By Jon Meerdink
Almost every power ranking in the universe has the Packers pegged as the third best team in the NFL.
Seriously, go check.
Sports Illustrated? Third
FOX Sports? Third.
USA Today? Third.
SB Nation? Third.
Associated Press? Third.
Of the non-team specific websites listed on the first page of Google’s search results for “NFL power rankings,” only Walter Football has the Packers listed as anything other than third, and they have the Packers second in the NFL. The results are so consistent that there’s actually more disagreement over who the best team is than the third best team. Is there really that wide of a consensus that the Packers are, in fact, the third best team in the league?
If there is such a consensus, it’s relatively recent. Based on my examination of the AP’s “Pro32″ poll, the Packers have only recently arrived in the top 3, and this is the highest they’ve been ranked since Week 1. How do I know this? Behold:
That chart represents the complete movement of every team in the league as ranked in the AP’s weekly power poll. I don’t know if it’s necessarily the most accurate representation of the teams in the poll, but I want to use it as a baseline for a couple points.
First, I think it’s less important to look at how each team is ranked in a given week than which way they’re trending. The Seahawks have been in first place more weeks than anybody, but they’ve spend most of the second half of the season sliding downward. The Patriots and Cardinals have more or less trended upward, peaking at first and second respectively. The Packers have traveled a similar path. The Raiders are bad and have always been bad.
Second, these rankings, while generally good at showing where a particular team is headed and where they’ve been relative to other teams are really, really really susceptible to major shifts on a nearly weekly basis. Outside of the last couple weeks, there have been significant shifts in the AP Pro32 power ranking almost like clockwork. Basically, my point is this: it’s hard to look at a number and definitively say “yes, the Packers are certainly the third best team in the NFL.”
All this leads me to this weekend’s game.
The Packers thoroughly beat the Vikings the first time around. The Packers are currently ranked much higher than the Vikings in the AP’s poll. But so many things have changed between then and now that I’m not sure there’s any point in just lining up the numbers and saying “the Packers will definitively win because their numbers are different than the Vikings’ numbers.”
I know it’s a weak case and I’m about to make a pick where I have the Packers over the Vikings by a score greater than I’m really comfortable doing, but really, these teams are less different than I think we probably realize, and it’s helpful to keep that in mind as the Packers ride this hot streak. One or two plays with different outcomes and one or two players in different positions and the Packers and Vikings could easily be in different positions on the power rankings.
Packers – 34 Vikings – 17