I’m not normally somebody who places a lot of emphasis on historical precedent. Just because a given team or player did something last year or the year before, I don’t necessarily expect a repeat. But sometimes a set of figures present themselves that are just too compelling to ignore.
One such set of numbers is the Cowboys’ record after 13 games. In four of the past six seasons, the Cowboys had an 8-5 record after 13 games. The only exceptions were in 2007 when the Cowboys cruised to a 12-1 record, and 2010 when they were bruised to a 4-9 record (and if you add those years up and divide by two, you're back at 8-5 again):
|Cowboys record after 13 games, by year|
I’ll be the first to say that these W/L records are likely nothing more than a fluke. But what if they aren’t? Are the Cowboys a perennial 8-5 team, always in contention until late in the season, but hit-and-miss when it comes to making that final push at the end of the year? Playoff contenders, just not much more than that?
After the break we look for more parallels to this year and take a close look at the upcoming schedule to figure out whether the Cowboys can win at least six of the next eight games, to once again stand at 8-5 after 13 games.
A closer look at the data of the past six season shows that there is a lot more variability in the teams’ record than the initial table at the top of this post suggests. Here are the W/L records split by 5-, 13- and 16 games:
|Cowboys record by year|
|After 5 games||3-2||3-2||5-0||4-1||3-2||1-4||2-3|
|After 13 games||8-5||8-5||12-1||8-5||8-5||4-9||- -|
|After 16 games||9-7||9-7||13-3||9-7||11-5||6-10||- -|
In each of the four years from 2005 to 2008, the Cowboys had a 1-2 record in their last three games. This mini-trend was broken in 2009, when the Cowboys went 3-0 in their final three games, and again in 2010 when they eked out a 2-1 record over the last three games. If you like working off historical precedent, this could bode well for the Cowboys down the stretch.
Unfortunately, every time the Cowboys were 8-5 or better in the last six years, they also had a winning record after the first five games. They didn’t in 2010 and they don’t this year. So can the ‘Boys go 6-2 (or better) over the next eight games to once again reach an 8-5 (or better) record? Let’s take a look at the mid-season stretch to figure out what the Cowboys’ chances of doing that are:
The Cowboys’ mid-season stretch
Here are the teams the Cowboys will face over the next eight games:
Over the next eight games the Cowboys face only three teams that currently have a winning record: the Bills, Redskins and Giants. Personally, I’m not at all convinced that any of the three teams are playing football anywhere near as good as their record indicates they are. However, of this trio, the Giants are always a challenge for the Cowboys, as are the Redskins, regardless of what their respective records are.
Overall, the Cowboys' next eight opponents combine for a .372 winning percentage. This Strength Of Schedule is the weakest any NFL team will face over the next eight games. Let me repeat: No other team will face a softer schedule over the next eight weeks than the Cowboys.
Additionally, five of the next eight games are at home, which should also work in the Cowboys’ favor. If Garrett's men can't get it done over the next eight weeks, then they don't deserve to be in the postseason anyway.
On paper, the Cowboys should easily be able to achieve at least a 6-2 record over the next eight games. But on paper, the Cowboys should also be a lot closer to 5-0 than to 2-3 this year, so that paper ain't worth a whole lot to start with.
Failing to go 6-2 will likely mean the end of any postseason dreams for the Cowboys faithful. Going 6-2 will keep the Cowboys in playoff contention, just as they have been for most of the last six years. Then it’s down to the last three games against Tampa Bay, the Giants and Philadelphia.
Do you think the Cowboys can go at least 6-2 over the next eight games?