The Cowboys are in the playoffs and will face the Lions on Sunday. While some of the faithful always thought that this would be possible, most observers did not. The table below summarizes the power rankings heading into Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season.
|Wk 1||Wk 1||Wk 1||Wk 1|
Amid concerns about the defense (Foxsports: "Unfortunately, there has been no reason to believe that the defense won’t finish dead last.", ESPN: "Dallas could have the worst defense in history."), many saw the Cowboys as an also-ran, with only the offense providing any hope (NFL: "Tony Romo the only thing that will keep the Cowboys from finishing 3-13.").
How times have changed in 17 short weeks.
Today the Cowboys are five days from their first playoff game since 2009, are a consensus Top 5 team in the power rankings, and finished the season 8-0 on the road, something only five other teams have managed since 1978.
Not bad for a team some eager beavers predicted would be a dumpster fire this season.
Final regular season Rankings (previous rankings in parenthesis)
SB Nation: 3rd (3rd): "The Cowboys stick with the No. 3 spot after a blowout victory against Washington. The win marked Dallas' fourth victory in a row, a streak in which it outscored opponents 165-79. Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and Dez Bryant look like an unstoppable triumvirate -- Romo led the NFL in passer rating (113.2), completion percentage (69.9), and yards per attempt (8.5) this year despite fracturing bones in his back, Murray broke Emmitt Smith's franchise record for rushing yards in a season (1,845), and Bryant caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns in the second-lowest-volume passing offense in the NFL. Good luck stopping all three of these guys in the postseason. The No. 3 seed and lack of home field advantage throughout probably doesn't faze Dallas either, as it finished 8-0 on the road this year."
Washington Post: 3rd (4th): "Their 8-0 road record during the regular season makes them probably the top threat to the Seahawks in the NFC. The Cowboys won in Seattle in October. But to do it again, they have to get there first. That means getting started by winning this weekend at home, where they were only 4-4 during the regular season, against the Lions. QB Tony Romo has had a superb season to elevate himself into the MVP conversation. But he has one career playoff victory, something of which he will be reminded often until he goes out and does something about it."
Bleacher Report: 4th (4th): "The biggest overachievers of the season (based on where they were ranked before Week 1), the Dallas Cowboys took home the NFC East and will host a home playoff game. The Cowboys are in good shape for a deep playoff run. Is this the best chance for a Super Bowl in the Tony Romo era?"
Newsday: 4th (4th): "The surprise team of the 2014 season finishes things off in style with a resounding win at Washington. The only team in the tournament to beat the Seahawks on the road this season."
Shutdown Corner: 4th (4th): "Tony Romo in December: 12 touchdowns, one interception, 133.7 rating. None of that will matter the moment the Cowboys lose and the Internet explodes, but it's worth keeping in mind when the overreaction hits."
NFL.com: 4th (4th): "Yes, in the MVP race, Tony Romo will have to take a back seat to Aaron Rodgers -- but not to many others, and definitely not to anyone else on his own team. (Sorry, DeMarco.) Romo fell one completion shy of eclipsing 70 percent on the season. And did I mention that he led the NFL in QB rating and yards per attempt?"
SI.com (Peter King): 4th (5th): "Stat du jour from ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss: Dallas finished an 8-0 road season Sunday with the win at Washington. Seven NFL teams since the 1970 merger between the AFL and NFL have had perfect regular-season road records. Six of them advanced to the Super Bowl."
CBSSports (Kirwan): 5h (5th): "The red-hot Cowboys have averaged 41 points over the past four weeks. The defense is average but plays well as a unit. If they can stay out of their own way, the Cowboys should reach the NFC Championship game."
USA Today: 5th (5th): "The last time they tried to "defend" Lions WR Calvin Johnson, Megatron exploded for 14 catches and 329 receiving yards."
ESPN: 5th (4th): "Emmitt Smith has rushed for more yards than anyone else in NFL history, but thanks to DeMarco Murray, he is no longer the Cowboys' single-season rushing leader."
Bleeding Green Nation: 5th (6th): "The Cowboys always choke in December, but not this year. Dallas finished with a very impressive 8-0 record. The Cowboys also finished with the easiest schedule in the NFL this season, at least according to strength of schedule."
Massey-Peabody: 4th (5th). These guys generate their predictions by working up from play-by-play data to calculate a performance figure for rushing, passing, scoring and play success.
Teamrankings.com: 5th (5th). This site measures the relative strength of all teams using team performance, home/away status, margin of victory and other factors.
Aikman Efficiency Ratings: 5th (6th): This metric combines seven stats into one number: yards per rush, yards per pass play, turnovers per game, first downs per game, third-down percentage, points per game (unit on field) and points per red zone possession.
Football Outsiders: 6th (6th). FO have the Cowboys with the 4th-ranked offense, the 22nd-ranked defense and the 13th-ranked special teams.
OverTheCap.com: 6th (7th). OTC use a combination of offensive and defensive efficiency to calculate projected wins.
Numberfire: 6th (8th). These rankings are based on expected point differential against a league average team. If the team's rating is 10, they would be expected to win by 10 points against a league-average opponent.
Sagarin NFL rankings: 7th (6th). These are rankings based on W/L record, points differential and schedule strength.
Oddsshark: 7th (7th). Oddsshark use a multitude of stats to establish an offensive and defensive power ranking, which they then adjust for the strength of schedule.
ColdHardFootballFacts: 7th (8th). This indicator ranks teams based on their average ranking across a range of CHFF's Quality Stats.
The table below summarizes the power rankings for five NFC playoff participants with winning records as well as one former contender. As usual, we'll update the missing rankings as they become available, though not every source may publish a ranking after week 17.
|M-live||- -||1||- -||3||- -||4||- -||6||- -||13||- -||11|
|Foxsports||- -||1||- -||3||- -||4||- -||6||- -||10||- -||12|
|Cold Hard Football Facts||1||1||3||4||7||8||11||7||23||19||15||16|
|Whatifsports||- -||2||- -||3||- -||6||- -||5||- -||19||- -||15|