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2021 NFL Week 14 power rankings: Dallas Cowboys back on the rise, NFC looks like tougher conference

Get ready for a December run to end this wild season.

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

We are now squarely into the month of December and if what we have seen to this point is any indication, we are in for quite the treat as far as the National Football League is concerned.

Every week feels like a resetting of who the top teams in the league are with only a few things that remain consistent. While the general group of teams near the top has stayed intact all season long the re-shuffling happening on a weekly basis feels like something that we haven’t seen in some time.

It is time to set the order of how the NFL looks 13 weeks in and of course assess how people around the media are viewing the Dallas Cowboys with this week’s edition of our power rankings here at BTB.

You can visit our rankings from last week right here.

1 - Arizona Cardinals (LW: 1)

It feels like national consensus is that the Cardinals are the best team in the NFL, but that nobody believes that with any strong level of conviction. Their record is impressive there is no doubt about that.

2 - Green Bay Packers (LW: 2)

Wouldn’t it be something if the reason that the Packers got the top seed was because the Cowboys beat the Cardinals in Week 17?

3 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (LW: 3)

That Week 1 loss is going to really hurt the Cowboys as far as tiebreakers among division winners are concerned.

4 - New England Patriots (LW: 4)

They are back like they never left. Amazing, really.

5 - Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 6)

Just like the Cowboys they are floundering a bit on offense lately and staying alive on defense. We know that this type of football isn’t sustainable, so sooner or later Patrick Mahomes and Co. are going to have to show up.

6 - Dallas Cowboys (LW: 7)

We have arrived at the biggest game of the season. Get ready.

7 - Baltimore Ravens (LW: 5)

It is unfortunate that many people will play hindsight on John Harbaugh’s decision to go for two and the win. What is actually concerning about the Ravens though is their lack of offense as of late.

8 - Tennessee Titans (LW: 8)

Back from the bye.

9 - Los Angeles Rams (LW: 10)

They took care of the Jaguars and got a much-needed win. We will be rooting for them against the Arizona Cardinals this week.

10 - Los Angeles Chargers (LW: 16)

You never know who you are going to get with this team. Will it be the team that builds a huge lead or blows it?

11 - Indianapolis Colts (LW: 13)

You can only play who is in front of you and the Colts were lucky to draw Houston this past week. They have seven wins and are currently a couple of spots out of a Wildcard spot in the AFC. Their first-round pick is likely going to Philadelphia next year, but at least it is getting further and further back.

12 - Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 11)

They really needed a win over the Chargers as far as AFC tiebreakers are concerned. It is going to be a hectic race to the finish for the Wildcards over there.

13 - Buffalo Bills (LW: 9)

I have been a big believer in Josh Allen and the Bills. Today is a tough day in that sense. They played well amid the elements on Monday night, but they are now looking up and need some help in the AFC East.

14 - Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 17)

While they partly benefited from a poor connection between Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews, the reality remains that they are finding ways to get it done. That is simply who they are.

15 - Washington Football Team (LW: 20)

Sunday’s win in Las Vegas was impressive. We will see them twice in the next three weeks and while both wins are preferred, taking the first would go a long way at effectively deciding things in the NFC East.

16 - Las Vegas Raiders (LW: 12)

How could they be so flat after the mini bye? Against Washington?!

17 - Cleveland Browns (LW: 19)

It feels like they won’t be a playoff team, but maybe the bye got them right.

18 - Philadelphia Eagles (LW: 22)

They are definitely going to lose to Washington with Jalen Hurts at quarterback when they come out of the bye, right?

19 - San Francisco 49ers (LW: 14)

Sunday was a tough loss, but the 49ers are firmly in the mix for a Wildcard spot and have the tiebreaker over the Vikings. They might stumble into it, but they seem postseason bound.

20 - Minnesota Vikings (LW: 15)

Speaking of! do you lose to the Lions???????

21 - Miami Dolphins (LW: 25)

They were 1-7 once upon a time. They are now 6-7.

22 - Seattle Seahawks (LW: 23)

Sunday’s win was nice and nostalgic, but this still isn’t a very good team.

23 - Atlanta Falcons (LW: 24)

Rebuilding can be hard and not fun. That is certainly the case for the Falcons.

