More than halfway through the 2016 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys are the league’s top team. Following their Week 10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, “America’s Team” has the best record in football at 8-1.
Since the season began, the New England Patriots have been the heavy favorites to win Super Bowl LI. But Dallas is making the case to be recognized as the team with the best chance to win the title in 2017.
The betting odds still favor the 7-2 Patriots, who have +250 Super Bowl odds, via Sportsbook.ag, after their Week 10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Dallas’ +500 odds are the second-best in the NFL, and they are looking like the league’s most complete team.
With arguably the best quarterback and best tight end in history, New England’s offense has all but guaranteed them the AFC East title. Their defense, however, has been a disappointment, and it let the Patriots down in Sunday’s loss by allowing 31 points at home. The Patriots rank 17th in total defense this season.
Dallas ranks 12th in total defense, and only two other teams are ranked higher than the Cowboys in offense. They haven’t allowed more than 30 points in a game, and Dallas’ offense seemingly gets better each week as rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott continue to put up big numbers.
New England quarterback Tom Brady is still the leading MVP candidate with a 125.5 passer rating, but he has competition from Dallas’ first-year players, specifically Elliott. The running back leads the NFL with 1,005 yards on the ground, and his 1,255 yards from scrimmage in nine games have arguably been the biggest reason for the Cowboys’ success.
It’s appeared that there might be a quarterback controversy brewing in Dallas with Tony Romo almost ready to return from injury. After eight wins in nine games, however, it’s difficult to make the case that Prescott should be benched. His 106.2 passer rating is fourth in the NFL, and only Brady has a better touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Even though more than 40 percent of the regular season has yet to be played, the Cowboys’ path to the Super Bowl appears to be much clearer than New England’s. Seattle, who has +800 Super Bowl odds, and is Dallas’ biggest competition, trails the Cowboys by 1.5 games for the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs. No other NFC team is even three games above .500, and it might take a fairly sizeable upset to eliminate the Cowboys before the NFC Championship Game.
New England still has the AFC’s best team, but they are no sure thing to win the No. 1 seed. The Patriots are tied atop the conference with the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, while the Denver Broncos are just a half-game back at 7-3. It’d be hard to imagine the Houston Texans earning a first-round bye, but they are just one game behind New England at 6-3.
Failing to earn home-field advantage has hurt the Patriots in recent years. They were defeated on the road in the AFC Championship Game in two of the last three seasons.
Dallas is unbeaten on the road, and their victory in Pittsburgh was the Cowboys’ fourth win over a team that made the playoffs last season. They have proven to be the real deal, perhaps giving Dallas their best chance in two decades to win a championship.