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Ridiculously Early 2012 NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys & The NFC East

"<em>It's not how you start, it's how you finish.</em>"
"It's not how you start, it's how you finish."

Is it too early for Power Rankings? Sure. But so what.

The Cowboys haven't even started training camp, and we're already being offered power rankings left and right. In the last few days, many a pigskin pundit has released his version of the NFL power rankings heading into the 2012 preseason.

If you've been on the blog for a while, you know that we regularly tally the power rankings for the NFC East. And with Cowboys camp just around the corner, today is a good time look at what's out there in terms of power rankings and bring them all to one place. To set the baseline, so to speak.

After the break, we briefly review what we've learned from the last two years of power rankings, and then dive straight into what the experts have come up with in terms of power rankings - without a single snap of organized football having been played yet.

It's not how you start it's how you finish

The two graphs below summarize the power rankings we tracked over the last two years and show how the four NFC East teams were ranked week by week. Notice how the early favorites in both years dropped like a lead balloon as soon as the season started. May this serve as a cautionary tale about high expectations going into a season.

Pre-training camp power rankings

5th - Sportstalkflorida (Jul. 19): "We’re drinking the Cowboys Kool-Aid as Tony Romo is poised to have another fantastic season. Dallas could have easily won 12 games a season ago but late-game mistakes and poor luck cost them. We believe their luck will change in 2012."

13th - Foxsports, Peter Schrager (Jul. 19): "I really like the Cowboys this year, I just think they’re in the unfortunate position of playing in a division with two better teams. Both the Giants and Eagles are going to have big years, making Dallas the Andy Murray in the era of Federer-Djokovic-Nadal. The Cowboys could win as many as 10 games this year, but I don’t see them finishing ahead of New York or Philadelphia, and can’t see them edging out Detroit for the final wildcard spot."

14th -, Joe Zarbano (Jul. 26): "This is a make-or-break year for Tony Romo. The Cowboys QB must win at least one playoff game in 2012 or Dallas fans and owner Jerry Jones might call for a change. Romo’s contract is up in 2013, but he’s entering his eighth year with just one playoff victory in Dallas. Last year, the Cowboys were in the driver’s seat to win their division but lost their final two games against the Eagles and Giants. In their eight losses, Jason Garrett‘s Cowboys were outscored 83-45 in the fourth quarter. This team has the reputation of not being able to win the big game and excel under pressure. Rightfully so."

14th - CBSSports, Pete Prisco (Jul. 25): "They've made some good moves on defense. Now it's up to Rob Ryan to make it work."

14th - Pro Football Talk, Josh Alper (Jul. 25): "The Cowboys have the talent to make a fair amount of noise, but they are going to need to prove they can avoid the implosions and mistakes that have ruined them in the past."

14th - (May): "The Cowboys made a huge move by jumping up to get LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. But after that, they didn't get much."

15th -, Ryan Van Bibber (Jul. 24): "The Cowboys suffered from a secondary that was shredded at critical points in games last season. Injuries and a skill-set that didn't match Rob Ryan's defensive scheme were definite problems. The secondary has received a big upgrade in the 2012 offseason leaving the Cowboys with one major question - can the interior offensive line hold up? At most other positions, they have the quality to compete with the rest of the league."

16th - (May): This site measures the relative strength of all teams using team performance, home/away status, margin of victory and other factors. They don't provide commentary though.

19th - Chicago Tribune, Dan Pompei (Jul. 23): "They were a pretty good team for most of last season, but they did not play well late."

Here's how the NFC East fared in the preseason beauty contest:


Eagles Giants
5 16 6 23
13 9 3 27
14 7 1 25
Pro Football Talk
14 8 3 24
CBS Sports
14 8 1 27
WEEI 14 11 3 22
15 10 3 23
Team Rankings
16 6 2 26
Chicago Tribune
19 14 2 26
Average 13.8 9.9
2.7 24.8

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