Just a few more days left until the NFL season starts for the Cowboys with the game against the Jets. We're no longer counting months or even weeks. We're counting days, and pretty soon we'll be counting hours.
You can feel the excitement. You’ve done your homework. You've devoured every season preview publication, starting with the most excellent MSP Cowboys Annual (which you can still order here). You’ve scoured the internet for players on the waiver wire and you've followed the roster cuts like it was the real NFL Draft. There's only one question left: how good are the Cowboys?
Some sites have tried to answer that question by putting out their official week 1 Power Rankings. Power Rankings! Some people think they are the greatest scourge to have visited Pro Football, others can't help but pore over them, dissect them and have heated arguments about them. Whether you like them or not, here are the first power rankings heading into the 2011 NFL season.
1. Major Media Networks & Affiliates
CBSSports.com: 7th (+7). "They have Tony Romo back and they will have an improved, aggressive defense under Rob Ryan. The offensive line is young, but there is talent to overcome it."
SportingNews.com: 14th (n.c.). "Who's on the mend? QB Tony Romo (collarbone). Sure, he's back healthy and ready to start the season, but Cowboys fans will only breathe easy when Romo gets back to the business of firing TD passes. "
ESPN: 14th (+2). "With no offseason to speak of, it might take awhile for the defensive players to get used to Rob Ryan's schemes. Once they do, the Cowboys could be scary good on defense. (Fox)"
Fox Sports: 14th (- -). Brian Billick offers this assessment: "Will talent finally prevail? I'm worried about keeping Tony Romo healthy, with raw rookie right tackle, Tyron Smith. He has all the skills, but he'll experience a noticeable learning curve. Their schedule, including the anemic NFC West, will help."
NFL.com's Brain Trust of Experts: 15th (-1). Bucky Brooks has the Cowboys 10th, Albert Breer and Joe Theisman have the Cowboys 20th and 19th. Elliot Harrison ranks the Cowboys 14th and offers this soundbite: "So much talent on a team with so few skins on the wall ... ditto Dallas, a team that didn't excite anyone in the preseason, at least not on defense. Most Dallas sports fans will tell you the best parts of the Cowboys' preseason were Drew Pearson finally getting inducted into the Ring of Honor, and the Rangers beating the Red Sox 10-0 behind Derek Holland."
2. Blogs & Other Media
SB Nation: 10th (- -). "This is a lot higher than most people have them ranked but I think 2010 was an aberration. They get back to the playoffs this year an Rob Ryan improves the defense."
ProFootballTalk.com: 10th (- -). "Complacency in 2010 could give way to hunger in 2011. Which could carry the Cowboys farther than expected."
Walter Football: 10th (n.c.). "Tony Romo is back, but the offensive line and secondary are both really shaky. Plus, winning games in the always-tough NFC East will once again be tough. If you haven't been following my 2011 Fantasy Football Rankings, by the way, I love Felix Jones and Dez Bryant this year much more than most other publications. 2011 NFL Projected Record: 10-6."
Pro Football Focus: 12th (n.c.). "The Good: They had a bad year. But this was a talented team, and it gets Tony Romo back. Oh, and they may actually respond to their head coach this year. The Bad: For a team that could win now, it’s a peculiar time to rebuild a line that was working pretty well. The Ugly: Do you feel confident in their secondary? Thought not."
3. Statistics, Computer & Vegas rankings
Covers.com: 14th (- -). "The Cowboy defense was nothing to write home about in 2010, but that should change under new coordinator Rob Ryan. Dallas is one of those teams, like San Diego, that has not been able to take advantage of superior talent. At some point, that has to change."
Drafttek.com: 15th (+1). No comments provided
WhatIFsports: 21st (- -). 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.
Below is how the NFC East fared in this week's power rankings, with the Jets added for good measure.