Ranking The Cowboys

IRVING, TX - The Cowboys are not as good as you think they are -- assuming, that is, you think they're better than the New Orleans Saints.

That's the opinion of the Dallas Morning News' NFL writer, Rick Gosselin, who bravely engages in the weekly folly of attempting to rank the NFL teams, 1-through-32.

I really did almost literally spit up my Monday morning oatmeal this week as I considered Dallas' next two games against the contending Giants and the contending Saints and thought to myself, "the Cowboys might be favored to win both of those things.'' And the Cowboys did indeed open the week as 3.5-point favorites in Sunday's game, despite the fact that the rematch of the Cowboys' home loss to the Giants is at New York.

And then I called a handicapping buddy of mine, asking him to look ahead to Cowboys vs. Saints.

"If the Cowboys were to play the Saints right now, on a neutral field, Dallas would be favored by 3,'' he said.

Now, we don't know what might happen in New York this week, as the Cowboys attempt to all-but seal the deal in the NFC East. And we won't get to know about whether the 7-4 Cowboys are superior to the 7-4 Saints until next week, in a meeting so important that the league has flexed the matchup into Sunday night national-TV prime time.

But as we sit here entering the weekend, I'm searching for Cowboys flaws. And it's a damn short list, starting and maybe ending with the fact that new kicker Martin Gramatica needs a haircut.

So we ponder Gosselin's NFL rankings. ...

Up top are Indy, San Diego, Baltimore, New England and Chicago. I might argue that Dallas has done pretty much what all those clubs have done -- and that Dallas even has a rather dynamic victory against the top-ranked Colts. (If this was the college football rankings, that would thrust the Cowboys into the No. 1 spot!)

Anyway, ranked sixth are the New Orleans Saints. And finally, ranked seventh, are your Dallas Cowboys.

What's the logic?

Maybe Gosselin is attempting to appear unbiased, wanting to avoid being labeled a "homer.'' Or maybe we shouldn't take these rankings at all seriously. Does a sportswriter really have that much more insight than a subscriber of TheRanchReport.com who gets DirecTV's Sunday Ticket and maybe played a little more high school football himself than the average dweebie scribe?

Obviously, we get the best possible better answer come Dec. 10, when the Saints arrive at Texas Stadium. And of course, just as it would behoove Dallas to win its divisional game with the Giants, the Saints strengthen their argument by handling the visiting 49ers on Sunday.

But for now, I ask: How, exactly, are the Saints better than the Cowboys?

Both teams are 7-4, so that's not it. Dallas has scored 309 points to New Orleans' 276 (a 33-point Cowboys edge), so that's not it. Dallas' defense has allowed 198 to New Orleans' 241 (a 43-point Cowboys edge), so that's not it. Maybe Gosselin thinks the pupil, Sean Payton, will outsmart the teacher, Bill Parcells? No, that's not it.

There is not a tangible reason to think New Orleans is a better football team than Dallas.

And now, all the Cowboys need to do is spend the next month-plus proving it.

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