The Green Bay Packers, just a month ago, looked like the Super Bowl favorite out of the NFC. To say a lot has changed since then would be a major understatement.
There are issues with the Packers everywhere you look. Some of those issues were exposed in consecutive road losses to Denver and Carolina. Those losses were easily explained, though. Tough games against tough teams on the road. It’s hard to win those games in the NFL.
The real tough pill to swallow came Sunday. At home. Against the Detroit Lions. The Packers played arguably their worst game of the Mike McCarthy/Aaron Rodgers era. They were simply terrible. The worst part for the Packers is there’s no reason to believe it’s going to get better soon. That might seem like an overreaction, but if a team was going to right the ship, you think it would come at home, where they’d been nearly unbeatable, especially against a Lions team that hadn’t won in the state of Wisconsin since George H.W. Bush was president.
Instead, the Packers laid an egg, looking borderline incompetent at times. So, yeah. It’s time to press the panic button in Green Bay, especially when you consider the Minnesota Vikings have taken over first place in the NFC North. The Packers’ schedule the rest of the way isn’t very friendly, either. They’ve got two more games against the Vikings, including on the road this week. They’ve also got the Cowboys on the schedule and back-to-back road matchups against Oakland and Arizona.
Never mind the Super Bowl anymore. This Packers team should be worried about making the playoffs.
On to this week’s power rankings.
1. New England Patriots (Last week: 1): The Patriots looked, dare we say, mortal against the Giants. The loss of Julian Edelman hurts in a big way, but no team is better at finding ways to win with less than New England.
2. Carolina Panthers (Last week: 3): Is it too early to start talking about the Panthers’ chances to go undefeated? It’s definitely still too early, right? … Right?
3. Cincinnati Bengals (Last week: 2): The Bengals lost to T.J. Yates, which admittedly looks reeeeally bad. But it’s not time to worry just yet. There’s a reason teams don’t win 15 or 16 games every season. Winning is hard.
4. Arizona Cardinals (Last week: 6): Well, alrighty then. The Cardinals hadn’t beat anyone all season, but going into Seattle and beating the Seahawks in primetime? You’ve got my attention, Arizona.
5. Minnesota Vikings (Last week: 7): The Vikings are in first place. Seriously. The Vikings are in first place. They could stay there for a while, too, as this week’s home matchup with the Packers looks extremely winnable.
6. Denver Broncos (Last week: 4): On one hand, it seems to make sense for the Broncos to sit Peyton Manning for as long as possible to get him healthy. On the other hand, they’re not yet a lock for the playoffs, and the schedule is stacked the rest of the way.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last week: 12): Ben Roethlisberger is not a human being. Last week, it looked like his foot was about to fall off. This week, he comes off the bench and chucks it 33 times for 379 yards and three touchdowns. Freak.
8. Green Bay Packers (Last week: 5): The Packers can change a lot of the rhetoric with a statement win this week in Minnesota, but there is absolutely nothing we’ve seen in the last three weeks to make us think there’s a good possibility of that happening.
9. Atlanta Falcons (Last week: 10): The Falcons occupy the No. 9 spot, but that might not be for long. They’re one of the handful of supposed playoff teams who could fall off the pace down the stretch, especially with two upcoming games against Carolina.
10. Buffalo Bills (Last week: 15): The Bills won Rex Ryan’s homecoming, which was good. But if they come out and get hammered Monday against the Patriots, it’s worth nothing.
11. New York Giants (Last week: 13): The Giants move up two spots despite losing. How, you ask? For starters, just about everyone else lost. More importantly, they looked like legit contenders while taking the Patriots to the limit.
12. Seattle Seahawks (Last week: 8): The Seahawks have five losses this season. They’ve held a fourth-quarter lead in all five of those losses.
13. New York Jets (Last week: 9): The Jets’ defense is good, but no defense is good enough to consistently overcome what the Jets’ offense did Thursday night. Four turnovers, 3-for-13 on third down and myriad questionable decisions? That’s tough sledding.
14. St. Louis Rams (Last week: 11): The Rams’ biggest problem is they can’t play from behind. Having Nick Foles as a quarterback … also an issue.
15. Indianapolis Colts (Last week: 16): The Colts had a well-timed bye week, which at the very least should give Matt Hasselbeck some more time to get comfortable, as this is his team for the next month or so.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (Last week: 14): The Eagles blew a huge early lead and lost their starting quarterback against the Dolphins. No issues other than that.
17. Oakland Raiders (Last week: 17): The Raiders’ defense is a mess. They’ve allowed an average of 358 yards per game the last four weeks. If they could combine their offense with the Jets’ defense, though, they’d be unstoppable!
18. Washington Redskins (Last week: 21): It’s amazing what happens when the pass-catchers actually catch the football. Going up against the Saints defense certainly helps that cause, too.
19. Chicago Bears (Last week: 23): The Bears are red-hot, and now they’re returning home to take on Brock Osweiler and the Broncos. They’re just two games back of the Packers, with a Thanksgiving night showdown looming.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last week: 20): The Bucs took advantage of a bad Cowboys team and some good luck. They’re going to finish 7-9 and do so in a completely forgettable way.
21. Kansas City Chiefs (Last week: 22): Add the Chiefs to the growing list of teams that everyone — myself included — thought were dead but are now actually kind of alive because the “top teams” couldn’t take care of business.
22. Houston Texans (Last week: 31): Well. Here we are. The Texans are tied for first place in the AFC South.
23. Miami Dolphins (Last week: 26): Finally, Ndamukong Suh was a beast. But let’s be honest. This game had much more to do with the Eagles blowing it and the Dolphins getting really, really lucky.
24. New Orleans Saints (Last week: 18): The Saints finally fired Rob Ryan. Apparently 10 weeks as the NFL’s worst defense proved to be the breaking point. The Saints should just blow this thing up in the offseason, including trading Drew Brees.
25. Dallas Cowboys (Last week: 19): Tony Romo’s about to return, but it’s too little too late. The Cowboys, who are a dysfunctional mess, couldn’t be saved by Superman at this point.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last week: 31): I kind of wanted the Jaguars to keep losing so I could keep sharing facts about animals and cars. Alas. It’s pathetic they’re one game out of first place.
27. San Francisco 49ers (Last week: 28): The most intriguing storyline centering around this team at this point is where Colin Kaepernick will be traded to in the offseason.
28. Baltimore Ravens (Last week: 24): The Ravens have a better point differential (minus-26) than eight teams who have worse records than they do.
29. Detroit Lions (Last week: 32): The Lions beat the Packers in Wisconsin for the first time since 1991. Coincidentally, that was the last time Jim Caldwell showed any sort of emotion.
30. San Diego Chargers (Last week: 29): As the San Diego Union-Tribune pointed out, the Chargers are in line to make their first pick of higher than 11th since 2004. Honestly, that’s the best news they’ve had all season.
31. Cleveland Browns (Last week: 25): The Browns have one win since Week 2, and it was an overtime win on a Thursday night against Baltimore. They’re not good
32. Tennessee Titans (Last week: 27): The Titans have a growing list of injuries and are playing Thursday night. Should go well!
Thumbnail photo via Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports Images