COMMENTARY | The best way to describe the National Football League in 2013 would be "top-heavy," and that can help explain why the Green Bay Packers continue to fly under the radar. That's despite a fourth straight victory on Sunday Night against the Minnesota Vikings to improve to 5-2 on the season.
While several notable power rankings, including those of ESPN and CBSSports, around the interweb had the Packers at No. 9 heading into Week 8 -- we here had them at No. 8 -- many leapfrogged Green Bay over the New England Patriots after a slow start nearly did the Pats in against the Miami Dolphins.
The highest we saw the Packers? No. 5 according to Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab.
Like the Packers, the Patriots have dealt with their fair share of injuries this season, which includes Tom Brady as Schwab points out in his rankings. Other than coming away with a victory against a divisional opponent, the best news for Green Bay was that it escaped Week 8 without any further injury.
That's a borderline miracle for a team that is without three of its top four receiving threats and three of its four starting linebackers.
But against the Vikings, special teams specialist Jarrett Bush made his return, as did cornerback Casey Hayward in a limited role. So did tailback James Starks, who showed no ill effects from a knee injury suffered back on Sept. 22, rushing seven times for 57 yards and a score.
In essence, Green Bay is actually getting healthier. Linebackers Nick Perry and Brad Jones have an excellent chance to return on Monday night against the Chicago Bears, and Clay Matthews is aiming to return the following week from his broken thumb.
That injury list is growing shorter and shorter, and the Packers appear to have hit their stride despite missing so many key players. Yet, they remain at No. 8 in our NFL power rankings, and it goes back to the dominance at the top of the league.
There are nine teams with two or fewer losses, with the Packers being one of five teams to have dropped two games this season. They have gone head-to-head with two of those two-loss squads, losing both by one possession, which is what is keeping Green Bay from launching ahead of the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals.
It's fitting that it's the Packers and Patriots dueling it out for the No. 8 spot in the NFL power rankings, as both have been riddled with injury. But Green Bay has handled those absences far more gracefully, and as health increases, so will the depth based on what we've seen from players like Jarrett Boykin and Jamari Lattimore.
So what points to the Packers making a move up the rankings in the near future?
Their schedule, for one. Green Bay hosts a Jay Culter-less Chicago team on Monday, and then its next three opponents have a combined record of 6-17. On paper, you would expect the Packers to be 9-2 heading into their Thanksgiving trip to face the Detroit Lions, but alas, this is the NFL, where games aren't played on paper and nothing is guaranteed.
There will also be teams ahead of the Packers squaring off against each other, like the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos (Week 11) as well as the 49ers and Saints (Week 11), along with some other highly ranked teams facing challenges.
Of course, it's not the worst thing in the world for the Packers to continue taking care of business and receive little to no recognition for it -- that's the way head coach Mike McCarthy and company would prefer it. As long as Green Bay can continue to gel and play at a high level, it will give itself a chance at home field advantage in the NFC.
For now, the Packers are settled in at the No. 8 spot in the NFL power rankings, but don't let that fool you -- there isn't anyone playing better football than Green Bay.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
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