NFL power rankings entering Week 11 of the 2021 season (previous rank in parentheses):
1. Packers (3): Hard to recall a more tightly packed league-wide field, every team with at least two losses, and 19 – including a dozen clubs in the AFC – at .500 or better. But (for now) Green Bay gets the nod for the top spot, flawed as this team is … just like everyone else. But the Pack pitched their first shutout in three years, have picked off a league-best five passes in the end zone and rank third in both total and scoring defense. Oh, and QB Aaron Rodgers is back, while sophomore RB AJ Dillon gets his shot to make an impact going into a pair of tough games – Minnesota on the road before the Rams come to Lambeau Field.
2. Cowboys (6): High cotton for a club that probably played its most complete game in decades after throttling Atlanta by 40. But as nearly insurmountable as Dallas’ 3½-game lead in the NFC East looks, four of the next five are on the road – starting in Kansas City.
3. Titans (4): No Derrick Henry and yet … they’re the second team to craft a five-game winning streak against playoff teams from the previous season – are actually 7-0 against 2020 playoff clubs – and have their longest winning streak (six games) in 13 years. The AFC’s projected top seed will also now face what is, by far, the easiest remaining schedule (.336 opponents’ winning percentage) in the league.
4. Cardinals (1): Another helpful loss by the Rams might inform their decision to rest QB Kyler Murray and other gimpy players one more game with bye arriving during Thanksgiving week.
5. Buccaneers (2): WR Mike Evans pulled even with former Tampa Bay FB Mike Alstott (71) for the most career TDs in Bucs history Sunday … but they needed him to break that record to avoid being what Bruce Arians deemed “a very dumb football team.”
32 THINGS WE LEARNED: From Week 10 of 2021 NFL season, including return of the QBs
6. Bills (8): They improved to 3-0 in divisional games with a nice bounce-back effort against the Jets … which should help against the hard-charging Patriots, who might ultimately regret that Week 1 loss to Miami.
7. Rams (5): Getting WR Odell Beckham Jr. and OLB Von Miller on field couldn’t help them avert five-game losing streak to San Francisco. Off week comes at good time for team that needs to reset.
8. Patriots (9): Not only have they won four in a row to vault themselves back into the thick of the AFC playoff race, the average margin of victory during this hot streak has been 25 points. Next up? The Falcons, who are coming off that 40-point beatdown.
9. Ravens (7): Prior to their 22-10 upset loss at Miami on Thursday, they’d never scored fewer than 14 points in QB Lamar Jackson’s first 45 starts – nine games better than the next-best quarterback (Rodgers) at the start of his career.
10. Chiefs (11): He may not be the most dominant blocker ever – yada, yada – but Travis Kelce’s argument as the best tight end in league history continues to gain steam now that he’s surpassed Rob Gronkowski with his 34th 100-yard receiving game, most all-time.
11. Vikings (18): Eight of their nine games have been decided by one score, but Minnesota has won three of the past five to close the gap to a half-game for the final NFC playoff spot.
12. Chargers (10): It’s been well documented that they own league’s worst run defense. But Bolts are also headed south rushing the ball, averaging 90 over the past four games (three of them losses).
13. Steelers (12): Despite rampant speculation this season will be QB Ben Roethlisberger’s last, Pittsburgh’s inability to beat Detroit without him could be a window into what awaits in the near term.
14. Browns (13): “We never had a chance,” DE Myles Garrett said of the defensive performance in Cleveland’s 45-7 loss at New England. “I mean, we need to be better.” No truer words given six of his next seven games will be against teams with winning records.
15. Bengals (16): Coming out of their bye, which followed brutal losses to the Jets and Cleveland, they draw a crucial contest at Las Vegas with potentially huge tiebreaker ramifications.
16. Colts (20): They’ve clawed back to .500 following a 1-4 start … and now face games at Buffalo and against Tampa Bay for their trouble. Indianapolis will be in survival mode rest of the way.
17. Panthers (26): As prodigal son Cam Newton prepares to reclaim QB1 status in Carolina, you have to wonder if injured Sam Darnold – he’s guaranteed nearly $19 million in 2022 – is already entering the backup phase of a career that doesn’t yet span four seasons.
18. Saints (14): Currently the NFC’s sixth seed, they can’t expect to maintain that spot – amid a two-game losing streak without QB Jameis Winston – if the defense continues to fade, special teams keep faltering, critical penalties mount, and RB Alvin Kamara doesn’t play.
19. 49ers (21): Their last two home wins have come against the Rams – though they occurred more than a year apart. But now just a half-game out of playoff picture, Niners look set up to make a run with four of their next five games against teams with losing records.
20. Raiders (15): As their controversies cascade and talent erodes, hard to believe that a team which has now lost four of six – and in convincing fashion – is headed anywhere other than a teardown.
21. Eagles (22): Good luck figuring them out. Philadelphia is 4-2 on the road with an average margin of victory of three TDs, but 0-4 at Lincoln Financial Field – though three of the defeats are by six points or fewer. But keep an eye on this team, which owns the NFC’s easiest schedule the rest of the way.
22. Broncos (17): On other side of bye, five of their final seven games occur against AFC West foes. Denver’s fate doesn’t look pretty, but at least players have a chance to control it.
23. Seahawks (19): You’d have to say Sunday was the worst game of QB Russell Wilson’s NFL career – it was definitively the first time he’d been shut out as a pro. Unless Seattle rips off six wins in the last eight weeks, this will be the worst season of Wilson’s career – meaning his first below .500.
24. Washington (28): Their best win of the season, a surprising upset of the Bucs, was diluted by the loss of their best player after DE Chase Young tore his ACL. Welp, should help them rise up the draft board to fix their QB issue if nothing else.
25. Falcons (23): Their social media department is on fire, poking fun at Sunday’s 28-3 first-half deficit, and their uniforms will be straight fire Thursday night when they go with the 1990s-era throwbacks. Otherwise, Dirty Birds and their battered roster seem on verge of a steady descent.
26. Giants (24): The future of several key figures in this organization could be determined in coming weeks, which include five of the next seven on the road … starting in Tampa.
27. Bears (25): QB Justin Fields seems to be figuring things out. Now it’s time to figure out his supporting cast, which doesn’t include one player with 500 yards from scrimmage.
28. Jaguars (27): How about return man extraordinaire Jamal Agnew reinventing himself as Cordarrelle Patterson-lite. Agnew has 21 catches after totaling 16 during four years in Detroit and threw in a 66-yard TD run Sunday. Weapon X.
29. Dolphins (30): Maybe it’s too little, too late, but they don’t face another team with a winning record until Week 16.
30. Jets (29): At least coach Robert Saleh is showing more fight on the radio waves regarding Rex Ryan’s criticism than this team and its league-worst defense have displayed between the white lines.
31. Lions (32): They got half a win and came out on the winning end of the Matthew Stafford trade … at least, for one week.
32. Texans (31): They emerge from bye week owners of the league’s longest losing streak (8) … only to face Tennessee squad riding NFL-high six-game winning streak.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL power rankings Week 11 2021: Cowboys close on No. 1 Packers