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NFL Power Rankings Week 4: Are Cowboys A Top 10 Team?

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The Cowboys have now won two games in a row, will that see their power rankings fortunes improve?

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

There are five undefeated teams in the league after week three, and 10 teams with a 2-1 record, meaning about half of the league's teams have a winning record, while the other half has a losing record.

Based purely on their record over the first three weeks, you'd expect the Cowboy to be ranked somewhere in the top half of the league in this week's power rankings, particularly considering that the Cowboys are one of only seven teams to have won their last two games.

But in the world of power rankings, thoughts like that are footnotes at best, as the Cowboys are ranked anywhere between No. 8 and No. 19 without any seeming rhyme or reason.

Regardless, the reality is that the next two games, in San Francisco and at home against the Bengals, will tell us much more about the Cowboys and their season expectations than the first three games did.

Here's a summary of where the Cowboys are ranked this week, and a little further down you can see how that compares to the rest of the NFC East.

Power Rankings

Week 4 Rankings (previous rankings in parenthesis)

Washington Post - No. 8 (15)

The whispers are getting louder that Tony Romo might have a difficult time getting the QB job back from rookie Dak Prescott when he’s healthy, no matter what the Cowboys have said about it. The intrigue certainly is building. But there’s a while to go yet. The situation must play out. The league will adjust to Prescott. Opponents will find new ways to test him, and he must demonstrate that he can continue to succeed. He clearly is the Cowboys’ QB of the future, no matter what happens in the second half of this season when Romo becomes available.

CBSSports.com (Prisco) - No. 9 (14)

Will there be a quarterback controversy when Tony Romo is healthy? Rookie Dak Prescott sure is playing well.

NFL.com: No. 9 (16)

Dakmania continues, as every announcer starts to buy in, with the Sunday night crew being the latest to join the party. Prescott was both efficient and effective Sunday night, taking advantage of fantastic protection, then making plays outside of the pocket -- flashing accuracy while throwing on the run -- the few times the Great Wall of Dallas II faltered. (The original Great Wall? That '90s offensive line.) Back to the Sunday telecast: NBC mentioned Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott being the first rookie quarterback and running back to start a season opener for the Cowboys since Roger Staubach and Calvin Hill in 1969.

Mile High Report - No. 10 (12)

Yes, count ‘em. That is three NFC East teams in the Top 10. I’m not even sure I was alive the last time that happened. The division is taking care of business, so why not give credit where credit is due? The only losses these three teams have is against their own divisional opponents.

FOX Sports - No. 10 (13)

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have gotten better each and every week – statistically and mentally. Both players were near-perfect against the lowly Bears and the defense made stops when needed most. Dallas’ schedule is going to get considerably tougher in the coming weeks, so the Cowboys will likely falter a bit. But Tony Romo’s looming return helps.

ESPN - No 11 (18)

QB Dak Prescott ranks in the top three in Total QBR through Week 3. He has completed at least 73 percent of his passes in two of three games and has yet to throw an interception. He gets a chance to continue the hot play at San Francisco in Week 4.

Shutdown Corner - No. 15 (16)

The Cowboys got the ball back with 2:10 left, up 14 points on the Chicago Bears. The game was over at that point. And yet, Jason Garrett gave rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott his 28th, 29th and 30th carries of the game. Why wear him down, put wholly unnecessary miles on his legs and risk injury too? What’s he trying to prove? Why are coaches unable to see the big picture in situations like that?

Bleacher Report - No. 16 (14)

I no longer consider Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to be rookies. Sure, they'll commit their fair share of mistakes. Sunday Night Football proved they're good enough to overcome them, and that's praise usually reserved for veterans. You saw what the Cowboys offense could be as a result. Zeke ran wild to the tune of 140 rushing yards on 30 carries and avoided the big fumble. Dak was on point with almost every throw that came out of his hand. The defense did what it was supposed to do against a Brian Hoyer-quarterbacked team. Good job all around, but tough to elevate them after such a crazy weekend.

Chicago Tribune - No 16 (17)

Ezekiel Elliott is going to be fun to watch in the second half of the season when he's more patient with zone-blocking scheme.

USA Today - No. 19 (21)

They're successfully resurrecting their winning 2014 formula, controlling the ball nearly 35 minutes per week to shield depleted defense.

Star_medium

The table below summarizes the power rankings for the four NFC East teams and next week's opponent, the 49ers.

Dal_medium Phi_medium Nyg_medium Was_medium Sf_medium
Wk 4 Wk 4 Wk 4 Wk 4 Wk 4
CBS 9 5 16 22 26
NFL.com 9 6 16 22 28
Mile High Report 10 3 9 sad franchises
Foxsports 10 5 16 22 28
ESPN 11 7 15 20 30
Shutdown Corner 15 5 14 21 30
Bleacher Report 16 5 14 19 29
Chicago Tribune 16 4 14 20 27
USA Today 19 4 16 23 28
Average 12.3 4.9 14.8 20.9 28.2
Std Deviation 3.8 1.1 2.4 1.4 1.4

A low standard deviation indicates that the data points tend to be close to the mean (also called the expected value) of the data set, while a high standard deviation indicates that the data points are spread out over a wider range of values.

In the specific case of the power rankings, we see that the Cowboys have a high standard deviation, while all four other teams have much lower deviations. This is an indication that the different rankings use other factors to rank the Cowboys than they do the other teams on this list, up to and including personal biases.