How good or bad is each individual NFL team going to be in 2015?
Nobody really knows. But that's not going to stop a whole industry of Power Rankings suppliers from answering that question without so much as blinking an eye, and they can even put a number to it. The people regularly publishing NFL power rankings would like us to believe that they know exactly how good each team is going to be. So let's take our first look of the season at a collection of power rankings.
Here's a rundown of 10 power rankings published over the course of the preseason to date, and their take on where the Cowboys rank heading into the 2015 season. A little further down you can see how that compares to the rest of the NFC East.
CBSSports.com (Prisco): 4th: "Getting Dez Bryant's contract done was a big, important move. Now they have to show they can run it without DeMarco Murray."
Foxsports: 4th: "The Cowboys return all offensive starters besides DeMarco Murray. While his loss could set the offense back, the improvements made on defense will more than make up for it. Rookie DE Randy Gregory and second year DE DeMarcus Lawrence already look like the real deal, and Greg Hardy was one of the NFL’s most dominant ends before missing the 2014 season. The secondary is a question mark, however."
NFL.com: 5th: "Everyone is so worried about the running back position on this team. What about the defense? Sure, new addition Greg Hardy and rookie Randy Gregory could make this group much better, but they're not without red flags. Still, with Tony Romo at quarterback, that offensive line and the best wide receiver in the NFC ( Dez Bryant), Dallas is legit."
Associated Press: 6th: The AP polls some of its writers to come up with a ranking, but they don't provide a comment.
CBSSports.com (Kirwan): 7th: "The offensive line got most of the credit for the fantastic season DeMarco Murray had last year. Now we will find out if letting the running back go was a strategic error. So far I'm not convinced this is the same offense as last year and the defense needs a ball control offense to keep them off the field."
Newsday - 7th: "Curious to see how the Cowboys will replace all those yards DeMarco Murray took with him to Philly. But Tony Romo is still at the top of his game, and now is assured of having Dez Bryant long-term. Cowboys hope defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli can work his magic again."
[Note: There are no stats available for the 2015 season yet, so any stat-based projection of team strength for 2015 must be based on data from last year, and that can be a very shady undertaking.]
Teamrankings.com: 5th. This site measures the relative strength of all teams using team performance, home/away status, margin of victory and other factors.
ESPN Power Index: 6th: This ranking is based on Expected Points Added and incorporates all sorts of additional stuff you can read up on here.
NumberFire: 7th. 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. At this point in time, the Cowboys would be expected to win by 3.0 points to such a league-average team.
Oddsshark: 7th. Oddsshark use a multitude of stats from the last 10 games of 2014 to establish an offensive and defensive power ranking, which they then adjust for the strength of schedule.
The table below summarizes the power rankings for the four NFC East teams.
Overall, that's a remarkably uniform picture across the entire NFC East, with the Cowboys in the top spot. Where would you rank the Cowboys as they head into the 2014 season?