Before this season, Las Vegas oddsmakers figured the Dallas Cowboys would be about 8-8.
The over/under for the Cowboys’ win total was eight, according to OddsShark. On Nov. 13, with seven games to go, the Cowboys hit that mark.
Odds on Dallas to win the Super Bowl rose to about 20-to-1 at various points this offseason. Things didn’t look good when Tony Romo broke a bone in his back and the Cowboys had to turn to fourth-round rookie Dak Prescott at quarterback. There were no real expectations from anyone, and we mean anyone.
“I didn’t expect it,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after the Cowboys started 3-1, and that was five wins ago. “I really didn’t expect it.”
The Cowboys, expected to be 8-8 with about a 20-to-1 chance to win the Super Bowl, are the best team in football. They’re writing an amazing story.
We can argue if the Seattle Seahawks or New England Patriots would beat the Cowboys on a neutral field, and perhaps they would. But with eight wins and a one-point loss on their résumé, the Cowboys deserve the top spot in the power rankings for now. They have solid wins at Green Bay, at Washington and at Pittsburgh. Four of their wins in this eight-game winning streak have been by at least 14 points. The defense is playing well enough, and the offense has been extremely efficient behind an offensive line that could go down as one of the best ever.
Even if you believe the Seahawks or Patriots are better by the eye test, or even advanced metrics, Dallas deserves to move up to No. 1 after the Patriots lost at home on Sunday night. There’s no reason to disregard the Cowboys anymore. We’ve passed the point where we should expect Prescott to plummet to earth. Even if he does, Romo is ready to play again if needed. It’s not bad to have a four-time Pro Bowler as a backup plan at quarterback.
The Cowboys are always a media darling, even when they’re not good. This season they deserve the attention. They’re having a storybook season, and have ascended to the top spot in the NFL.
Here are the power rankings following Week 10 of the NFL season:
32. San Francisco 49ers (1-8, Last week: 32)
That was a solid effort at Arizona, the 49ers’ best since Week 1. It was almost enough to get them out of last place in the rankings. Let’s say it’s pretty much a tie for the bottom of the power rankings after 10 weeks.
31. Cleveland Browns (0-10, LW: 31)
They seem to be fading. The quarterback move to go to Josh McCown in the second half of a winnable game at Baltimore turned out to be awful. On the bright side, they’re using Jamie Collins in fun ways. If they can sign him to a front-loaded extension, I think that’ll be a great deal for them.
30. Chicago Bears (2-7, LW: 29)
No Alshon Jeffery for four games. No Kyle Long for the rest of the season. Jay Cutler had a performance that likely ends any small chance of a return in 2017. If it gets really bad the rest of the way, like 2-14 bad, can you bring back John Fox?
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7, LW: 30)
The 2016 Jaguars and Blake Bortles’ regression (read this excellent Greg Cosell breakdown on that subject) was summed up in one play, when he threw a pass at T.J. Yeldon’s feet that was kicked up and intercepted. Yikes.
28. New York Jets (3-7, LW: 27)
Bryce Petty looked bad. Will rookie second-round pick Christian Hackenberg be in the mix to start next? “Not in the Top 2. No he’s not. Not right now,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said, according to Kimberley Martin of Newsday. At least the Jets haven’t been wasting valuable picks on quarterbacks or anything.
27. Los Angeles Rams (4-5, LW: 26)
If you stripped away the name, Todd Gurley (515 rushing yards in nine games, 3.1-yard average, three touchdowns) would probably be on the waiver wire in your fantasy league. He hasn’t had a 20-yard run. He has had more games with an average of less than 3 yards per carry (three) than above 4 yards per carry (one). It’s shocking to see a great talent, who we saw have success on the NFL level already, completely struggle like this. Clearly it’s not all his fault, but it’s still ugly.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5, LW: 28)
They’re in second place and only a game-and-a-half back of first-place Atlanta. They also got Doug Martin back on Sunday, and Martin looked pretty good. Hey, I’m not saying I’m a believer, I’m just pointing out facts.
25. Cincinnati Bengals (3-5-1, LW: 18)
That should about do it for the Bengals this season. The defense is too soft to turn things around.
24. Carolina Panthers (3-6, LW: 21)
Marcus Peters taking the ball from Kelvin Benjamin with 20 seconds left, the final blow in the Panthers giving away a 17-0 lead and losing a crucial game at home, pretty much sums up the entire 2016 Panthers season.
23. Indianapolis Colts (4-5, LW: 22)
The Titans play at the Colts on Sunday. Strangely enough, it’s a fun and relevant showdown all of a sudden. Houston probably isn’t running away with anything, but whoever comes out of that game with their sixth loss is in some trouble in the AFC South race.
22. San Diego Chargers (4-6, LW: 19)
I don’t really understand the Chargers’ infatuation with playing out of the shotgun on the goal line. They did it four times in a goal-to-go situation at Denver and didn’t score. They kept going back to the shotgun on the goal line against Miami, and Philip Rivers threw an interception. It’s OK to run in that spot.
21. New Orleans Saints (4-5, LW: 20)
Sunday’s Saints loss isn’t quite on the “Miracle at the Meadowlands” level, but it’s close. To go from thinking you scored the go-ahead touchdown and might improve to 5-4 by beating the defending champs, to watching Denver return a blocked extra point for the winning score … I don’t know how you process that if you’re the Saints.
20. Baltimore Ravens (5-4, LW: 24)
If I could punt ranking one team each week, it would probably be the Ravens. The record isn’t bad. The metrics aren’t bad either. Yet I watch this team and nothing jumps off the screen. They’re just kind of there. Yet, they have a good chance at winning a bad AFC North.
