Peter King over at MMQB has ranked his teams from 16 down to 1 in his power rankings. We will touch on what he says about the Cowboys, and Raiders.
7. Dallas Cowboys
Additions: Pass-rusher Taco Charlton came from Michigan in round one … Two prayers were added on the OL: T Byron Bell (Carolina), G Jonathan Cooper (everywhere) … Ironman Brandon Carr will eventually be replaced at CB by second-rounder Chidobe Awuzie.
Subtractions: Tony Romo retired, of course, leaving a depth chart very light on quarterback experience … Two losses on the vaunted offensive line: T Doug Free (retirement) and G Ronald Leary … Backup TE Gavin Escobar never became the heir to Jason Witten. Now he’s a Chief.
Key front office/coaching moves: None of note.
Decisive schedule span: The last quarter of the season, three away. At Giants, at Raiders, Seattle at home, at Eagles. The Cowboys could need a cushion after 12 games entering that season-ending stretch.
Why I have the Cowboys seventh: I don’t believe in the sophomore slump. If Dak Prescott fails, it will be because some cracks are starting to show in the offensive line, or because of an injury to a big skill player like Dez Bryant or Ezekiel Elliott. But Prescott has the mental approach to not sit back and think it’ll be the same in 2017 as it just was. And the things he did last year, you can do for a game or two or three, but not for a season … unless you’re legit. He completion percentage (67.8) was two percentage points better than Aaron Rodgers. His four picks in a season: 11 fewer than Drew Brees, nine fewer than Andrew Luck. You think of Prescott as a dink-and-dunker? His 7.99 yards-per-attempt was half a yard better than Ben Roethlisberger. I think it’s not Prescott I’m worried about. It’s the rest of the team.
Most important factor to this team this year: Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has consistently made good players better, and this year he’ll have some better molding clay to make a pass rush: Carlton, former second-round pick Demarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford. Randy Gregory, the boom or bust pass-rusher draft in 2015, went bust. The Cowboys will adjust well.
Cowboys prediction in 10 words or less: Dak Prescott will be a factor in the MVP race.
And now the Raiders, who King clearly likes as the only team that could realistically challenge New England.
2. Oakland Raiders
Additions: CB Gareon Conley, assuming the sexual-assault investigation does not detour his season, is a crucial piece of the Raiders from day one … TE Jared Cook moved from Green Bay … RB Marshawn Lynch will have a chance to be the every-down back, coming out of retirement to play for his hometown team … Rookie safety Obi Melifonwu is a classic Raiders pick, an unusually tall (6’4”) and physical player who will be a wild card in the secondary.
Subtractions: RB Latavious Murray moved to Minnesota in free agency … The Niners signed former Super Bowl MVP LB Malcolm Smith … CB DJ Hayden signed with Detroit.
Key front office/coaching moves: Offensive coordinator Todd Downing, the former quarterbacks coach who has good rapport with Derek Carr, replaces Bill Musgrave.
Decisive schedule span: The final five weeks: Giants at home, at Kansas City, Dallas at home, at Philly, at the Chargers. That’s a no-gimme home stretch for any team.
Why I have the Raiders second: This is where I believe they could have been last year if Derek Carr didn’t break his leg on Christmas Eve against the Colts. The pieces are in place for a good playoff run for the Raiders, and a shot at knocking off the Patriots for AFC supremacy. Lynch brings his mercurial presence and a unique determination to the Bay Area for what could be his final season of pro football. I say unique because it means more to Lynch, for some reason, than it means to an average player returning to his hometown. Someone who knows him told me last month: “Oakland is in him—he’s just always wanted to be a Raider. It’s like a guy going back to high school. Glory days.” But will he be healthy enough to be classic Marshawn? That’s the test. On defense, GM Reggie McKenzie bet a lot on his first- and second-round picks. Conley and Melifonwu will have a chance to play early.
Most important factor to this team this year: The secondary’s growth. The Raiders allowed 27 touchdown passes last year, and in a season with Tom Brady on the schedule (maybe twice, if I’m right), that unit has to be better.
Raiders prediction in 10 words or less: Marshawn’s not what he was, but he’ll rush for 1,000.
He ranked the Steelers 5th, and the Tennessee Titans 4th, so that’s pretty interesting as well.