Here's a rundown of 10 power rankings published heading into Week 1 and their take on where the Cowboys rank this year. A little further down you can see how that compares to the rest of the NFC East.
The Cowboys haven't played in a Super Bowl since 1995, but they believe they are close thanks to the way Dak Prescott burst onto the scene a year ago. Instead of struggling to find Tony Romo's heir, Prescott showed in 2016 he was ready to lead. Dallas will have to count on its offensive line if Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension is not reduced or erased on appeal. The Cowboys are hoping Prescott can do what Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson did in their second seasons: win a Lombardi Trophy.
The result of Ezekiel Elliott's appeal of a six-game ban could define their season, but so could the process. The young team has to heed Jason Garrett's advice and focus on what it can control.
It’s practically impossible to rank this team until the Ezekiel Elliott situation gets settled (as of Tuesday morning we were still waiting for the decision on his appeal). If we could be sure Elliott would miss six games, I’d probably knock them down three or four spots. But even if the suspension is upheld, a battle in court is likely.
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The Cowboys look poised to take a step back after last year's incredible season, but it might not be a large step back. Dak Prescott is set to improve his passing numbers in year two, but no Ezekiel Elliot will mean he has to carry the offense through the first six games of the year.
Defensively, the Cowboys allowed the fifth fewest points as a team last year, but look as though they will regress a bit. Several young players, like Taco Charlton and Byron Jones, will likely need to play big roles if Dallas is going to have as much success as last year.
This team could easily slip out of the top 10 by next week. While the Ezekiel Elliott saga hovers over the season, the defense is a major question mark.
The Cowboys would be a clear-cut NFC favorite if they had RB Ezekiel Elliott available for the entire season. But with Elliott suspended for six games, pending the outcome of his appeal, that front-runner status has been undercut. The early schedule is relatively demanding. And it only takes an extra loss or two to tilt the balance of power in the conference or even within the NFC East, which should be strong.
What really worries me about the Dallas Cowboys is the state of the defense. This is a group that was ranked 26th against the pass last year and lost Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Where are the cover corners now? Who's going to rush the passer? Dallas needs young guys like Taco Charlton to make major contributions, or else the defense is going to be a major liability.
The offense, on the other hand, has a chance to be special. We know about the offensive line and the running game. However, I believe quarterback Dak Prescott has evolved enough that when the run game isn't working, the offense won't struggle.
Prescott has grown to where he can take over a game from the pocket.
Offensive line is great, quarterback is great, running back is great (when he's not suspended), weapons are great … defense is bad. I don't see the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl with so many unknowns and mediocre talent starting on defense.
NFC East Power Rankings Summary
What do you think, Cowboys fans? Is No. 7 about right to open the season, and what do you think about where the rest of the NFC East is ranked?