NFL Fun Power Rankings, week nine: Can Drew Brees' Saints finally topple Kansas City?

Alex Finnis
The Telegraph
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara hurdles Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner in his team's 45-35 win on Sunday - USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara hurdles Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner in his team's 45-35 win on Sunday - USA TODAY Sports

Welcome, welcome to week nine of the NFL Fun Power Rankings, the place where we value excitement and compelling storylines over 12-9 victories and winning records. We carry out what I'm sure you'll agree is the vital service of letting everyone know which teams are worth watching on Game Pass and which you should try to forget altogether.

All the movement is in the top half of the table this week, with teams like the Buccaneers, Steelers and Panthers all making strong cases for a place in the top five, but the big question is this - will the Chiefs' season-long run at the top of the rankings finally come to and end?

Here's how we're looking heading into the tail end of the 2018 NFL season.

32. Buffalo Bills (-)

Read this tweet. Like, really read it. Take it all in. Isn't that the funniest sentence you've read in a while? Well that's the reality of life as a Buffalo Bills fan. Lord have mercy on you all.

31. Arizona Cardinals (-)

The Cardinals were on a bye this week, which means they didn't lose and we didn't have to watch them. Good news all round. Less good news? The have the Chiefs next week. Larry Fitzgerald doesn't deserve this.

30. Oakland Raiders (down 1)

No one had even heard of Nick Mullens a week ago, and yet on Thursday Night Football the Mullens-led 49ers humiliated the Raiders on primetime television. Losses like this turn a team against their head coach - more of these kind of results and Jon Gruden's rebuild may be over before it's even begun.

<span>It's a grim, grim time to be an Oakland Raiders fan</span> <span>Credit: Kyle Terada/USA Today </span>
It's a grim, grim time to be an Oakland Raiders fan Credit: Kyle Terada/USA Today

29. New York Jets (down 6)

The Jets have slipped from 3-3 to 3-6 in the past three weeks, but the way they've played recently even that record flatters them. Sam Darnold has been a turnover machine in his rookie season. It was fumbles people were worried about coming out of college, but it's the interceptions he seemingly needs to work on. Darnold is a quarter-back with huge potential, but is making some unforgivable mistakes out there right now. Priority in the off-season? Get him some weapons.

28. Miami Dolphins (down 1)

The Dolphins weren't a whole lot better than the Jets in their 13-6 win. It was a game the NFL may as well delete from Game Pass, though I guess it could prove an effective torture method. No, I'm not all that enthralled with Miami this season, how did you guess?

<span>Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard breaks up a Sam Darnold pass in Miami's 13-6 win at Hard Rock</span> <span>Credit: Steve Mitchell/USA Today </span>
Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard breaks up a Sam Darnold pass in Miami's 13-6 win at Hard Rock Credit: Steve Mitchell/USA Today

27. Tennessee Titans (up 3)

The Titans got back to winning ways against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football - and it was their usual way of winning. Tennessee were far more efficient than they were exciting, with Marcus Mariota (21/29, 240 yards, one touchdown) relying mostly of safe passes and much of the offense going through Dion Lewis (19 carries for 62 yards) on the ground. The Titans have found a way back into the AFC South race, but they're yet to find a way back into my heart.

26. New York Giants (-)

The Giants were on bye this week, so I'm going to take this blessed opportunity to not talk about them at all. I'm sure you all understand.

25. San Francisco 49ers (up 3)

Well that was fun, wasn't it? You'd imagine quite a few people thought they were being smart in drafting the Raiders defense into their fantasy teams when they heard undrafted free agent Nick Mullens would be starting last week, but it's Mullens who's laughing/choking up in touchline interviews now. This wave will probably crash horribly into the shore in a week or two, but let's ride it while it lasts.

