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2021 NFL Week 1 power rankings: It is a prove-it year for the Dallas Cowboys

Where does America’s Team rank within the NFL?

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Houston Texans v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to football season.

We have finally made it through the wilderness that is the offseason and arrived at Week 1. The Dallas Cowboys will actually get the party started sooner than most as they will face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season opener on Thursday. Tampa will be playing for the first time since winning the Super Bowl last February in this very same stadium.

Needless to say, the Cowboys have quite the challenge on their hands in taking on the world champions. How they fare in this contest will dictate the way that they are perceived with football fans everywhere which is what brings us here today.

Every Tuesday throughout the regular season we will drop our power rankings for the National Football League here at BTB. We will also add rankings from across the internet as everything that found on it is factual and obviously correct.

Here are our Week 1 power rankings for the 2021 NFL season.

1 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

When you are atop the NFL mountain you are there until someone knocks you off. Dallas has a chance to do some knocking come Thursday night.

2 - Kansas City Chiefs

It is going to be fascinating to watch the Chiefs try to claw their way back after facing some legitimate adversity for the first time in the Patrick Mahomes era. If anyone can do it, it is certainly them.

3 - Buffalo Bills

I’m all in on Buffalo this year. They are winning the AFC. And of course as everybody knows, the last time that they did, the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl.

4 - Green Bay Packers

It sure seems like the Aaron Rodgers drama of the offseason is going to take a toll on this group, but for now there is no reason to doubt them. Sigh.

5 - Cleveland Browns

We have seen the Browns take more steps in each and every year of the Baker Mayfield era. There are legitimate expectations of them now. Will they reach them?

6 - Baltimore Ravens

It doesn’t matter to me what happened to their running back situation. Baltimore boasts one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers in Lamar Jackson. As long as they have him they are good.

7 - Los Angeles Rams

There is perhaps no team with more league-wide hype around them than the Los Angeles Rams. The trade for Matthew Stafford was yet another indication that they aren’t wasting any time. Will it prove to be the right choice?

8 - Tennessee Titans

The Titans have knocked on the door a few times now, but the time has come for them to break through it. They traded for Julio Jones this offseason, but offense hasn’t really been their issue as of late.

9 - Los Angeles Chargers

Both Los Angeles teams have a ton of fanfare entering the season and quarterback Justin Herbert is the primary reason for the Chargers hype. He figures to be even better in his second season, but this franchise is so cursed.

10 - Seattle Seahawks

It feels like people forget that the Seahawks won this division last year. I realize that their defense is suspect, but you can never count out Russell Wilson.

11 - San Francisco 49ers

This feels high for a team that didn’t have a lot to show for last season, but San Francisco lost the most games due to injury per Football Outsiders’ Adjusted-Games Lost metric (not counting games lost due to COVID-19). Things like that tend to regress to the mean or closely to it the following year. San Francisco should bounce back in 2021.

12 - Pittsburgh Steelers

This feels high honestly. Pittsburgh brought the band back for another season, with frontman Ben Roethlisberger leading the way, but this feels like a situation that is going to devolve as the season goes on.

13 - Dallas Cowboys

We all want to see it first. The Cowboys should win the NFC East easily, but they have a hard time doing things that they should do. We would all like to be proven wrong.

14 - Arizona Cardinals

It is hard to know what to make of the Cardinals in 2021, but they couldn’t beat a backup quarterback to earn a playoff spot in the last game that we saw from them.

15 - Washington Football Team

Are we really certain that Ryan Fitzpatrick - who has never quarterbacked a team to a playoff berth during his run across the league - is going to be the stabilizing force here?

16 - Miami Dolphins

It is difficult to find someone who really believes that Tua is the answer here. Until we have more evidence of that it feels fair to be skeptical of the Dolphins.

17 - New England Patriots

There is certainly a lot of intrigue surrounding the Patriots and rookie quarterback Mac Jones. Bill Belichick is not one to be doubted, but can they really bounce back?

18 - Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are a team that can be a real contender if they stay healthy and on track all season long. Obviously the likelihood of this is low for any NFL team, but there is potential there.

