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NFL Power Rankings Week 16: ESPN Moves Cowboys Back To No. 1 Ahead Of Patriots

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ESPN has the Cowboys back at No. 1, but did the other power rankings follow suit? Find out in our summary of this week's power rankings for the Cowboys and the NFC East.

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN's power rankings panel (a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities) moved the Cowboys back up to the No. 1 spot on their weekly rankings, and bounced the Patriots down one spot to No. 2.

The No. 1 spot is a familiar spot for the Cowboys, who already topped the ESPN rankings for four consecutive weeks from Week 11 to Week 14. Prior to that, the Patriots held the top spot from Week 7 through Week 10 on the ESPN rankings. Together, the Cowboys and Patriots have held the top spot on the ESPN rankings for 10 consecutive weeks.

We may have to wait until February 5th in Houston to find out who the real No. 1 is.

On to this week's power rankings.

Power Rankings

Week 16 Rankings (previous rankings in parenthesis)

Shutdown Corner - No. 1 (1)

The Cowboys shouldn’t exactly be depending on Randy Gregory at this point. But the talented pass rusher’s suspension is over, and maybe his return can provide an unexpected bonus for Dallas’ defense. It can’t hurt.

ESPN - No. 1 (2)

QB Dak Prescott went 32-of-36 (88.9 percent) against the Buccaneers in Week 15, which should quiet the push for Tony Romo for at least another week. Dak has a chance to do even more damage on Monday against the Lions, who have allowed an NFL-worst 72.8 completion percentage this season.

FOX Sports - No. 2 (2)

The Cowboys silenced doubters with a win over the Bucs on Sunday night. The scoreboard didn’t indicate how much Dallas dominated (three INTs and two forced fumbles), but the Cowboys could have won that game by 17 points. Dak Prescott went 32-for-36 with no turnovers, ending any debate at quarterback. Now, they can march forward without distractions (we think).

CBS Sports - No. 2 (2)

Dak Prescott got back on track and that will quiet the Tony Romo talk for now. The defense is improving.

NFL.com: No. 2 (2)

Dak to the Future, Part II. Following his worst outing of the season in Week 14, Prescott emboldened the hopes of Cowboys fans Sunday night. Everyone is on board again, with the sideline shots of Tony Romo dwindling to back to just two or three per half. Zeke gained his 159 yards. Ho hum. Yet, lost in the shuffle of all that fresh offensive star power, we've seen the re-emergence of a seemingly extinct species: what is known as a " Cowboys pass rusher." Its natural habitat has never been AT&T Stadium. So why it is now migrating to Big D -- in December, of all months -- baffles even the leading experts. Maybe we should put a tag on David Irving so we can track his movements. Or send out donation requests to "SAVE THE COWBOYS PASS RUSHER," with 50 mailing labels and a goal coin as the free gift for giving.

Bleacher Report - No. 2 (2)

Dallas’ two star rookies put Week 14 in the rearview mirror—and then some. I haven’t seen the Cowboys offense click like that all season; Dak Prescott was incredibly accurate, and Ezekiel Elliott could not be stopped with a full head of steam.

But their play is only half the reason why Dallas should tie up the NFC East soon. The other half? Its front four. Jameis Winston had no time to throw with Cowboys crashing in. It impeded his ability to connect with Mike Evans or get a run game going.

USA Today - No. 2 (2)

Tony Romo has long been blasted for overseeing just two playoff wins (both in wild-card round). Perplexing some are now anointing him a savior.

New York Daily News - No. 2 (3)

Tony Romo probably should get real comfortable wearing that baseball cap on the sideline. Dak Prescott isn't getting benched anytime soon. America's Team will wrap up the No. 1 seed in the playoffs soon enough.

Washington Post - No. 2 (3)

Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott was excellent in a 32-for-36 passing performance Sunday night against the Buccaneers. That puts the talk about a switch back to Tony Romo to rest. Now the issue becomes: Do the Cowboys need to get Romo some playing time to knock off the rust in case he is needed during the postseason? The concern from Sunday night’s game is that the Cowboys, even at home and even with Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott being so productive, couldn’t put the game away until the final moments.

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The table below summarizes the power rankings for the NFC East teams and the Cowboys' opponent on Sunday, the Lions.

Dal_medium Nyg_medium Was_medium Phi_medium Det_medium
Wk 15 Wk 15 Wk 15 Wk 15 Wk 15
Shutdown Corner 1 8 16 26 12
ESPN 1 8 15 24 11
FoxSports 2 8 15 27 11
CBS 2 6 17 26 9
NFL.com 2 7 16 26 9
B/R 2 4 20 25 9
USA Today 2 6 15 26 10
SB Nation 2 7 13 26 10
Washington Post 2 4 20 27 12
NY Daily News 2 6 - - - - 10
Average 1.8 6.4 16.3 25.9 10.3