<span>Nick Mullens took apart the Oakland Raiders in his first ever NFL start</span> <span>Credit: Kirby Lee/USA Today </span>
Nick Mullens took apart the Oakland Raiders in his first ever NFL start Credit: Kirby Lee/USA Today

24. Dallas Cowboys (up 1)

The Cowboys absolutely do not deserve to go up a place in the rankings, and have done do by default and default alone. The only real positive in their 28-14 loss to the Titans was how Amari Cooper managed to make an immediate impact. He caught five passes for 58 yards and a score, leading the team in receiving yards on his debut.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars (-)

I've realised why this was such an enjoyable week of football - because there were so many irritating teams we didn't have to watch. Yes, the Jags are well and truly in that category now, so this is where I very smugly remind everyone I saw this coming a mile off. Yes, I did also say the Chiefs would miss the playoffs, but let's ignore that part, OK?

22. Washington Redskins (-)

Adrian Peterson is the only fun storyline to come out of Washington this season. What happens when he gets bottled up? The Redskins get comprehensively beaten by the Falcons and look an average side unlikely to cling onto their top spot in the NFC East. I can't see them moving on from Alex Smith this off-season, but you have to wonder how long he'll last if he continues to be this uninspiring under such a large contract.

<span>Adrian Peterson was ineffective against the Atlanta Falcons this weekend</span> <span>Credit: Brad Mills/USA Today </span>
Adrian Peterson was ineffective against the Atlanta Falcons this weekend Credit: Brad Mills/USA Today

21. Detroit Lions (-)

Matthew Stafford got murdered several times in front of thousands of witnesses on Sunday night, and yet the police did nothing about it. Nothing went right for the Lions in Minnesota, they couldn't get a run game going and they looked short of options in the receiving game. That's what happens when you trade away your leading wide-out to a conference rival. Detroit probably have one eye on next year already, which seems wise. January football is just a pipe dream at this point in the season.

20. Denver Broncos (-)

At 3-6 the Broncos are now one of the teams we don't really need to pay much attention to for the rest of the season. Vance Joseph could be the next NFL head coach to lose his job, especially when you look at Denver's next three fixtures - away to Chargers, home to Steelers and at Bengals. It might be a necessary change for a team which has stagnated since winning the Super Bowl in 2015.

<span>Tight end Jeff Heuerman was the Broncos' top receiver against the Texans</span> <span>Credit: Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today </span>
Tight end Jeff Heuerman was the Broncos' top receiver against the Texans Credit: Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today

19. Baltimore Ravens (down 1)

The Ravens are that dad who promises their son the hottest new toy for Christmas, only to arrive at the store on Christmas Eve to find it sold out weeks ago. They've been such a disappointment these past few weeks, and serve as proof that even a league-leading defense isn't enough to win games in today's NFL. Joe Flacco's form has dropped significantly since his early season hot streak - will we keep seeing more and more Lamar Jackson each week until Flacco is eventually phased out? At least that would make things more interesting.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (up 1)

By next Sunday the Eagles will have had a whole two weeks to prepare for the visit of the Cowboys, and their fans will have had a whole two weeks to pre-drink. I think the Eagles kick on in the second half of the season - the addition of Golden Tate immediately makes them more exciting and is enough to lift them one place without even taking the field.

17. Seattle Seahawks (-)

I still believe everything I've been saying recently about this Seahawks team being a surprising breath of fresh air, but they were always facing an uphill battle against a really good Chargers outfit, even at home. Seattle have now pushed the Rams and Chargers all the way, and beaten mediocre sides like the Lions and Cowboys. They're definitely an above-average side, and their future looks far less bleak than it did nine short weeks ago.

<span>The Seahawks fell just short against the Chargers in Seattle</span> <span>Credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images </span>
The Seahawks fell just short against the Chargers in Seattle Credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

16. Houston Texans (down 2)

The Texans are really going to miss Will Fuller. We knew that already, but Sunday's win over the Broncos really hammered it home. Demaryius Thomas had three receptions for 61 yards in his absence - a solid first outing - but this offense now rests almost solely on the shoulders of Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins. A devastating duo, no doubt, but not enough to take you all the way to Atlanta.