24 - Denver Broncos (LW: 18)

Remember when Tim Patrick said it was “disrespectful” how the Cowboys went for it on fourth down early in the game against Denver? Well wouldn’t you know, the Broncos went for three fourth downs on one drive in the first half on Sunday night, taking up over 20 minutes of possession in the process. How disrespectful! And they didn’t even score!

25 - New York Giants (LW: 21)

Fun fact of the day...

Did you know that no Giants running back or wide receiver has scored a touchdown since October? You hate to see it.

26 - Chicago Bears (LW: 26)

One of the most boring teams in the NFL.

27 - Carolina Panthers (LW: 27)

They tried to sneak the Joe Brady firing into the Sunday window of early games. Remember how some people said that the Cowboys should have gone with Matt Rhule over Mike McCarthy?

28 - New Orleans Saints (LW: 28)

They made Thursday night interesting, but not because they are a good team.

29 - New York Jets (LW: 29)

Some things never change.

30 - Detroit Lions (LW: 32)


31 - Jacksonville Jaguars (LW: 31)


32 - Houston Texans (LW: 30)

Blah-er. 6 (LW: 8)

Moving on up.

It wasn’t a work of art, but the Cowboys got the job done on Thursday night in New Orleans. The defense did the heavy lifting, icing the game with three fourth-quarter interceptions — including a Carlos Watkins pick-six — in a 27-17 win that snapped a two-game losing streak. Afterward, Dallas got a much needed “half-bye” to rest up and recover before making a push for the top seed in the NFC. The ongoing slump of Dak Prescott remains a situation worth tracking: The quarterback made some elite throws against the Saints, but he has not been as consistent a force since his return from the calf strain that cost him a game.

ESPN: 7 (LW: 10)

More comfortably in the top 10.

Player who must step up: QB Dak Prescott

It’s not that Prescott has played poorly, but he has not been as effective as he was in the first seven games of the season, before suffering a calf strain against New England. In his past five games, he has seven touchdown passes and four interceptions. He would be helped by a better running game and protection that has not been as good lately, but this is why the Cowboys made a $160 million investment in Prescott in March. Dallas is in position to win the NFC East for the third time with Prescott, but for this team to again be seen as one of the best in the NFL, it needs more from him. — Todd Archer

USA Today: 6 (LW: 7)

Inch by inch.

RB Tony Pollard averages 6.2 yards per touch, a full yard-and-a-half better than limping starter Ezekiel Elliott. Despite Zeke’s salary, you have to wonder if Dallas would be better if he and Pollard switched roles.

Yahoo: 6 (LW: 8)

This is a popular spot.

Tony Pollard broke a 58-yard touchdown and CeeDee Lamb had a 33-yard gain on an end around. Those plays count too, but if you remove them, Dallas had 55 yards on 22 attempts against the Saints. It’s not all Ezekiel Elliott’s fault. The Cowboys need an elite run game to be a factor in January.

CBS Sports: 10 (LW: 13)

They are lower on the Cowboys than anyone else.

They got back on track winning at New Orleans, but now face what is now a big division game against Washington on the road. That won’t be easy.

Sports Illustrated: 4 (LW: 10)

Quite the bump up.

Imagine there will be some disagreement here. But, in fitting with the theme for the week, I’m moving the Cowboys from No. 10 into the top tier. Yes, I realize that Dallas has lost two of its past three games. The counter: every team from No. 4 to No. 12 is flawed, and, if we’re considering things like top-end potential and schedule, the Cowboys win in both respects. Their banged-up offense is getting healthier. Their defensive (biggest trouble spot) played well on Sunday against injured New Orleans with Dan Quinn replacing Mike McCarthy (COVID-19 protocols) on the sideline, and their schedule, other than a date with Arizona on Jan. 2, features four other games they will be favored to win. Combine those factors, and Dallas should challenge for higher seeding in the playoffs, which could lead to an easier path to the Super Bowl. That is, of course, barring another letdown.

Sporting News: 9 (LW: 9)

No movement.

The Cowboys followed the Bills in ripping the Saints and while their offense still was trying to figure out a few more things to restore its balance and explosiveness, their much-improved defense served up a reminder that it can also take over games with big plays.

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