Heading into Week 9, there is nothing even remotely close to a consensus about where the Cowboys should rank in this week's power rankings.
I've collected 10 of the latest power rankings published today, and in those rankings, the Cowboys are ranked anywhere between No. 6 and No. 15, as the table below illustrates.
|Wk9||Wk 9||Wk 9||Wk 9|
|538 Elo Ratings||8||4||20||26|
|Detroit Free Press||15||1||19||30|
I've added the standard deviation to the table above to show that the disparity in rankings seems to be a Cowboys-specific thing, at least compared to the other NFC East teams.
A low standard deviation indicates that the data points tend to be close to the mean of a given 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 the three other NFC East teams have much lower deviations.
Some might argue that this is the effect of the Ezekiel Elliott suspension and the impact it will have on the next six games for the Cowboys.
It is not, even though that's a very convenient excuse.
Last week the standard deviation was even higher at 4.1. That's an indication that the assembled power rankings above use other criteria to rank the Cowboys than they do to rank the rest of the division, up to and including personal biases.
Here are this week's power rankings in all their non-aligned glory.
SI.com - No. 6 (LW: 9)
Biggest Riser: Things were starting to go right for the Cowboys; they won a sloppy divisional road game in Washington—one that served as a confidence builder for an inconsistent pass rush that got to face Morgan Moses and a bunch of guys who dressed up as NFL offensive linemen for Halloween. Now they’ll presumably have to cope without Ezekiel Elliott until Week 15. As good as the offensive line has been, Elliott has looked great the past two weeks. Their next three games are home against Kansas City, at Atlanta, then home against Philadelphia—a particularly rough stretch for a now shorthanded team.
ESPN - No. 7 (LW: 5)
Ezekiel Elliott has rushed 88 times for 413 yards and four touchdowns the past three games -- a scary-big workload. The Cowboys are riding Elliott, but the prospect of him missing time has to be worrisome.
Sagarin Rating - No. 8 (LW: 9)
These are rankings based on W/L record, points differential and schedule strength.
Fivethirtyeight - No. 8 (LW: 9)
Elo ratings are a simple system that estimates each team’s skill level using only the final scores and locations of each game.
NESN - No. 9 (LW:14)
Dallas continues to dominate Kirk Cousins, as the Cowboys outlasted the Redskins in a rain-soaked affair in Washington. Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension looms, but Dak Prescott and Co. can get their first win over an above-.500 team Sunday when they face the Chiefs.
Washington Post - No. 11 (LW: 14)
The Cowboys could play their next six games without RB Ezekiel Elliott after Monday night’s court ruling involving his suspension. If it stands and Elliott’s suspension goes into effect, the Cowboys would turn to Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden at RB.
NFL.com - No. 12 (LW: 12)
All eyes are on Ezekiel Elliott right now. It appears his six-game suspension is back on, though there's still an outside chance another appeal could get him back on the field again. With everything up in the air, we'll leave the Cowboys right where they were last week. At least for now. Elliott just carried the 'Boys to a road win in difficult elements Sunday with 150 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. While you never want to discount a division win, Dallas received much help from a sloppy Washington squad that seemed all too willing to give the Cowboys opportunities. A real encouraging sign for Dallas: the pass rush, which has picked up the pace in recent weeks. With so many young players in the secondary, the importance of Rod Marinelli's rushers can't be underestimated. I mean, they're not Haley, Tolbert, Casillas, Maryland, Jeffcoat, Hennings and Lett, but ...
Yahoo - No. 13 (LW: 10)
We can’t be sure if there’s another legal turn coming in the Ezekiel Elliott saga. But if this is it and his six-game suspension starts now (and I’m assuming so, which is why they drop in the rankings this week), Dallas’ next six games are vs. Kansas City, at Atlanta, vs. Philadelphia, vs. L.A. Chargers, vs. Washington, at N.Y. Giants. I think 3-3 is realistic. That would put the Cowboys at 7-6 and probably needing to win their final three games. Not impossible. And anything less than 3-3 might knock Dallas out of the playoff picture, depending if a 9-7 team can get in this season.
USA Today - No. 14 (LW: 19)
Detroit Free Press - No. 15 (LW: 16)
Good news: they won two in a row to keep pace with the Eagles. Bad news: the Ezekiel Elliott saga took a turn for the suspension (again), putting his status up in air. They're far from the same without him.