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Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Power Rankings: Cowboys open at No. 14

By Dan Graziano

Our first regular-season edition of the 2012 NFL Power Rankings has arrived, and with it our weekly in-season chance to debate, ridicule and hurl horrible personal insults at people for daring to disagree with us about sports. Aw yeah. Football season is upon us.

You'll see that while our panel is in complete agreement on almost absolutely nothing. We have three different teams ranked No. 1, and the rankings on those teams range from 1 to 6. The plain fact is that we don't know anything yet about who's going to be good this year and who isn't, and these can be nothing more than educated guesses. Good thing we're all educated.

Here's my take on where the NFC East teams rank in this week's edition.

3. New  York Giants: I ranked them No. 2. I put them behind the Packers, because I think the Packers are loaded and probably angry about the way their season ended, and I expect them to be a terror. Their strengths and weaknesses are similar to those of the Giants, and I think their defense will play better this year. I ranked the Giants (and three other NFC teams) ahead of the Patriots, mainly because I think the AFC is the much weaker conference right now and I don't see any reason to expect New England's defense to play better this year. Ashley Fox ranked the Giants No. 1, presumably because they are defending champs and she believes they should start at the top. John Clayton ranked them No. 6, presumably because they were 9-7 last year and still have a lot of the same holes in spite of the incredibly impressive way they finished the season. Hard to really argue with either of those opinions. Mine is that the Giants will be one of the top teams.

7. Philadelphia Eagles. Again, I'm higher on the Eagles than most of the rest of the panel. I ranked them No. 3, as did Clayton. My concern about the Eagles is whether Michael Vick can stay healthy all year. If he can, I think they're a Super Bowl contender. And since he's healthy at this moment, I ranked them accordingly. Ashley has doubts about the defense, and DeMeco Ryans in particular, and she has the Eagles ranked ninth, lower than any of the rest of us do. I expect Ryans to play great, but I understand the reasons for trepidation.

14. Dallas Cowboys. I put them 15th, which is somewhat commensurate with the 8-8 record I forecast for them in last week's predictions. Jamison Hensley ranked them seventh, which is actually kind of low considering he picked them to win the Super Bowl. Mike Sando has them 17th, which is the lowest of any of us. I think, if the defense takes a big jump forward and Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and all of the receivers stay healthy, they have a chance to move up into elite territory. I just don't think this is the year they do it.

24. Washington Redskins. You know by now that I'm higher on the Redskins than most everyone else is this year, and I ranked them 19th, which is the highest ranking they got in this week's poll. I think people are underestimating how tough their defensive front seven is going to be, and I think it's going to be good enough to mask the issues they'll have in the secondary. Everyone else had them in the 23-26 range, so the overall ranking is where it is. But I think they have enough to play better than teams like the Titans, Jets and Seahawks, even with a rookie quarterback.

So that's the first-week rundown on the Power Rankings. I welcome your thoughts, as always.