It's become the norm this year to have a new No. 1 team in my NFL Power Rankings almost every week, and it's no different leading into Week 11.
This time, it's the Green Bay Packers, a team that had previously been in the top spot once this season, much to the chagrin of many when they were there. It's a team that has ascended back to that spot behind something that most didn't see being the reason — the defense.
The Packers are not just Aaron Rodgers and the passing game anymore. It's a stark contrast to the way things have been around Green Bay for most of the Rodgers era. The Packers are the third-ranked defense in the league right now, In three consecutive games, they have limited some of the best quarterbacks in the game, winning two and losing to Kansas City only when Rodgers was out with COVID-19.
In the three games against Arizona's Kyler Murray, Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes and Seattle's Russell Wilson, the Packers allowed one touchdown pass and four picks and held the three to a combined 34 points. The 17-0 shutout of the Seahawks Sunday was the team's first shutout since 2018 and was also the first time Wilson was shut out in his career.
What makes the play of the defense even much more impressive is the Packers are doing it without top cornerback Jaire Alexander and pass-rusher Za'Darius Smith, who are both out recovering from injuries. Both could be back in December.
Credit goes to first-year defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who has helped mold this unit into one of the best in the NFL. It's helped that players like Rashan Gary, who could miss some time after suffering an elbow injury Sunday, corner Kevin King and down lineman Dean Lowry have taken their games up a notch. Rookie corner Eric Stokes has also showed off his improving cover skills, while free agent linebacker De'Vondre Campbell has proved to be a good signing. The safety tandem of Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos has been fantastic.
The Packers had two end-zone interceptions against Wilson to preserve the shutout, which was needed since the offense, with Rodgers back from COVID, not playing well. That will change. Even if running back Aaron Jones misses some time with a knee injury, the offense will get back on track since AJ Dillon can handle the running game, which he showed against Seattle.
The Packers can win slugfests now, even if that's not what it's been for most of Rodgers' time with the team. That's a good sign for the postseason because you know he can still sling it when he has to do so.
That's why this Green Bay team is so different. It can throw it, run it and play a physical brand of defense. That sure seems like a combination that can win it all — a style that has the Packers back on top of these rankings.
Yes, getting Aaron Rodgers back is huge for this team, but it's the defense that has them at the top. They face a tough one at Minnesota this week.
They just keep winning games, even without Derrick Henry. The schedule is soft the rest of the way. They will be the top seed in the AFC.
Nothing like beating up on the Jets to get your season back on track. They can't let up with the way the Patriots are playing.
Playing without Kyler Murray bled through to the entire team against Carolina. They were lifeless. They need him back in the worst way.
The offense got cranked up again against Atlanta, which is what we expected to see. They will be tough to beat come playoff time.
They have lost two straight games and the "dream team" has to be searching for answers. What has happened to the offense?
Whatever that was against Washington, they better get past it quickly. They sure didn't look like a Super Bowl team last week. The defense has to be better.
The Miami game was a disaster all the way around. They didn't seem prepared for the Miami game plan. That's not a good look.
This team is playing outstanding football on both sides of the ball. This might be Bill Belichick's best coaching job.
Are they back? Patrick Mahomes and the offense sure seemed like it against the Raiders. They are ready to make a real run.
They just don't look like the same offense in terms of productivity that they were a year ago. Justin Herbert isn't putting up big numbers, which is on the coaching staff.
They have lost two straight games with their backup quarterback, which really limits the offense. The defense, which has played well, is now forced to play ever better. That's tough.
Playing without Ben Roethlisberger was tough against the Lions. But what happened to the defense? The tie should never have happened.
They didn't play great against the Jaguars, but they found a way. They have to be more consistent on offense as they ready to play the Bills.
With Cam Newton back, they have a real chance to make a playoff push. The defense is playing good football and getting better.
The Raiders have defensive issues that showed up against the Chiefs. Two straight losses have them reeling.
They come off their bye in a good place since two of the division teams lost and one tied last week. They face a tough road trip to play the Raiders.
It's hard to believe they are down this low. The season has come unglued. They are not a good team right now.
That was an impressive road victory over the Chargers. But now they face a big one at home against the Packers. It's a big game for Kirk Cousins.
That was a season-saving victory against the Rams. Now they face a long road trip to play the Jaguars on a short week, which won't be easy.
They got badly outplayed by the Eagles and Teddy Bridgewater doesn't appear to be getting it done at quarterback. Could a change be coming?
At 3-6, they are in real danger of being out of the playoffs. Even with Russell Wilson back, the offense was nonexistent against the Packers.
So much for the idea that this was a surging team. They were dominated by the Cowboys in every way possible. Now here come the Patriots.
They come off their bye with tough Monday night road game against the Bucs on the road. At least they are getting some guys back from injury.
The defense was sensational against the Ravens, but the quarterback situation is still dicey with both Tua Tagovailoa and Jacoby Brissett banged up as they ready to face the Jets. It looks like Tagovailoa will start.
They did a lot of good things winning at Denver. They got the running game going in a big way, which led to a dominant showing.
By beating the Bucs, they are still alive in the playoff race. But losing Chase Young is a big blow to their defense - even if he wasn't playing as well as expected.
They come off the bye with a tough home game against a Ravens team that will be rested, having played last Thursday. The rest of the season is all about the growth of Justin Fields.
They've made big strides on defense, which is a good sign for next year. The offense simply lacks playmakers, and that can't be fixed this season.
The Mike White experiment needs to be over. It's time to play Zach Wilson the rest of the way.
They come off their bye with a tough road game against the Titans. Remember when those two teams used to be comparable? They aren't anymore.
The good news is they won't be going 0-17. The bad news is they still haven't won yet after tying the Steelers. They're getting closer.