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NFL power rankings: Cowboys come in at lucky 13

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Just checking in with what others think of the Cowboys.

Numerals Arrive At Times Square For 2013 New Years Eve Countdown Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

We know the deal on Power Rankings. No one takes them seriously, but we still tend to talk about them. They are more of a way to gauge what others think about your team. In this case, it’s ESPN’s crew of NFL writers. As generally happens with preseason rankings, they tend to follow a specific pattern as my colleague Michael Strawn noted: “it looks a lot like last year’s final standings.” Indeed.

Anyway, the twist in these rankings is for the writer covering each franchise to note one surprise player who may contribute this season. So we have the Cowboys ranking, plus a player of Todd Archer’s choosing. He chose wisely.

13. Dallas Cowboys

2017 record: 9-7

Post-draft ranking: 14

DT Antwaun Woods. He did not sign with the Cowboys until May 30, but he has worked his way up the depth chart to find himself as their starting nose tackle. He dropped 20 pounds after signing with the Cowboys and has the quickness Rod Marinelli wants in that spot. The Cowboys have had their eye on him for a while and tried to sign him off the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad last year. He might not start opening day, but he has impressed enough that he would have to be in the mix as part of the defensive line rotation. -- Todd Archer

First, we’ll talk about the ranking. There’s not much to argue with a ranking of 13th. The Cowboys have the potential to be a better team than last year, and most fans are optimistic that it will happen, but given how they finished the second-half of last year, there is reason for skepticism. Plus, the loss of a couple of high-profile veterans always shakes things up. This is where the value of Power Rankings are found, sometimes we as fans are so emotionally tied up with our team, and our hopes abound with every new season, it’s good to get a more objective view.

As for Antwaun Woods, he certainly has cemented himself as the shock player of camp. Not much was expected of the free agent, at best it was hoped he could make the roster, but he’s elevated himself to running with the 1s (even though injury/suspension are playing a role in that). Can he keep his momentum going? Saturday's game against Cincinnati, and the students of ex-Cowboys line coach Frank Pollack, will be his next opportunity.

As for our NFC East brethren, naturally Philadelphia ranks first in the rankings. Their surprise player is running back Wendell Smallwood. Washington ranks 19th with wide receiver Maurice Harris as the surprise player. Finally, the Giants rank 23rd and their surprise player is a veteran who might lose his job in linebacker Mark Herzlich.