19 - Las Vegas Raiders

We are now entering year four of the reincarnated Jon Gruden Raiders and there is nothing to show for it in neither Oakland nor Las Vegas.

20 - New Orleans Saints

If Sean Payton turns Jameis Winston into a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL, well, that is going to be fun to watch. Michael Thomas being out for a while makes that likelihood all the more low, though.

21 - Atlanta Falcons

You can see things clicking for Atlanta, their offense being a force, and experiencing a honeymoon sort of period with a new head coach. That isn’t rare. But can it happen to a team that hardly experiences good things?

22 - Chicago Bears

During this week’s episode of Monday Football Monday on The SB Nation NFL Show (subscribe here if you are on an Apple device) I said that the Bears will be a wildcard team if Justin Fields starts at least 13 games.

If he doesn’t? Well. It won’t end nicely.

23 - Philadelphia Eagles

I’m actually higher on the Eagles than most people (it feels that way). This season is all about learning who Jalen Hurts is and if they find a franchise quarterback then that’s a huge win.

24 - Denver Broncos

This team is really good. But this quarterback situation is not.

25 - Carolina Panthers

Sam Darnold is going to save a team? In the NFL?

26 - Indianapolis Colts

Honestly this feels really generous. This team chose to bet on Carson Wentz knowing everything that we all do which is hardly the mark of a functional organization.

27 - New York Jets

Zach Wilson looks like he is going to be really good. The Jets seem like a team that is going to wind up with 7-8 wins but a few that are of serious quality. Sign me up for that (beat the Eagles, please).

28 - Cincinnati Bengals

If Joe Burrow is totally healthy then it is possible that they are somewhat nice, but this feels like a situation that could really use a head coach to get the most out of him.

29 - New York Giants

Over the course of the entire offseason I said that the only team in the NFC that I believed to be worse than them is the Detroit Lions.

30 - Detroit Lions

I am a man of my word.

31 - Jacksonville Jaguars

Perhaps Trevor Lawrence will elevate them, but there are just too many question marks to believe as the season begins.

32 - Houston Texans


Last updated on Tuesday, September 7th at 10:25am ET. 19th

Firmly in the second half of the league here.

Slowing down the Tom Brady-led Bucs attack will be a huge challenge, but Cowboys fans should be excited to see first-round pick Micah Parsons in a showcase game in front of Al, Cris, Michele and the world. Summer reports on Parsons have been positively glowing, and a big performance in the opener will get his Defensive Rookie of the Year candidacy off to a blazing start. Dallas desperately needs to develop a new star on that side of the ball. Parsons has all the tools to make it happen.


USA Today: 14th

Just inside the top half.

The spotlight has understandably been on rehabbing/enriched/newly injured QB Dak Prescott for months. But an offensive line that crumbled in 2020 is stumbling into Week 1 with All-Pro G Zack Martin having tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, and RT La’el Collins laboring to get back into the lineup.

Yahoo: 18th

Plenty of people want to see proof of concept from the Cowboys.

Guard Zack Martin is out for the opener due to COVID-19, and obviously that’s a big blow. It was already a tough opening-night test vs. Tampa Bay. The Cowboys dosn’t want to get out of the gates slowly this season, but they aren’t starting great.

CBS Sports: 14th

Right behind Washington.

Dak Prescott is back, the offensive line is healthy again and the defense has added some key players. This is the year Mike McCarthy has to get this team a division title.

Sports Illustrated: 16th

Needless to say most people think Week 1 is an opportunity for the Cowboys to prove themselves.

Dak is back, and if Prescott plays like he did before his injury last season that could be all it takes to push the Cowboys back to the top of the NFC East.

Sporting News: 14th

Right ahead of Washington

For now, there should be belief the Cowboys’ high-scoring offense will be fine with a healthy Dak Prescott. The defense added Dan Quinn and Micah Parsons, but that’s still a considerable weakness. This team will be inconsistent as usual but with Prescott giving it a big QB advantage in the NFC East, it should take an improved but still rather weak division.

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