If you thought Week 15 could potentially provide a little more clarity in the NFC playoff race, you'll have to think again. The Cardinals are the only NFC team to have locked up its playoff berth, but six teams remain in the hunt for the remaining five spots.
How do you rank these teams now? Do you go by which team had the largest margin of victory? By which team disappointed the most? By which team played the toughest game?
Whatever the preferred method, the pigskin prognosticators across the nation have once again thrown out some power rankings for your reading pleasure, and we look at how the Cowboys held up against the five other teams in contention for an NFC playoff spot.
Week 16 Rankings (previous rankings in parenthesis)
Foxsports.com: 5th (7th): "The Cowboys have now proven that they are also able to win with a pass-first approach on offense. They enter the stretch run as one of the NFL’s healthiest teams -- this is important when you consider their lack of depth on defense."
Newsday: 5th (7th): "No late-season disappointment from Tony Romo this time, as he rallies the Cowboys in Philly to extend the Cowboys’ road record to 7-0. Dez Bryant with what might have been his best game yet, scoring a career-high three touchdowns in a virtual must-win situation for the Cowboys. Now they hope to get by without DeMarco Murray (broken hand) if he has to miss any time."
NFL.com: 5th (8th): "No, apparently these are not the "same ol' Cowboys." Every time this franchise has been in position to win the NFC East in recent years, it has faltered in games like this. And after Dallas blew a 21-0 lead, that looked to be the case yet again. But not this time -- not this team. While Sunday night's triumph didn't win the division, it certainly put Dallas in the driver's seat. Improving to 7-0 on the road certainly says something about the Cowboys -- and makes 25-year-old Mel Gibson proud. Tony Romo could use a 25-year-old body, though. He still looks a wee bit healthier than Gollum to me."
USA Today: 5th (8th): "They've reclaimed NFC East lead, but can they keep it with Colts coming to town, DeMarco Murray hurt, and Eagles playing creampuffs?"
Shutdown Corner: 5th (8th): "We're not sure yet if Murray will miss time with a broken bone in his hand. I like Murray but I'm not sure they're in that much trouble without him. How many backs have we seen this season just come out of nowhere and play well? And none of them were running behind Dallas' dominant offensive line (and yes, this is why I'd never give Murray a huge contract as a free agent, as good as he is)."
SI.com (Peter King): 6th (6th): "So much on the line in Philadelphia, and the old Cowboys would have folded after blowing the 21-0 first-half lead. The new Cowboys rallied to win a game that could have been a franchise-changer if they went down."
CBSSports (Prisco): 6th (7th): "Tony Romo showed against the Eagles that a lot of the talk about him being a choker is way off base. They have a huge one this week with Indianapolis."
Washington Post: 6th (7th): "Jerry Jones was right: The Cowboys were better prepared to face the Eagles than they’d been on Thanksgiving, and they showed they’re better than those Dallas teams that lost their finales the previous three seasons with NFC East titles on the line. But nothing is secured yet. A difficult game looms this Sunday in Dallas with the Colts coming to town. Winning at home, where they’re 3-4, has been the problem for the Cowboys. QB Tony Romo and WR Dez Bryant were brilliant in the victory over the Eagles. They might have to be even better against the Colts if RB DeMarco Murray is sidelined after undergoing hand surgery Monday."
ProFootballTalk: 6th (7th): "They could be the No. 1 seed and they could miss the playoffs. If DeMarco Murray misses Sunday’s game, take the under."
ESPN: 6th (8th): "Pay that man his money. Dez Bryant had three touchdown catches, bringing his league-leading total to 13 receiving touchdowns. Thirty-seven wide receivers had a higher cap hit this year than Bryant."
CBSSports (Kirwan): 6th (8th): "Beating Philadelphia on Sunday night was a defining moment for the Jason Garrett Era. The Cowboys are getting great execution and play calling on offense and boast an overachieving defense that lives up to its end of the bargain."
Bleacher Report: 6th (9th): "With two games left, against Indianapolis and Washington, the Cowboys have a chance to secure a top seed. The tiebreaker scenarios make them dependent on what other teams do, but a home playoff game and a first-round bye are certainly possible. "
M-Live: 7th (7th): "When clicking, few trios rival the explosiveness of Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray."
SB Nation: 7th (8th): "The Cowboys have won four of their last five. In the five games since returning to action after suffering two fractures in his back, Tony Romo has completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,190 yards, 8.56 yards per attempt and 13 touchdowns to only two picks. DeMarco Murray, not to be forgotten, has 554 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his last five games. The Cowboys' offense is as potent as ever right now, and they've scored 30+ in four of their last five."
Bleeding Green Nation: 8th (9th): "Dallas got off to a great start against Philadelphia. Tony Romo apparently benefited from extra rest because he looked sharp. He made some great throws to star receiver Dez Bryant. The Cowboys have control of the NFC East with two games left."
Massey-Peabody: 7th (9th). These guys generate their predictions by working up from play-by-play data to calculate a performance figure for rushing, passing, scoring and play success.
Aikman Efficiency Ratings: 10th (10th): This metric combines seven stats into one number: yards per rush, yards per pass play, turnovers per game, first downs per game, third-down percentage, points per game (unit on field) and points per red zone possession.
WhatIfSports.com: 11th (11th). These guys simulate every possible match-up in the NFL 100 times, and use the winning percentages from those nearly 50,000 games to evaluate every team, with updated rosters and depth charts.
Sagarin NFL rankings: 12th (14th). These are rankings based on W/L record, points differential and schedule strength.
Teamrankings.com: 12th (15th). This site measures the relative strength of all teams using team performance, home/away status, margin of victory and other factors.
Football Outsiders: 13th (13th). FO have the Cowboys with the 5th-ranked offense, the 26th-ranked defense and the 11th-ranked special teams.
ColdHardFootballFacts: 13th (17th). This indicator ranks teams based on their average ranking across a range of CHFF's Quality Stats.
Oddsshark: 14th (12th). Oddsshark use a multitude of stats to establish an offensive and defensive power ranking, which they then adjust for the strength of schedule.
Beatgraphs: 14h (13th). BeatGraphs provide rankings that cannot be defeated by a chain of A beat B beat C scenarios. In the end, when all ambiguity is removed, if A has beaten B, A will be ranked above B.
Numberfire: 14th (15th). These rankings are based on expected point differential against a league average team. If the team's rating is 10, they would be expected to win by 10 points against a league-average opponent.
The table below summarizes the power rankings for the NFC playoff contenders. As usual, we'll update the missing rankings as they become available.
|Playoff Odds (FO)
|Pro Football Talk||2||3||5||1||6||7||4||5||8||9||10||6|
|Cold Hard Football Facts||3||4||4||2||13||17||14||16||8||11||16||11|