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NFL power rankings: The Cowboys surge while the Vikings drop

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And surprise, the Patriots remain on top.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Things can change dramatically from week to week in the NFL, and this is one of those weeks for the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings held steady at No. 2 in our rankings last week following a brutal loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. After such a strong start to the season, with that dominant defense, we assumed the loss to the Eagles was an anomaly. Based on Minnesota’s performance against the Chicago Bears, the Vikings’ offensive line may be an even bigger problem than anyone realized.

It was a weird week for the NFC South, with the bottom-dwelling Carolina Panthers taking out the Arizona Cardinals, and the New Orleans Saints pulling off a win against the Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons managed to hold on for a close win at home against the Green Bay Packers, so all three teams move up a bit in our rankings this week.

Deep falls and big jumps

The Vikings are the obvious drop, after we gave them the benefit of the doubt last week against the Eagles. The way Minnesota played against the Bears, the No. 30 team in last week’s power rankings, suggests that there are legitimate issues — primarily the offensive line — that the Vikings need to correct.

The Bears had plays like where Jay Cutler hit Alshon Jeffery in the back of a head with a pass, and Chicago still managed to beat the Vikings.

The Seahawks fall from No. 3 to No. 7 because we really don’t know what’s going on with the offense. Seattle managed to only score 13 points against a porous New Orleans defense that’s allowing an average of 32.5 points per game. The other seven points came courtesy of safety Earl Thomas, who recovered a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown.

As a result of these games, the Bears jump up a couple of spots to No. 28, and the Saints move all the way to No. 17 this week after landing at No. 22 in Week 8.

They didn’t make huge jumps, but there wasn’t much room for the Broncos and Cowboys to improve anyway. Both moved up a couple of spots, benefited by the Vikings’ demise Monday night.

It looked as if the Cowboys might be plummeting in this week’s rankings as they struggled against the Eagles all night on Sunday Night Football, but a late-game rally by Dak Prescott and the offense, including a wide-open Jason Witten touchdown, helped them seal the win in overtime.

Bottom of the trash heap

We’re sorry, Cleveland Browns fans. We don’t want to keep your team at the bottom of the trash heap every single week. It’s just that the Browns are the only winless team in the league, and on Sunday, it looked for a moment like we might actually be able to bump them up a spot as they dominated the Jets early.

Then the Browns did the most Browns thing they could possibly do, blowing a 20-7 halftime lead and securing Cleveland’s spot at the bottom of our rankings for yet another week.

The San Francisco 49ers stay at 31, because they had a bye and no opportunity to redeem themselves. Jacksonville falls a spot to No. 30 after taking a painful loss to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football that probably should have gotten Gus Bradley fired.

Update: Also see the power rankings roundup.

Week 8 Team Last Week
1 New England Patriots 1
2 Denver Broncos 4
3 Dallas Cowboys 5
4 Minnesota Vikings 2
5 Atlanta Falcons 6
6 Kansas City Chiefs 7
7 Seattle Seahawks 3
8 Pittsburgh Steelers 9
9 Philadelphia Eagles 8
10 Oakland Raiders 10
11 Washington 13
12 Cincinnati Bengals 15
13 Arizona Cardinals 11
14 Buffalo Bills 12
15 Green Bay Packers 14
16 New York Giants 17
17 New Orleans Saints 22
18 Baltimore Ravens 19
19 Miami Dolphins 20
20 Houston Texans 21
21 Detroit Lions 16
22 Tennessee Titans 23
23 San Diego Chargers 18
24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24
25 Carolina Panthers 28
26 Los Angeles Rams 25
27 New York Jets 27
28 Chicago Bears 30
29 Indianapolis Colts 26
30 Jacksonville Jaguars 29
31 San Francisco 49ers 31
32 Cleveland Browns 32

Dak Prescott should start for the Cowboys