The Dallas Cowboys were kings of the NFC East last season and the #1 seed in the 2016 NFC playoffs. As such, they spent quite a few weeks ranked #1 or #2 in power ranking polls, usually switching off with the New England Patriots. Of course, while the Patriots went on to glory, the Cowboys flamed out in their first playoff game.
Fast forward a couple of months into the offseason, and a few weeks past the opening of free agency, and power rankings are starting to show up again. Obviously they mean absolutely nothing, but they can be a fun diversion, especially as the offseason slows until closer to the draft.
So where do the Cowboys place in the recent power rankings?
2016 record: 13-3
Post-Super Bowl ranking: No. 3
While we sit and wait for possible Tony Romo movement, a lot of other former Cowboys have already landed elsewhere. The Cowboys did sign CB Nolan Carroll II but will have to replace a bulk of their secondary after the departures of Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church.
Jerry Jones is going all-in on Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, and he better be right. Dallas lost a lot this offseason, starting with their dominant offensive line saying goodbye to Ronald Leary and Doug Free. Then add in the loss of defensive captain Barry Church. The Cowboys caught the NFL by surprise early in 2016, and that will not be the case in 2017. Plus their schedule will get significantly harder. The Cowboys finished 2016 with a 13-3 record, don't expect that to happen again.
That analysis feels a bit on the negative side. The same rankings have the Giants at #4, Washington at #13, and the Eagles at #19. This isn’t the only time recently that the Giants have been placed above the Cowboys.
Welp. We should find out just how good Dak Prescott is this year, as the offensive line in front of him took a few hits. Ronald Leary's departure was expected. Doug Free retiring? From what I've heard on Dallas radio, Cowboys players have tried to convince him not to. The perception among many is that these 'Boys are the favorites in the NFC. If Prescott performs well under intense pressure -- something he rarely had to do in 2016 -- maybe. He also might have to put up a few more points per game, as Dallas lost multiple starters on defense to the free-agent marketplace. By my count, the Joneses must come up with contingency plans for a LG, RT, QB2, DE, DT and S. La'el Collins will fill in at LG, but O-line depth is more of an issue. Same deal at safety, where Byron Jones returns, but the 'Boys lost Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox. This breadth of defections -- large and small -- is why the Giants leapfrogged Dallas. That, and a 2-0 record against the Cowboys last year.
This again has the smell of beat writers who think the Cowboys lost everything when free agency happened. They didn’t bother to notice the Cowboys either signed some help, or they have some players in-house that could help mitigate some of what they lost. I guess it’s a testament to how good everybody thinks the Cowboys are that they are rated in the Top 10 even though everyone thinks their offseason has been a catastrophe.
In this poll, the Giants are #5, Washington is #15 and the Eagles are #19. Once again, the Giants have jumped the Cowboys.
The losses on the offensive line will be key, but the bigger issue remains the pass rush. They suffered some hits on the defensive line and in the secondary and still have to decide what to do with Tony Romo.
The Giants are 7th, Washington is 19th and the Eagles are 25th.
Some quick takeaways from these national rankings.
—- Everyone is on the “Dallas lost everything in free agency” train. Look, there is no doubt that there are a few players the Cowboys wanted to keep, but outside of Barry Church and possibly one of the cornerbacks, the other losses were mostly expected or not a big deal. Doug Free retiring was unexpected, but the Cowboys have already taken steps to fix that. How the Cowboys defensive players went from “they are holding the team back, Dallas needs to upgrade,” to “oh my goodness how could Dallas let those defensive players walk” is one of the mysteries of the offseason. Stephen Jones even said it plain in this morning’s news post.
“We are not going to get any better on defense if we just keep paying the guys we got,” Jones said. “What we have to do better on defense is we have to get pressure on the passer. And we have to make plays on the ball. We have to do that better.
“Obviously we haven’t been doing that with the guys we got. So how do you get better if you keep paying the guys you got who aren’t making plays on the ball a lot of money?”
—- The Giants are now seen as the favorite in many of these rankings, and in a few articles written on the subject. Granted, they have made some moves in free agency, and last year their moves in free agency did work out. But I’m not ready to just hand them the crown yet.
What about you BTB? Where do the Cowboys rank in the power rankings, and have the Giants surpassed the team on paper? Hit the comments and let’s hear what you think.