Can a team be ranked No. 1 even though it hasn’t played its best football?
The answer is yes if you’re the Green Bay Packers, who our NFL Power Rankings voters had no problem anointing as the league’s top team after eight weeks.
Green Bay has managed to overcome a series of injuries to string together seven consecutive victories after a season-opening blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints. Playing without their top receivers, namely All-Pro wideout Davante Adams, the Packers registered a resounding 24-21 road win over then-No. 1-ranked Arizona last Thursday, and the hard-fought battle highlighted the heavy lifting that the Green Bay defense has done all season. Rasul Douglas’ last-minute interception sealed the upset over the Cardinals and Kyler Murray, who was held to a season-worst 67.0 passer rating.
The NFC North won’t offer much resistance to a division title, but the Packers will have more difficult challenges ahead, starting with Sunday’s visit to Kansas City. Also looming is a Thanksgiving weekend trip to Los Angeles to face the wheeling-and-dealing Rams. Matt LaFleur’s club has already showed its mettle during an impressive 7-1 start, and it’s frightening to think how good the Packers can be if the offense can get healthy and start rolling under the steady hand of reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers.
On to the rankings …
The Top 10
1. Green Bay Packers (7-1, Last week: 4): Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon packed a powerful 1-2 punch for a combined 151 rushing yards on 31 carries against the Cardinals.
2. Arizona Cardinals (7-1, Last week: 1): On Monday, Kliff Kingsbury said Kyler Murray’s left ankle sprain is “still progressing.” If Murray can’t play, backup QB Colt McCoy will start Sunday against the 49ers.
3. Los Angeles Rams (7-1, Last week: 3): It’s fun to project their offense’s year-end numbers. For example: Matthew Stafford is on pace to throw for 5,264 yards, 47 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.
4. Dallas Cowboys (6-1, Last week: 5): They now know what they have in backup QB Cooper Rush, who capably filled in for the injured Dak Prescott against Minnesota.
5. Buffalo Bills (5-2, Last week: 7): They came out flat, then found their focus to beat Miami. They’ll have the same challenge Sunday against another one-win team, Jacksonville.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2, Last week: 2): Tom Brady leading the Bucs to a last-second field goal to beat the Saints seemed like the surest of sure things.
7. Tennessee Titans (6-2, Last week: 8t): There’s no way to replace Derrick Henry in the run game, but at least they have a resurgent Ryan Tannehill in the pass game.
8. New Orleans Saints (5-2, Last week: Not ranked): For the second straight season, an injury to the starting QB will force them to turn to Taysom Hill.
9. Baltimore Ravens (5-2, Last week: 8t): The Ravens rank 25th in total yards allowed at 382.3 per game. The last time their defense was ranked that low at season’s end was 1997 when Baltimore finished 6-9-1.
10. Las Vegas Raiders (5-2, Last week: Not ranked): They entered their bye week on a two-game win streak and now have a one-game lead in the AFC West.
FALLING DOWN: Cincinnati Bengals (5-3, Last week: 6), Los Angeles Chargers (4-3, Last week: 10).
The Bottom Five
On the strength of their upset of the Bengals, the Jets are this week’s regular cellar dweller to escape. That allowed a new struggling franchise to make its first appearance.
32. Detroit Lions (0-8, Last week: 30): Jared Goff is the popular scapegoat, but a defense giving up an NFL-worst 30.5 points a game certainly isn’t helping.
31. Houston Texans (1-7, Last week: 32): At least QB Tyrod Taylor is close to returning from a hamstring injury.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6, Last week: 29): They allowed the Seahawks to complete their first 14 passes — by Geno Smith, not Russell Wilson.
29. Miami Dolphins (1-7, Last week: 28): A seventh consecutive defeat has turned up the heat on head coach Brian Flores.
28. Washington Football Team (2-6, Last week: Not ranked): Four losses in a row have Ron Rivera’s squad spiraling into the rankings for the first time. Welcome.
MOVING UP: New York Jets (2-5, Last week: 31).