Dallas Cowboys Surprise Atop Early 2017 NFL Power Rankings

Despite their Super Bowl victory, the New England Patriots have been supplanted atop the early 2017 NFL Power Rankings by the Dallas Cowboys.

The New England Patriots were the best team in the NFL for the 2016 season. Besides the four-game layoff for Tom Brady to start the season, most fans expected them to be in the mix when the season began. To begin last year, New England was power ranked very highly. What about for 2017?

Do the champs retain the top spot in early 2017 NFL Power Rankings, or has another team taken the No. 1 spot? Youth and a higher ceiling make the Dallas Cowboys our top team entering 2017.

Two brothers from New York, Dan Salem and Todd Salem, discuss the Dallas Cowboys in today’s NFL Sports Debate.

Todd Salem:

Do you rank the Patriots as the best team in the NFL heading into next season? Brady and Bill Belichick will both be back. Those individuals alone make the team the favorite to win the AFC East again. Rob Gronkowski will be back, but his health is a question from now on until he retires. One would also expect the team to add something very valuable in a trade involving Jimmy Garoppolo. Indications are he may be moved to Cleveland for the 12th overall pick if the Browns are interested.

Of course, the team also has a number of very important free agents to either re-sign or replace. Dont’a Hightower and cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan highlight the holes to fill. Offensive pieces Martellus Bennett and LeGarrette Blount are also free agents. That is an awful lot of production to replace on both sides of the ball.

The main contenders to the Patriots for best team entering 2017 are teams who were in the late running this year. The Oakland Raiders will be getting Derek Carr back. Dallas and Atlanta had prolific offenses that should be back again next season. Green Bay and Seattle have an offseason to improve their defensive and offensive lines respectively.

Do you like any of these franchises, or someone else, better than New England?

With uncanny roster turnover possible from some of their biggest contributors, I am hesitant to place New England number one. I am going to go with the Dallas Cowboys. Their offense should be special. On defense, they get last year’s second-round pick, Jaylon Smith, healthy and can add a pass rusher to the mix. Also, they could get their own haul for a backup quarterback a la New England if/when they trade Tony Romo. The only issue will be how the secondary looks with so many pending free agents on that unit.

Dan Salem:

Dan Parzych at NFL Spin Zone dubbed the Patriots as favorites in his 2017 NFL Power Rankings. But like you, I must respectfully disagree. While New England returns a large chunk of what made them a championship team this past season, they have too many holes to fill and lots of old age to combat with. They are still in the top five, but not my No. 1 team for 2017.

My initial gut reaction was to name the Dallas Cowboys as the number one team entering 2017. Then I remembered how vulnerable they are to a defensive regression and I began to second guess myself. If they trade Tony Romo, can they truly survive without a solid backup quarterback? Will Ezekiel Elliott be able to maintain his stellar production of his rookie season? Who will shine at wide receiver for Dallas? Can the defense truly dominate the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson?

It’s truly hard to answer any of those questions with much confidence right now, but the Cowboys in fact appear as the most complete football team. They are the No. 1 team in my early 2017 Power Rankings.

The Oakland Raiders have too much to prove before they can be our No. 1 team. All I got from them last season was the knowledge that they were one injury away from mediocre. The Falcons have a very strong case as our top team, but so much turnover in the coaching staff makes me take pause. Plus their defense is still a weak link, so I can’t put Atlanta at the top. Green Bay also has questions on defense and at running back. Pittsburgh feels old and has yet to lock up its star running back. Only New England and Dallas feel complete, but youth wins.

The Cowboys will either get a haul for Romo, or have the best backup quarterback in the NFL. Dallas is very young at a few key positions, while the Patriots feel old at those very same positions. Its unlikely that New England can actually get better, but we don’t yet know what the Cowboys’ ceiling is. They offer the most and sit at No. 1 entering 2017.

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