Ravens defense is clearly special and has the chance to be the franchise's best since the 2000 season, when Baltimore won the Super Bowl.
The Cincinnati Bengals dropped to 4-2 following a heartbreaking 28-21 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but this team has a few impressive wins on their resume, namely a 34-23 victory over the Ravens.
Despite losing tight end Tyler Eifert to a season-ending injury, the Bengals offense is one of the better units in the league. Wideout Tyler Boyd in particular has enjoyed a breakout campaign (37 catches, 455 yards, four touchdowns) that has helped catapult the Bengals offense to greater heights.
The division is a gauntlet, though, as is the Bengal schedule. A matchup with the 5-1 Kansas City Chiefs on the road looms, as do games with the 4-1 New Orleans Saints (at home) and the 4-2 Chargers (away). Cincinnati also needs to face the Ravens and Steelers in road divisional matchups as well.
That doesn't bode well for continued success this season, although the offense is good enough to keep the team in any game.
Miami has wins against three teams with .500 records or better this year: the 3-3 New York Jets, 3-3 Tennessee Titans and 3-2 Chicago Bears. However, they also lost to the New England Patriots 38-7 and allowed two fourth-quarter defensive touchdowns to the Bengals as the team blew a 17-0 lead en route to a 27-17 loss.
Miami is an odd and inconsistent team, but on the plus side, the Dolphins have a propensity for explosive plays. Of note, wideout Albert Wilson has had receiving touchdowns of 74 and 75 yards, and wide receiver Jakeem Grant has kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns and caught a 52-yard pass from Wilson for a score.
The Dolphins can't rely on splash plays all season (or can they?), but they catch a break with their upcoming schedule as they don't face a team with a winning record until Week 14.
Miami is 4-2 and could certainly sneak into a wild-card berth (or even division crown), but its issue is that six teams are 4-2 or better in the conference, and the mediocre AFC South (where no team is above 3-3) will get an automatic playoff berth for its division winner.
Miami is off to a good start, but the team has a lot of work to do.