Power Rankings: Packers rise to season-high No. 3
We knew the Patriots would be good this season. We expected the defending champion Colts also would be tough (we didn't expect all those injuries, though!). And we suspected the Cowboys would be playoff-worthy in the NFC.
But which teams are the biggest surprises, the ones we least expected would still be making an impact this late in the season?
Get out your U.S. map and circle the Great Lakes region. The NFL's three biggest current surprises reside within a 400-mile radius around the Great Lakes. And two of those teams will battle on Thanksgiving.
In our offseason Power Rankings, the Packers were ranked 24th and the Lions 30th, evidence that voters did not expect much from either NFC North team. But with a 9-1 start, its best since 1962, Green Bay moves to a season-high No. 3 in this week's rankings.
Meanwhile, the Lions had reached the No. 8 spot two weeks ago before beginning their typical second-half swoon with a two-game losing streak (since 2001, Detroit is 10-40 in games taking place in the second half of the season). Still, the Lions remain in the playoff hunt and enter Thursday's game against the Packers ranked 12th.
Yet the biggest surprise team resides in the AFC. The Browns have jumped 23 spots since the preseason when they were ranked 31st (and, actually, the Browns were dead-last when our voters were polled just before the season). Just one game back of the Steelers in the AFC North, the Browns still have a shot at their first division crown since 1989. But the Steelers own the tiebreaker by virtue of their two head-to-head wins this season, so Cleveland will need to win the division outright.
Oh, and the year's biggest disappointments? That would be the Ravens (preseason ranking 4, now 24), Bears (5, now 22) and Jets (12, now 29), playoff teams a year ago but a combined 10-20 this season.
So where would you rank the Browns, Packers and Lions after Week 11? Click here to access SportsNation's ranking tool.
BIGGEST RISE: Houston Texans from 22nd to 17th. BIGGEST DROP: San Diego Chargers from 9th to 13th; Washington Redskins from 14th to 18th; New Orleans Saints from 16th to 20th.
(Editor's note: LW indicates each team's ranking last week.)