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 an absurdly early look at the power rankings out there just in time for when most teams have started training camp.
1. Major Media Networks & Affiliates
SportingNews.com: 2nd. "Potential headache: Doug Free might not be ready to replace Flozell Adams at left tackle."
NFL.com: 3rd. "This team boasts enviable depth. If it can survive its early schedule - including a highly anticipated rematch with Minnesota in Week 6 - watch out."
ESPN.com: 4th. "The Cowboys are loaded and will look to secure a Super Bowl "home game." (Clayton)"
WEEI.com: 5th. "The Cowboys clearly are the favorites to win the NFC East this year with their weapons on the defensive line and the array of talent ready to catch passes from Tony Romo."
Foxsports.com: 6th. "This has been a shockingly silent offseason in Dallas considering expectations entering one without a salary cap. But maverick owner Jerry Jones just couldn't help himself in the draft once enticing WR Dez Bryant starting slipping in the first round. In Bryant, Dallas added a major weapon. But at what expense? Dallas did not address their OT hole left by Flozell "The Hotel" Adams, instead hoping Doug Free can hold down the spot for a full season. Tony Romo sure hopes he can."
Don Banks @ SI.com: 8th. "If you're a Cowboys fan, you'd better hope Wade Phillips's guys don't get all caught up in the chatter about Dallas trying to become the first team to play a Super Bowl on its home field. Don't go there until its time to hoist the NFC title trophy. They'll be plenty of time to beat that topic to death after that. The Cowboys only concern should be building on last year's success, and popping in a tape of that playoff meltdown at Minnesota should be all the motivation they need."
2. Blogs & Other Media or Stat & Computer based rankings.
Rick Gosselin: 2nd. "Only the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints had a more prolific offense than the Cowboys in 2009. The arrival of WR Dez Bryant gives the Cowboys the best offense in the NFL. QB Tony Romo, HB Marion Barber, WRs Miles Austin and Roy Williams and TE Jason Witten all have been to Pro Bowls, and first-round draft picks Bryant and HB Felix Jones have Pro Bowl potential. The Cowboys will need all of that to survive a schedule that includes games at Indianapolis, Green Bay, Houston and Minnesota. The Saints also visit Cowboys Stadium."
WhatIfSports.com: 3rd. 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.
ProFootballFocus.com: 4th. "They got that much-needed playoff win but it all went wrong against the Vikings in the playoffs and injuries to the offensive line were far too much to overcome. With Flozell Adams moving on, we're a lot more confident in Doug Free's ability to help improve on the 25th-ranked pass protection unit, but some questions still remain about which back should be carrying the ball. Defensively it's not perfect, but it's pretty darn good with both outside linebackers causing no end of problems."
Betus.com: 6th. "The Cowboys have a powerful rushing attack, arguably the game’s best front seven – and what should be an improved passing attack after landing gifted WR Dez Bryant in the draft."
Here's how the NFC East fared: