1. Dallas Cowboys (10-1)
When I last did these power power rankings rankings three weeks ago, I was very curious to see how the Cowboys handled the quarterback conundrum at their hands. Well, they’ve handled it well as they continue to roll, and are coming off a big Turkey Day win against their divisional for, in the Washington Redskins. A couple of rookies are leading the way as Dak Prescott is still playing like a seasoned pro and Ezekiel Elliot is still leading the league in rushing. Prescott, for all his efforts, is currently first in total QBR and raw QBR. It will be hard for any team to stop a tandem like that, their defense has been respectable and with a tough NFC East including the New York Giants, who are the only team to beat them, the Cowboys cannot, and will not, let up for the rest of the season.
2. New England Patriots (9-2)
It wasn’t a pretty win for the Patriots this weekend as they knocked off the New York Jets. Frankly, it hasn’t been the prettiest last month or so for the team as they have battled injuries. However, they still have the best quarterback in the league in Tom Brady and the best coaching staff in the league led by Bill Belichick. The Patriots M.O. has been that winning comes first, and it isn’t always glorious. Despite their recent struggles, they’re still clearly one of the best teams in the league and they have all the tools and talent to get on a roll again. With the AFC being a tight race this season, and their blunder at Denver last season, I expect the Patriots to push hard to maintain home field advantage down the stretch which will keep them near the top of these rankings.
3. Oakland Raiders (9-2)
If you want to make a case that the Raiders are better than the Patriots right now, I can respect that. Derek Carr has been incredible this season, as he is currently fifth in passing yards and has only thrown a meager five interceptions. His connection with Amari Cooper, who is currently sixth in receiving yards, is quickly becoming as lethal as some of the other well-known combinations in the league like Brady-to-Gronkowski, or Roethlisberger-to-Brown. Still, their defensive is largely unimpressive and performs poorly outside of standout Khalil Mack. They’re still the new kids on the block when it comes to contenders and have to prove themselves down the stretch in a tight AFC West where they still have road games at Denver and at Kansas City. The Patriots have history on their side, where the Raiders still need to establish themselves in my eyes.
T-4. New York Giants (8-3)
The Giants are streaking right now and have the capability to make another classic run where they defeat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. It will be interesting to see if they can chase down the Cowboys, but even if they don’t, they are still one of the bigger threats headed towards the postseason. Eli Manning has experience, and the offense, led by Odell Beckham Jr., has the talent to be a real problem for teams this stretch run. The defense has been near the middle of the pack this season, but often that’s all that it takes. They’re playing very well and a tough schedule down the stretch gives them a great opportunity. They very well may get tripped up, but in the same breath they have a chance to beat some top teams and gain even more ground, not just in the rankings, but in playoff seeding and public perception as well.
T-4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-3)
Think this is a take people will agree with: the combination of head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith has never made me nervous as a football fan. They don’t have the same panache as Brady and Belichick or even Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin, but you simply cannot deny that under Reid’s tenure, the Chiefs have been winners and they’re back at it again this year. Despite losing Jamaal Charles (stop me if you’ve heard that one before), and competing in a tough AFC West, they find themselves not just surviving but thriving. They have games against Oakland, and Denver, who they just beat, left to continue to prove themselves and set themselves up for playoff success. Both their offense and defense are near the bottom of the league in terms of statistical performance but winning is winning. However, the Chiefs and Giants are among a handful of teams which I believe are separated by only a razor-thin margin and, while they have better records as of right now, we will see soon if they are truly the better teams.
Matt Barresi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.