Tony Romo, Orlando Scandrick, Dez Bryant, La’el Collins, Tyron Smith.
No, I am not naming the Cowboys favorites for this years Pro Bowl, I am naming key players which have missed either all of 2016, or a significant portion of it.
Despite these injuries to key components of the team, the Cowboys have won 5 straight games en route to a 5-1 start. The last time they started 5-1, they won the NFC East and were arguably a call away from the NFC Championship Game.
After dominating quality opponents over their last two games, those outside of Valley Ranch are starting to take notice of how good the Cowboys really are.
Both ESPN.com and NFL.com ranked the Cowboys in the top 4 of the league in their latest power rankings, while Pro Football Focus had the Cowboys as high as number two, behind only the 5-1 New England Patriots.
ESPN.com ranked the Cowboys 4th, behind two other NFC teams in the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and one AFC team in the Patriots. NFL.com ranked the Cowboys 3rd, behind the Vikings and Patriots.
Pro Football Focus goes a little more in-depth with their rankings, individually ranking each team’s offensive and defensive units as well. According to PFF, the Cowboys have the 2nd best offensive and 16th best defense in the league. Considering what we thought of this defense in August, 16th is a pretty big improvement, as they have been playing way above their heads through six games.
The rest of the NFC East is earning some love as well. ESPN ranked every NFC East team in the top 15, with Washington even making into the top 10 after 4 straight victories since their loss to the Cowboys.
Clearly, the NFC East is much improved from it’s incredible mediocrity last year, where just one team finished with a winning record. While 9-7 has been good enough to win the division over the last 5 years, 2016 may be different as the Cowboys and Redskins could both realistically challenge for 11 or 12 wins.
The whole division may have improved enough to garner respect from the National media, but no team has risen like the Cowboys have. Going into the season opener, the Cowboys were ranked 23rd by ESPN.com. Now sitting at 4, they have jumped higher than any other team in the league has.
There are still ten games left in this young season for these even younger Cowboys. But with reinforcements coming after such a great start, it is hard to imagine the Cowboys falling out of the top 10 of the power rankings for the rest of year. If they were to fall out of the top 10, or even miss the playoffs, it would quite possibly be the biggest collapse in Cowboys history. And no, I don’t even think that is a hot-take. 5 wins 6 weeks into the season should result in a playoff birth every single time.
This is all pretty amazing considering how low expectations were around this team going into the season. All I can say is Let’s Go Cowboys, as they continue down this road to Super Bowl 51.