15. Indianapolis Colts (down 2)

The Colts can leapfrog the Jaguars in the AFC South if they beat them in Indianapolis next week. Both teams will be fresh off a bye, but it's Indy who are moving in the right direction. They may be 3-5, but the Colts have the sixth top scoring offense in the league, and a young, hungry defense playing above expectations. I know who I'd bet on.

14. Cleveland Browns (down 5)

The early season rollercoaster ride appears to have broken down, and the Browns have gone from being frustrating and fun to just frustrating again. Baker Mayfield, Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb all provided positives in an inevitable loss to the Chiefs, but the countdown to next season, another high draft pitch and yet another head coach is already on. They picked right on the QB this year, can they finally get the coach right too?

<span>Browns running back Duke Johnson attempts to make a diving catch against the Chiefs</span> <span>Credit: AP Photo/David Richard </span>
Browns running back Duke Johnson attempts to make a diving catch against the Chiefs Credit: AP Photo/David Richard

13. Green Bay Packers (down 2)

The Packers are now in real danger of missing the playoffs for a second straight year, and this time they can't blame it on Brett Hundley. Mike McCarthy on the other hand? Now that would be a fair shout. I'm not saying he should go to prison for wasting the best years of Aaron Rodgers' career, but I'm not not saying that.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (down 2)

A well-timed bye for the Bengals, who host none other than the white hot Saints in week ten in a game which could have huge playoff implications for both conferences. It's hard to see the Bengals coming out on top right now - Marvin Lewis coming out of a bye isn't exactly Andy Reid, but two top ten offenses going head-to-head means a shootout is definitely on the cards.

11. Atlanta Falcons (up 5)

The Falcons only dropped last week because they were on a bye and so many other teams impressed. They clamber their way back up this week by taking apart a supposedly stingy Washington defense and looking like a team well capable of doing some damage in the playoffs - it's getting there that's going to be the issue. Julio Jones had his first touchdown in almost a year and Matt Ryan had one of his good days, throwing for 350 yards and four scores. I'm not ready to count Atlanta out just yet.

<span>Julio Jones scored his first touchdown in 343 days as the Falcons beat the Redskins</span> <span>Credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today </span>
Julio Jones scored his first touchdown in 343 days as the Falcons beat the Redskins Credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today

10. Chicago Bears (up 5)

Facing Nathan Peterman is like playing a video game with all the cheat codes on, but putting up 41 points against a Bills team which has - despite all its faults - been tough to score on is worthy of some respect. Rookie linebacker Roquan Smith had a nice day, amassing 13 tackles, and Adrian Amos, Kyle Fuller and Leonard Floyd all had picks - Floyd's went all the way to the house. After a quiet week eight this was exactly what the Bears defense needed to get its mojo back. Even better news: Khalil Mack should return for week ten.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (down 1)

If the Chargers don't get themselves a competent kicker and end up losing to the Patriots in the playoffs because of a last-minute missed extra point attempt I am going to scream for four solid days while staring directly into the sun, and I don't even support the Chargers. I also already regret this commitment because it's probably going to happen. On a positive note Sunday's win made the Chargers the first AFC team to ever beat Russell Wilson in his own building. How's that for a crazy stat?

<span>Philip Rivers made sure his 200th consecutive career start ended in victory</span> <span>Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren </span>
Philip Rivers made sure his 200th consecutive career start ended in victory Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

8. Minnesota Vikings (down 1)

Adam Thielen had just 22 yards receiving against the Lions, putting an end to one of the most enjoyable subplots in the NFL this season. No fear for Minnesota though, whose defense more than stepped up on a quiet day for offense overall. The Vikings sacked Matthew Stafford ten (10) times - a franchise record. Who needs beautiful rainbow passes and devastating trick plays when you can spend all evening watching a quarter-back eat turf?

