Power Rankings can be a little bit frivolous at times, but that doesn’t stop many of us from checking them out. On any given week, we can’t help but take an interest where are our beloved Cowboys are ranked. My good friend RJ Ochoa recently took a look at NFL.com’s power rankings for the 2016 season and examined if the Cowboys were treated fairly in those rankings. Here is a week-by-week layout of where the Cowboys finished.
Post-Draft Rank: 16th
Early on it was tough for people to determine where the Cowboys should be ranked. Following a 4-12 season, many weren’t sure how much the absence of Tony Romo had in determining how good of a football team the Cowboys were. Romo was now healthy, but that didn’t seem to matter much. The memory of the 2014 had suddenly faded and now many NFL pundits had Dallas in the middle of the pack.
Drafting Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon Smith didn’t do much in elevating the team’s forecast of success. The Cowboys needed defensive help and their top defensive draft pick wouldn’t see the field in 2016, if ever at all. While Zeke was a great college running back, the whole “anyone can run behind this line” made a lot of people feel like he was a wasted resource. And the selection of Dak Prescott meant very little to a lot of the prognosticators at this point. Little did they know.
Personally, the Cowboys got a raw deal with this one.
Preseason Rank: 18th
The Cowboys dropped a couple spots during the preseason, but it could have been a lot worse considering Romo got hurt on the first series of his debut against the Seattle Seahawks. Some people were throwing their season hopes in the trash already. But some were not. Fortunately for the Cowboys, Prescott had seen a good dose of action in the preseason and he looked impressive. Of all the devastating moments where Romo went down to injury, this was one of the least somber moments I could remember. It wasn’t a good time, but Prescott gave us hope.
Week 2 Rank: 19th
The Cowboys would lose their season opener to the New York Giants and many questions were raised. The team’s new running back sensation was held to just 51 yards. Prescott would throw for only 227 yards with no touchdown passes. Even more alarming was the 45 pass attempts he made which left many of us wondering what happened to the team’s run-dominance identity. It was a less than impressive debut for “Prelliott” and the Cowboys would hit their lowest point in the power rankings heading into week two.
SPOILER ALERT: Wipe those tears quickly because they wouldn’t last long. The Cowboys would win the next 11 games.
Week 4 Rank: 9th
The Cowboys would make their first trip inside the top 10 of the power rankings and they would never leave. Fresh off of winning two-straight games, Zeke would run for 140 yards on route to a 31-17 win over the Chicago Bears. Now sitting at 2-1, fans would get a taste of what the future of the Cowboys offense would look like and they were eating it up.
Week 7 Rank: 3rd
After beating the Green Bay Packers in convincing fashion at Lambeau Field, the league finally took notice. Elliott had now run off four straight games of rushing for at least 130 yards, including a 157 yard effort against the leagues supposed top-ranked run defense. While Zeke was imposing his will on defenders, it was the impressive play of Prescott that made people believe. Dak would break Tom Brady’s record of 162 straight passes to start his career without throwing an interception.
This was the ah-ah moment for me when it came to Prescott. The poise he showed after finally throwing his first career pick was remarkable. He was making all the right decisions. There was no Dez Bryant in this game, but it didn’t stop Dak from hitting Cole Beasley twice for touchdowns. And he placed the ball perfectly on a Brice Butler touchdown pass that capped off a 97-yard drive that took about 30 seconds. Was the franchise quarterback torch being passed right before our eyes?
Week 9 Rank: 2nd
After beating the Philadelphia Eagles in overtime in week eight, the magic was still alive. It was enough to move Dallas into the second slot in the rankings, trailing only the New England Patriots. The only questions people had were when would the Cowboys finally lose another game and when would Romo return. The answer to both those questions were - not any time soon. The Cowboys were rolling.
Week 11 Rank: 1st
After the exhilarating back-and-forth game on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers, all the Cowboys doubters fizzled away. And with it was any chance of Tony Romo regaining his job as the Cowboys starting quarterback. Two days after the Steelers game, Romo would make his speech removing any remaining doubt who would be leading this team down the stretch. It was the saddest I have ever felt coming off watching the Cowboy win eight straight games.
Week 15 Rank: 2nd
After 14 weeks of football, the Cowboys had beaten every single team they had faced...except the New York Giants. For the second time in as many matchups, the Giants would have the Cowboys number. The 11-game winning streak would finally come to an end. Prescott would now have three-straight games where he threw less than 200 yards, including a two-pick game against the Giants. For the first time all season, there was a small amount of doubt raised when it came to Prescott. And Elliott has slowed down a bit as well leaving many people to run with a narrative that the Cowboys young stars had hit a “rookie wall.”
The Cowboys would hold on to the second spot for the rest of their season.
It took a while for the rankings to acknowledge just how good the Cowboys were, but once they did - they stayed near the top. Do you agree with these rankings? Can you remember a turning point in the season where you genuinely believed that the Cowboys were one of the top teams in the league?