There wasn’t too much of shake up in the rankings as the top teams stayed winning. It might not have been pretty, but the Cowboy’s 17-15 win over the Minnesota Vikings keeps them the top spot.
1. Dallas Cowboys (11-1)
It wasn’t a beautiful effort from the Cowboy’s offense but both rookie sensations quarterback Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot were solid and more importantly, mistake free, going against the league’s current third-best overall defense. In what was an ugly slugfest, the Cowboys proved they can win in a multitude of ways. Their schedule down the stretch should make for some exciting games.
2. New England Patriots (10-2)
It was a feel good win for the Patriots Sunday as they knocked off the Los Angeles Rams 26-10 and after some ugly play and finding out start tight end Rob Gronkowski will miss the rest of the season, they needed it. Frankly, the Rams are terrible and how Jeff Fisher just got a contract extension is beyond me, but that’s a different story. Despite the Rams’ ineptitude, I was still impressed by the Patriots performance. They functioned incredibly efficiently and smoothly in all facets of the game. Malcolm Mitchell is coming along nicely and it appears that the Patriots offense can still function at a high level without Gronk. I think they will finish strong as getting home field seems imperative after hurting them last year.
3. Oakland Raiders (10-2)
It’s going to come down to the wire between the Raiders and the Patriots for clinching the No. 1 overall seed. Both these teams are fully capable of knocking off each other on the road. The Raiders offense is simply a well-oiled machine at this point. Derek Carr was strong in their 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills Sunday. So were Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree out wide. Their defense is still cause for concern, but this team can clearly win in shootouts. Jack Del Rio was a winner for a while in Jacksonville and it seems like he has a great foundation for sustained success out in Oakland or wherever they move to next.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)
Last week I had the Chiefs in a tie at this spot with the New York Giants. Both teams had games against solid teams and only the Chiefs came out on top, beating the Atlanta Falcons 29-28 in Atlanta. I think I heard it best during a game break in the Patriots game, as Fox analyst John Lynch more or less said, “The Kansas City Chiefs are winners, and you can’t argue with that.” He’s right as the Chiefs aren’t overly impressive by any metric or even the eye test, but they’ve steadily been winning tough games all year. That is a skill, if you want to call it that, that will serve them well come playoff time in a tough AFC.
5. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)
It was hard call but I’m going to give the last spot to the Ravens, although there are a lot of teams hovering around this position. I feel like Stephen A. Smith when saying this but I like the way Jameis Winston’s Buccaneers are playing right now, the Falcons were two points away from being in these rankings and you have to watch out for the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers, two organizations who have been there and done that. After a start to the season that left a lot of fans with a bad taste in their mouth, we are heading towards an interesting stretch run and playoffs. I give the nod to the Ravens after they just squashed a streaking Miami Dolphins’ squad 38-6. They currently have the best defense in the NFL statistically but any further success will come down the offense’s performance in this race for the playoffs, which very well might end up answering the question: Is Joe Flacco elite?
Matt Barresi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.