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (up 5)

He took a while to heat up, but Ryan Fitzpatrick almost dragged Tampa Bay to an outrageous comeback in Carolina. 35-7 down at the half, Fitzpatrick took the Bucs to withing just seven points before Curtis Samuel made sure of things for the Panthers. The Bucs are still the league's most potent passing offense, averaging just over 356 yards per game. It's just a shame about the awful defense and non-existent run game.

<span>The Bucs are immediately more fun with Ryan Fitzpatrick back in at quarterback</span> <span>Credit: Bob Donnan/USA Today </span>
The Bucs are immediately more fun with Ryan Fitzpatrick back in at quarterback Credit: Bob Donnan/USA Today

6. Pittsburgh Steelers (-)

James Conner is a star, and so much fun to watch on the field. His response to a career-worst game against the Ravens in week four was to torch them for 163 yards from scrimmage and a score this week. That's four straight games with 100+ yards rushing, if you're keeping count. Ben Roethlisberger showed his toughness by getting up from a monstrous Za'Darius Smith hit which had whiffs of a season-ender at first glace. It'll keep for than that to keep Big Ben down, especially when the Steelers are well and truly in the hunt for a seventh Super Bowl title.

5. New England Patriots (down 1)

The Josh Gordon experiment is working in New England. He led the team with 130 yards against the Packers, and bagged his second touchdown in Patriots colours - a 55-yard catch-and-run off a lovely deceptive pass from Tom Brady which had the Green Bay defense totally stumped. Running back James White continues to be one of the team's top receivers and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson continues to be one of their top rushers #JustBelichickThings.

<span>Josh Gordon went for 130 yards and a touchdown against the Packers</span> <span>Credit: Stew Milne/USA Today </span>
Josh Gordon went for 130 yards and a touchdown against the Packers Credit: Stew Milne/USA Today

4. Carolina Panthers (up 1)

The Panthers have 99 points in their last nine quarters of football - more than any other team in the league. This offense is turning on the heat at just the right time, and the defense keeps coming up with big plays to get the ball back in Cam Newton's hand. In Christian McCaffery, Curtis Samuel, DJ Moore and Donte Jackson Carolina are suffendly a team loaded with young, exciting, game-changing talent capable of bowling over just about anyone in the NFL on their day. They scored a franchise-record 35 points in the first half against the Bucs, and nothing's stopping them from getting even better.

3. Los Angeles Rams (down 1)

Damn does Jared Goff throw some stunning passes. Two in particular on Sunday night - to Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp - were the type that get you cooing from your armchair, and while the Rams have lost that precious zero from their losses column this is nothing more than a blip for a team which is still the most complete in the NFL.

2. New Orleans Saints (up 1)

Just the 45 points for the Saints against the undefeated Rams and their top ten defense. Just the four touchdown passes for Drew Brees and just the three scores for Alvin Kamara. Just the 211 yards for Michael Thomas and just the one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the Joe Horn-inspired phone celebration. New Orleans missed out on the Super Bowl in the most agonising way last season, if they get to play under domes all through the playoffs this year they might just go all the way.

<span>Kareem Hunt scored three touchdowns to help keep the Chiefs in pole position</span> <span>Credit: Scott R. Galvin/USA Today </span>
Kareem Hunt scored three touchdowns to help keep the Chiefs in pole position Credit: Scott R. Galvin/USA Today

1. Kansas City Chiefs (-)

By a thread the Chiefs hang onto the top spot for the ninth week in a row. This team just has so many ways to hurt you, whether it's Mahomes to Hill, Mahomes to Hunt, Mahomes to Kelce, Mahomes to Watkins, Hill out of the backfield, Hunt out of the backfield, Watkins out of the backfield... you get the idea. A Chiefs-Patriots rematch at Arrowhead for the AFC Championship is what NFL fans need and deserve. Football gods, make it happen.

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