- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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The penultimate edition of the 2011-12 NFL Power Rankings are out, and the NFC East teams are about where they should be. The Dallas Cowboys (11) and the New York Giants (12) rank behind every team that is or would currently be in the playoffs except for the two teams still in contention for the AFC West title. The Broncos and Raiders sit just behind, at 13 and 14.
This likely means that the NFC East champion -- i.e., the winner of Sunday's game between the Cowboys and Giants -- will be the second-worst ranked of any of the playoff teams once next week's Power Rankings come out. Doesn't ensure it, but it looks like it'll be the case, and it makes sense. You can argue about whether the NFC East or the AFC West has been worse this year, but you can't argue that the other six divisions have been better than both.
On to our weekly look at how our teams fared in the Power Rankings:
11. Dallas Cowboys (Last week: 10). Hard to know what we saw from the Stephen McGee/Sammy Morris Cowboys on Saturday once they made it clear that they didn't want any part of a wild-card spot and wouldn't try to win the game. (Honestly, folks, if they'd won, then they could have made the playoffs as a wild card with nothing more than an Atlanta loss next week, even if the Giants beat them Sunday.) Jerome Simpson and the Bengals did a forward-flip over the Cowboys' heads and landed on both feet in the top 10.
12. New York Giants (16). One of the biggest movers of the week, and why not? The Jets win was a huge win against a bitter rival in a game the Giants needed to win to keep their playoff hopes in their own hands. They even managed to run the ball in the second half and get a few stops against a Jets offense that for some reason woke up Sunday morning believing it was the 2007 Patriots. So Cowboys are 11, Giants are 12. Voters Paul Kuharsky and Ashley Fox rank the Giants higher. Mike Sando, John Clayton and James Walker rank the Cowboys higher. Best part is, they get to settle this on the field.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (18). If the Cowboys only fall one spot for losing their white-flag game, it stands to reason that the Eagles would only pick up one spot for winning it. My question is whether, if they beat the Redskins in their finale, the Eagles can actually finish above the Giants-Cowboys loser in the final Power Rankings next week. They would have the same record, after all.
26. Washington Redskins (25). The Redskins drop a spot after a terrible, inexplicable loss to the 30th-ranked Vikings and their backups. I'm sure they'd love to win the finale and match last year's 6-10 record, but more important for Washington will be playing better on defense this week than they did in Week 16. They felt so good about the defense and its future prospects after beating the Giants two weeks ago, they certainly don't want to go into the offseason on a down note.