NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys roll to No. 1, Dolphins rising fast

Five weeks ago, the Miami Dolphins looked to be a team playing for next year, just building for the future with their first-year coach, Adam Gase.

After ripping off four consecutive victories, including beating the San Diego Chargers, 31-24, on Sunday, the Dolphins are now a legitimate playoff contender.

Gase has done a great job turning this team around. His no-nonsense approach, which included cutting several veterans and starters when they weren’t playing well, has the Dolphins playing good football. His quarterback-whisperer ways have made Ryan Tannehill a much better player, which was especially true beating San Diego on Sunday.

Gase, a maniacal workaholic who has the right temperament for dealing with his players, has taken a Dolphins team that looked inept in a loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 5 and made them a run-heavy team that is now playing better defense. Gase doesn’t take any crap from his players — I think they are even a bit scared of him — and they know what to expect. But he is also smart enough to know when it’s time to pull back.

That’s a fine line with a coach. In his first year on the job, he seems to be doing a great job handling that.

Spending a few years with Peyton Manning, perhaps the NFL’s most maniacal worker, was like a laboratory for Gase to prepare for this step. They were two like minds who wanted nothing but the best.

Gase has instilled that in his team now. Tannehill, who has been maligned in his time with the Dolphins, is playing some of his best football. He made three throws against the Chargers, including a 39-yard dart to Kenny Stills for a touchdown, that were among the best he’s made in his career.

On defense, Vance Joseph has taken a limited group of talented players and made them much better the past month. Cameron Wake and Andre Branch have amped up the pass rush, which has helped cover up the secondary issues.

The 5-4 Dolphins are up to 13th in my latest power rankings. They play next at Los Angeles against the Rams, a winnable game for sure. If they can get out of the California trip with a win — and they stayed out West — they will be 6-4 and legitimate wild-card contenders.

The Dolphins hired the right coach. They look like they have the right quarterback. And they can run the heck out of the ball with a physical offensive line and Jay Ajayi. The defense isn’t great, but it might be good enough under Joseph.

That rebuild might have to wait. Gase has this team in the playoff hunt — and himself into the Coach of the Year conversation.

Biggest Movers
 
1

Cowboys

They will keep Dak Prescott in as the starter, which is the right thing to do. They are rolling. 1 8-1-0
2

Patriots

The defense can’t play like it did against Seattle and expect to win a Super Bowl. Even Tom Brady can’t overcome that. 1 7-2-0
3

Chiefs

That was a telling victory at Carolina, coming back from down 17-0. They are as hot as any team in the league. 7-2-0
4

Raiders

The come out of their bye atop the AFC West. That offense is going to make them tough to beat every week. 1 7-2-0
5

Broncos

The defense played a nice game at New Orleans slowing down Drew Brees and turning him over. But they need to get more from Trevor Siemian. 1 7-3-0
6

Seahawks

Russell Wilson was sensational against the Patriots. If he continues to play like that, I just might admit that he is great. 1 6-2-1
7

Giants

They’ve won four consecutive games to get to 6-3 and stay right up there with the Cowboys in the NFC East. 2 6-3-0
8

Falcons

They didn’t play well at Philadelphia, and still had a chance. The good news for them is the Panthers and Saints both lost as well. 4 6-4-0
9

Texans

It wasn’t pretty at Jacksonville, and it has to be better on offense. But they found a way. 1 6-3-0
10

Lions

They come out of their bye as a legitimate playoff contender. Matt Stafford is the reason why. 5-4-0
11

Redskins

Kirk Cousins is playing good football. That’s got them in the middle of the playoff race with Green Bay coming to town. 2 5-3-1
12

Ravens

The defense has them atop the AFC North. They face a tough challenge this week at Dallas. 2 5-4-0
13

Dolphins

They are just two games out of first place in the AFC East. Can you believe it? 2 5-4-0
14

Eagles

Beating the Falcons has them moving back in the right direction. But now comes a brutal road trip to Seattle. 3 5-4-0
15

Titans

The Titans are in the playoff chase. That offense lit up the Packers. Exotic Smashmouth lives. 11 5-5-0
16

Vikings

They’ve lost four straight after opening the season 5-0. The bad offensive line play is killing this team. 5 5-4-0
17

Packers

They are a bad team right now. They looked lost in losing to the Titans last Sunday. Can they turn it around at Washington this week? 5 4-5-0
18

Steelers

At 4-5, they have work to do to get it going. The offense looked better against the Cowboys, but the defense was awful. 4-5-0
19

Chargers

They’ve lost so many tough ones this season, but the latest to Miami might just about end their playoff chances. 3 4-6-0
20

Saints

That loss to the Broncos will sting, but they don’t have time to fret about it with a big game against the Panthers looming. That might be a survival test. 1 4-5-0
21

Cardinals

They beat the 49ers, but something still doesn’t look right. They need to play better. 4-4-1
22

Colts

At 3-6, they come off their bye still in the thick of the division race. That might have been a season saver at Green Bay two weeks ago. 4-5-0
23

Bengals

At 3-5-1, they sure aren’t as good as expected. They need to get it going — or there could be changes coming. 3 3-5-1
24

Panthers

Did that Cam Newton interception that went for a pick-six against the Chiefs ruin their playoff chances? This Super Bowl hangover is real. 1 3-6-0
25

Bills

They’ve lost three straight games and face a tough road test at Cincinnati. Can they snap the streak? 1 4-5-0
26

Buccaneers

By beating Chicago, they still have thin playoff hopes. The defense showed up for the first time in a long time. 1 4-5-0
27

Rams

By beating the Jets, they keep their slim playoff hopes alive. But that also will keep Jared Goff on the bench, and that’s not a good thing. 4-5-0
28

Jets

This thing has gone way off the rails. They have so many issues. 3-7-0
29

Bears

Jay Cutler had a terrible game against the Bucs, negating what was a good game the last time out. This season is done. 2-7-0
30

Jaguars

It’s evident now that there will be coaching change after the season. Some will want a quarterback change too. 2-7-0
31

49ers

They are competing more with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. Why did it take so long? 1-8-0
32

Browns

Look at the schedule. Where do they get a victory? Where? 0-10-0

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