Green Bay Packers are underrated
Record masks Packers' potency, while Ravens face dark days ahead
Then there was one.
With the Houston Texans losing their perfect record to a resurgent Green Bay Packers team on Sunday, only the Atlanta Falcons remain undefeated. It's easy to understand why they're on top of the charts even if their performances haven't been entirely convincing in the past three weeks.
But what about the rest of the NFL? They don't have a perfect record to defend them from our scrutiny, and so as has become the norm every Tuesday here at ESPN Insider, let's audit the NFL Power Rankings.
Underrated -- Green Bay Packers
If not for that call against the Seattle Seahawks, the Green Bay Packers would be sitting pretty with a 4-2 record. Sure, the opening day defeat to the 49ers was an eye-opener, and the way they let a lead slip away in Indianapolis was depressing. But this is a team that handily beat a Chicago Bears team that hasn't won a game against a team ranked higher than 18th in these Power Rankings -- and that still has a lot more to prove. This is a team that just wiped the floor with the consensus No. 2 team in the Houston Texans. This is a team that still has Aaron Rodgers.
Through the first five weeks of the season, Rodgers hadn't looked like the guy who led the Packers to a 15-1 record in 2011. He wasn't helped by his receivers, and still isn't. They are behind only the Cleveland Browns in terms of drops with 21.
But Rodgers has overcome this before and he can again. Just look at what he did against a good Texans defense on Sunday. On our adjusted accuracy percentage figure (where drops are counted as completions and plays like batted passes, spikes, throw-aways and hit-as-throwns are discounted), Rodgers is second to only Robert Griffin III with a 80.9 percent mark. Part of what makes Rodgers so good is that he excels when facing pressure. He's faced pressure on 27.1 percent of plays (24th worst in the league), but his adjusted accuracy percentage remains high at 79.4 percent.
The improving defense is one to watch, as well. Clay Matthews, with pressure on 15.9 percent of pass rushes (third highest of all 3-4 outside linebackers), continues to make plays all over the field. The secondary has improved as Casey Hayward has gotten more snaps (his 0.77 yards allowed per coverage snap in the slot is the seventh lowest in the NFL). The defense, which had our fifth lowest team grade in 2011, now owns our eighth highest.
Ultimately you judge a team by its record at the end of the season. The Packers, with a tricky schedule to start the season (three divisional winners) and some questionable officiating, sit well prepared to make a move at .500. Watch out for them.
Overrated -- Baltimore Ravens
Even if Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb hadn't gone down with season-ending injuries, there's a strong case for Baltimore at No. 4 being a number of spots too high. But with that knowledge, is this team still a contender?
Let's face it, for as much early optimism as Joe Flacco courted and at times inspired (heck, even I bought into it), he's still a guy who struggles to consistently get the job done. That means he needs the Ravens' defense to play like we're accustomed to seeing from them, rather than what we are seeing from them.
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