It might seem too early to get into NFL power rankings, but the reality is most teams are done making any major moves once the NFL Draft is officially over. Some key free agents are still out there, but the majority of rosters will not change dramatically from here until September.
Thus, writers and editors from The Athletic put together their post-draft Power Rankings for the 2022 NFL season. Some Dallas Cowboys fans might be surprised to learn that the reigning NFC East champions are not included in the Top 10. When you add in the fact that Dallas finished the 2021 season ranked ninth in The Athletic‘s post-Super Bowl Power Rankings, it makes the Cowboys’ slight dip even more intriguing.
It’s hard to argue against the Top 4 teams in the rankings. You can pretty much make a case for any of them to be #1, but the Bills, Rams, Chiefs, and Buccaneers is a grouping that makes sense to kick things off.
Some surprising teams make the Top 10, though. The bottom four are made up of four non-division winners in 2021. That includes the San Francisco 49ers, that could very well end up starting QB Trey Lance in September, a QB we haven’t seen as a starter yet. Not full-time, at least.
But perhaps the most interesting part about the Cowboys’ snub from the Top 10 (they’re ranked 11th, for what it’s worth) is the fact that there are three AFC West teams in it.
For good reason. After all, these are teams led by high-caliber quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Russell Wilson. The Las Vegas Raiders are the only AFC West team not ranked in the Top 10, and they’re 13th.
And yet one could argue such a strong division should impact their place in the rankings. Power Rankings are not only about who’s purely the best of teams but about whose path to the Super Bowl is more realistic.
For instance, the Cowboys might get some resistance for the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. But they’re still the clear-cut favorite to win the division, setting them up for one home playoff game in January.
Meanwhile, the Chargers and Broncos, both revamped in free agency, are still likely to make it to the playoffs as Wild Card teams. Of course, provided the Chiefs offense doesn’t fall apart without Tyreek Hill, which seems unlikely with Mahomes and Andy Reid leading the way.
Based on strength of schedule, particularly within the division, the Cowboys are likely better positioned to do some damage in the playoffs. Although it’s way too early in the offseason, I’d nudge the Cowboys up towards #9 in the league and drop the Denver Broncos to 10th.
The Dallas Cowboys remain a tough team to figure out, though. The home loss to the 49ers in the playoffs was a tremendously underwhelming performance.
And yet, they were a 12-win team. They finished the season with a Top 3 defense in EPA/play and success rate. They took the ball away. And throughout the first half of the season, the Cowboys showed they could be an offensive powerhouse. They ran away with the division.
All of that means little when you put up 17 points and lose at home in the first round of the playoffs, but to say they have no shot would be groundless.
Featured image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports