Cowboys are NFL's most underrated

The Dallas Cowboys have played better than their record indicates this season. Tim Heitman/US Presswire

Looking at the Power Rankings very early Tuesday morning -- red-eye flight early -- the first debatable team seemed obvious: the Oakland Raiders, sitting there at No. 9 with a quarterback depth chart starting with Kyle Boller and ending with Terrelle Pryor. That's one guy you prefer never to see with a helmet on and another you'd rather have catching passes. In one play this weekend, the Raiders went from a pretty good team with a passable quarterback situation to a pretty good team openly trying to woo David Garrard.

Well, things change, Mox. Things change.

With Carson Palmer now the presumed quarterback of the near future in Oakland, I checked around on the numbers side to see whether that No. 9 ranking should hold up for the short run. The projection analysts liked the move for Oakland. According to one model AccuScore sent over, an off-the-couch Palmer wasn't just better than Boller (a 20 percent boost to playoff odds) but better than a healthy Campbell. And the guys setting odds at the Vegas Hilton emailed to say that, with Palmer, they'd shift the Oakland Super Bowl odds up from 40-1 to 30-1.


Dallas Cowboys

Power Rankings slot: 21
Win projection average: 8.6
Super Bowl odds: 30-1

They might be a tease, but there's simply no way there are 20 NFL teams better than Dallas. Three times now, they've carried a fourth-quarter lead against a good team and found a way to lose. Vegas agrees, with the Cowboys safely midpack and only 11 teams with a higher win projection average. The problem with this slot is even more basic: If the Cowboys are No. 21, how does the committee have New England No. 2? If the league's 29th-ranked rushing team can figure that concept out at all, they're dangerous.