Power Rankings. Love 'em or hate 'em, but you can't not look at them.
If the Dallas Cowboys were playing college football, team rankings would matter. Well, they're not and they don't. Power Rankings are ridiculous, the logic is skewed, they are mid-week page filler material at best and they have no bearing on the game whatsoever.
And while I know that wringing our hands and gnashing our teeth over where some national sportswriter ranks the Cowboys is a terrible waste of time (not to mention a waste of hands and teeth) I can't help but come back to these rankings time and again.
So here's a ridiculously early look at the power rankings out there so far this offseason.
1. Major Media Networks & Affiliates
Sportingnews.com (Feb): 2nd. Fox analyst and former Cowboys FB Daryl Johnston: "Does the Cowboys at No. 2 surprise me? Absolutely not. One of the big concerns people had was that Dallas always melted (down) at the end of the year. I think they silenced a lot of the critics. Linebacker Keith Brooking has brought in some great leadership that they needed."
Pete Prisco at CBSSports.com (May): 4th. "They improved in 2009, winning a playoff game, but it has to be better than that this time around. Can they play a Super Bowl in their home stadium? It's possible."
Fox Sports (Feb): 4th. "One step at a time for Dallas, the Cowboys finally have the playoff monkey off their backs. Now Tony Romo must prove he can get his team to a Super Bowl. So what does he need around him? One more playmaker wouldn't hurt, but expect a big focus on the offensive line this offseason as Big D looks to get even bigger."
ESPN (Apr): 5th. "The Cowboys' quiet offseason was rewarded when WR Dez Bryant fell to them in the draft. (Clayton)"
WEEI.com (May): 5th. "Dallas was in the top 5 in most major offensive categories last year, and now the Cowboys add Dez Bryant to the mix. Not bad. The Cowboys also have a great front seven, highlighted by DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer."
NFL.com (May): Pat Kirwan separates the teams into 5 tiers and drops the Cowboys into the top tier: "Some think this is too high for the Cowboys, but their quiet offseason, quality roster depth (outside of safety), and quarterback Tony Romo finally getting a playoff win set the stage for a big season in 2010. The Cowboys' defense only gave up 250 points last year (15.6 per game)." The Giants are tier 2, the Eagles and Redskins are both tier 3.
USAToday (May): 5th.
Peter King in MMQB (May): 10th. "No other team has a better twin pass-rush threat than DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, and few teams have the multiplicity of weapons on offense. If Dez Bryant catches on quickly -- that's a big if -- the Cowboys could be the first home team to win a Super Bowl ever. But something always happens in the NFC East, something weird. The Eagles could rebound with the energy of a new quarterback to make the playoffs, but I feel pretty good about a second team making the playoffs out of the division. For five straight years, the East has produced at least one Wild Card."
2. Blogs & Other Media or Stat & Computer based rankings.
Great Blue North Draft Report (Apr): 3rd. This site calculates rankings by first round draft selection order based on projected own and opponent W/L records.
WhatIFsports (Feb): 4th. These guys simulate every possible match-up in the NFL 100 times, and use the winning percentages from those nearly 50,000 games to evaluate every team, with updated rosters and depth charts.
Walterfootball.com (Apr): 7th. " NFC East defensive coordinators crapped their pants when the Cowboys obtained Dez Bryant. How are they going to cover everyone? With Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten running routes, Tony Romo is going to have a blast this season."
Here's how the NFC East fared: