It's amazing the difference one play makes. If Eli Manning doesn't hit Victor Cruz on that 77-yard touchdown in the final moments Sunday against the Washington Redskins, the New York Giants probably lose and probably surrender the top spot on this list to Robert Griffin III and Co.
Instead, they pulled another rabbit out of their hat late and now have a clear edge, both in the standings and—more importantly—on this list.
1. New York Giants (5-2, first last week)
What was wrong with Eli Manning against Washington? I mean, the play to Cruz masks it all for most of us, but I didn't like what I saw from a less-accurate-than-usual Manning for much of Sunday's game at MetLife.
There will be weeks when things just aren't clicking, and it seems as though the Football Gods have determined fate well in advance. Watching the Giants against Washington,
I felt it was going to be one of those days for them. But it's again a testament to their mental strength and their experience in big moments that they again found a way to succeed.
You could argue that they wouldn't have been so lucky against a team that committed, say, three turnovers, rather than four, in the second half. But let's remember that Manning had two interceptions himself in that half as the Giants failed to capitalize on Redskin mistakes.
Yet they still won, and now they can really begin to pull away with a victory in Dallas.
2. Washington Redskins (3-4, second last week)
It's early, and although they're not comparable in thousands of ways, I do continue to consider Tim Tebow's ability to temporarily take the league by storm a year ago. I don't think Robert Griffin III will fade, and I don't think he's anything close to a fad like Tebow. But I am excited to see if or how he continues to excel when defenses begin making adjustments.
Usually with Griffin, you're picking your poison, but there are some smart defensive minds out there, and it's only a matter of time before RG3 begins to see some looks he's never dealt with before. But the guy's a veteran in a rookie's body, so I get the feeling that when that happens, we'll all be pleasantly surprised.
Well, depending on who we cheer for.
For now, though, Griffin continues to jockey for a top position in the way-too-early MVP race. Considering what he and the 'Skins are doing despite no Pierre Garcon, no Fred Davis, no Adam Carriker and no Brian Orakpo, he might even be the midseason leader in that competition.
3. Dallas Cowboys (3-3, third last week)
Yeah, no changes this week, even though the 'Boys won and the Redskins lost and now Dallas has a better record than their rival from D.C.
That's because power rankings have the luxury of being able to consider context.
Washington did a hell of a lot better job than the Cowboys this past week. Dallas survived with another solid defensive performance and didn't blow this one in the fourth quarter, but there's something still off with the offense and now the injury bug is starting to do some serious damage.
Considering that their bye is already in the past and they have the Giants, Falcons and Eagles on deck, the timing couldn't be worse.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3, fourth last week)
The Eagles retain the No. 4 spot after their bye because it wouldn't be fair to drop them any lower. The Eagles, though, are even more of a mess now than they were one week ago. Juan Castillo is gone and Michael Vick's job security is thread-like.
They're apparently going back to King Dunlap at left tackle and now have the NFL's lone unbeaten team on deck.
I'd like to say that the bye gives them a nice advantage against the Falcons, but it's Philadelphia-style luck that Atlanta, too, is coming off a bye week. I have a weird feeling they'll put up a fight in Week 8, but I'm not sure they have the wherewithal to keep fighting through Week 17.