Yes, the Cowboys have the best offensive line in football, QB Dak Prescott has played mistake-free football and the defense has played above its talent level. But the main reason why the 6–1 Cowboys boast the best record in the NFC is because of rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. Without QB Tony Romo and WR Dez Bryant for much of last season, the same line produced a rushing attack that ranked No. 9 in the league as the Cowboys dropped from second (when they had RB DeMarco Murray) to No. 9 in time of possession, which led to a tired defense and a 4–12 record.

Certainly Prescott has been an upgrade, but with Elliott and the Cowboys now leading the league in rushing and time of possession, Dallas is now clicking in all areas again. Elliott and his league-leading 799 rushing yards (he’s on pace for 1,826 yards, which would break Eric Dickerson’s NFL rookie record) has been the straw that has stirred the Cowboys’ drink. Replace him with an average running back, and the Cowboys are .500 or worse. That makes him the most valuable player, at this point, for me. – Greg Bedard

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.