Power rankings revisited: Week 17

The Cowboys' performance against the Eagles should erase any doubt about their standing for 2009.

Dallas, ranked ninth entering Week 17, made its case as a top-five team, and I would expect ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings, scheduled for publication Tuesday, to reflect as much.

The Cowboys were sixth on my ballot last week. From this angle, only the Colts, Chargers, Saints and Vikings appear worthy of consideration for the spots ahead of them.

The Saints' standing as the third-ranked team could be vulnerable even though New Orleans wasn't playing to win Sunday. It depends how strongly voters value the Cowboys' and Vikings' victories.

The chart shows how ESPN's four voters -- me, John Clayton, Paul Kuharsky and Jeff Chadiha -- ranked teams last week. Red lettering reveals which teams lost in Week 17.

The reckoning: Eight games featured lower-ranked teams beating higher-ranked teams:

  • (27) Cleveland 23, (22) Jacksonville 17. One final reminder that the Jaguars weren't even an average team.

  • (30) Kansas City 44, (13) Denver 24. From 6-0 to this? The season is officially a debacle for Denver.

  • (15) Houston 34, (10) New England 27. The Texans finally win an important game, only to find out it wasn't important.

  • (14) New York Jets 37, (7) Cincinnati 0. Mostly meaningless for the Bengals, but not for the Jets. Cincy has something to prove.

  • (8) Green Bay 33, (6) Arizona 7. Meaningless for the Cardinals, but Green Bay had reason to feel good about the way it finished the season.

  • (9) Dallas 24, (4) Philadelphia 0. Statement game for the Cowboys. Can they beat the Eagles three times in one season?

  • (19) Carolina 23, (3) New Orleans 10. Meaningless for the Saints, but Carolina's John Fox will take 8-8 -- the fifth time in eight seasons he's been 7-9 or 8-8.

  • (25) Buffalo 30, (1) Indianapolis 7. Meaningless.

Still to play: The postseason.

Injury alerts: The Patriots lost receiver Wes Welker. The Cardinals' Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Anquan Boldin and Calais Campbell were hurt. The Bengals lost receiver Chad Ochocinco and defensive tackle Pat Sims. The Packers' Charles Woodson aggravated a shoulder injury. Welker's injury could affect the Patriots' ranking.

My early favorite for the No. 1 spot: Indianapolis, with both nostrils plugged. The last two games stunk for Indy, but all is not lost -- unless, of course, the Colts lose in the divisional round.