19. Miami Dolphins (5-4, LW: 25)
Here’s the rest of the Dolphins’ games …
Nov. 20, at Rams
Nov. 27, vs. 49ers
Dec. 4, at Ravens
Dec. 11, vs. Cardinals
Dec. 17, at Jets
Dec. 24, at Bills
Jan. 1, vs. Patriots
I can’t rule out the Dolphins going 4-2 in those six games (they’d be underdogs at the Ravens and Bills, but even those aren’t unwinnable games). If they pull that off they’d be 9-6 playing Week 17 against a Patriots team that has the No. 1 seed wrapped up. Pretty fascinating turnaround.
18. Tennessee Titans (5-5, LW: 23)
Marcus Mariota’s breakout is the most overlooked story in the NFL this season. In a run-first offense he has 2,482 yards, 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Since Week 4, he has 17 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has thrown multiple touchdown passes in six straight games. And he’s doing this with a receiving corps that is probably one of the five worst in the NFL. Oh, and he just turned 23.
17. Arizona Cardinals (4-4-1, LW: 16)
They might have turned in the least impressive win of the NFL season on Sunday. You should not need a last-second field goal to beat the 49ers at home. There are no signs they’re turning it around this season.
16. Houston Texans (6-3, LW: 17)
Honestly, I don’t know how the Texans keep winning. And, if they don’t collapse against the AFC South opponents, 3-4 down the stretch should win them the division. They’re in great shape as far as tiebreakers go, and I’m not sure anyone in the South is going to get to 10 wins.
15. Green Bay Packers (4-5, LW: 12)
Mike McCarthy called himself a “highly successful NFL coach” on Monday, and the Internet had fun with that. It’s true though. By any measure he has been highly successful. It’s also true that it seems like the Packers need a change. Both things can be true.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5, LW: 10)
We can talk about talent all we want, but if you’re under .500 more than halfway into the season, potential and talent really doesn’t matter much anymore.
13. Buffalo Bills (4-5, LW: 14)
Shaq Lawson’s shoulder is healthy, and he has a sack in each of the Bills’ last two games. The first-round pick might give a nice boost to a pass rush that was already rolling along pretty well.
12. Minnesota Vikings (5-4, LW: 8)
So, it looks like the Vikings spent a first-round pick for a playoff-less season with Sam Bradford, eh?
11. New York Giants (6-3, LW: 13)
Remember what I said about wanting to punt on ranking the Ravens, because there’s nothing interesting or inspiring about them despite a good record? Now that we’ve reached the Giants, can I get a second team to punt?
10. Philadelphia Eagles (5-4, LW: 15)
Sunday’s formula has to be how the Eagles win the rest of this season. They can’t ask Carson Wentz to throw 45 times a game, as they did in their previous two games. Wentz is still a rookie and will be much better when the run game is doing a majority of the work. Ask the Cowboys about that formula.
9. Detroit Lions (5-4, LW: 9)
It’s not easy to pencil in the Lions as the NFC North favorite. The rest of the division is fading badly. But every one of the Lions’ wins have come in the last 90 seconds of regulation or overtime. That’s fun and exciting, but it’s also entirely unsustainable. The Lions need to play better if they want to win a division that’s there for the taking.
8. Washington Redskins (5-3-1, LW: 11)
With all the attention on the Cowboys in the NFC East, and rightfully so, Washington has quietly played very well. They’re 5-1-1 after a slow start, and would be 7-0 had they stopped the Lions’ last-minute drive and their kicker hadn’t missed a chip-shot field goal in overtime against the Bengals.
7. Atlanta Falcons (6-4, LW: 6)
They lost a tough road game at Philadelphia, really no shame in that. But they’re not going to win many games in which Julio Jones is the only offensive threat. Aside from Taylor Gabriel’s 76-yard touchdown, nobody other than Jones had a play longer than 17 yards. Jones had 10 catches for 135 yards, the rest of the offense (other than Gabriel’s big play) went for 104 yards on 20 touches.
6. Denver Broncos (7-3, LW: 7)
What a win. It completely overshadows more offensive issues, like Trevor Siemian not getting much going downfield and throwing two interceptions, or Devontae Booker getting 24 carries and barely averaging 3 yards per attempt. All that happened against a suspect Saints defense. It’ll be hard to keep winning at this rate unless the offense gets it going.
5. Oakland Raiders (7-2, LW: 4)
I think next week’s game against Houston is big for Oakland. The Raiders have to play a “home” game in another country, which isn’t fair at all. It’s against a Houston team they should beat, and would have been favored pretty heavily against if it was in Oakland. If they drop that game, the rest of the schedule has some tricky dates. In a really competitive division, the Raiders don’t want to blow this kind of game.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-2, LW: 3)
It’s hard to ignore 18 wins in 21 games, which is the streak the Chiefs are on counting playoffs. However, I have them a step behind the top three, especially now that Seattle has actually shown what its upside is this season. But, 18 of 21. That’s not easy to do. This is a quality team.
3. Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1, LW: 5)
Thomas Rawls is coming back soon. C.J. Prosise looked like an interesting weapon in his expanded role. Russell Wilson looked like himself. The Seahawks played great in the second half last season and they’re about to do the same this season.
2. New England Patriots (7-2, LW: 1)
To answer the inevitable question, I think when comparing the Seahawks and Patriots you have to look at the whole body of work and not one game that came down to a fourth-and-goal play. And since I put practically no stock in the Patriots’ other loss, when injured third-string rookie Jacoby Brissett was starting at quarterback, I still give the Patriots the slight edge.
1. Dallas Cowboys (8-1, LW: 2)
The only time the Cowboys will be underdogs in their next six games might be at Minnesota on Dec. 1. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re favored by then. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they end up favored at Philadelphia in the season finale, if they haven’t clinched their seed by then. It’s not entirely crazy to think this team could win 14 or 15 games.
– – – – – – –