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"It's Not How You Start, It's How You Finish," Said The Kool Aid Drinker

A little over a month ago we looked at which NFL teams got lucky in 2010 and which didn't. Using the Pythagorean Formula, which looks at points scored and points allowed to calculate team strength, we concluded that the Cowboys had been slightly unlucky.

Sure enough, seven Cowboys games were decided by 3 points or less, with six of those coming in the last six games of the season. The Cowboys finished 3-4 in those close games. But in the greater scheme of things, while slightly unlucky, we concluded that that didn't matter all that much.

A look at our division rivals on the other hand showed that they did have luck on their side, the Redskins (barely), Eagles and Giants all came out ahead of their Pythagorean projections.

Today, I realized that last month's post had a fatal flaw: I had bunched together all 16 Cowboys regular season games and didn't adjust for the coaching change. If the old truism holds that "it's not how you start but how you finish", then the last eight games of the regular season could give a glimpse of what to expect in 2011 - from the Cowboys and the other teams in the NFC East.

Granted, it's a little early to go making W/L record predictions when we still have a lockout going on, but it's not like there's breaking news that would keep us occupied the whole day. So here's where we use the Pythagorean Formula to project the 2011 W/L records for the NFC East based on the last eight regular season games of each team.
Team 2010* W/L 2010* Points
2010* Points
2011 Projected
Eagles 5-3 241 196 9.9
Cowboys 5-3 233 204 9.3
Giants 4-4 178 187 7.5
Redskins 2-6 147 207 4.9
* Last eight regular season games

Of course, if we were to include the Eagles 21-16 playoff loss and take away their 59-28 win against the Redskins in week 10, the Eagles would drop to 8.4 projected wins in 2011.

Overall though, the Formula does not paint a flattering picture for the East, and it has nothing to do with the formula. As a whole, the East did not have a great year in 2010, and had a particularly poor showing down the stretch. Obviously, the formula doesn't take into account the draft, free agency, coaching changes and many other things. But those are all areas in which our opponents have not sat still either. If it is really true that "it's not how you start but how you finish" then every single NFC East team will struggle more in 2011 than their respective fanbases expect. Except perhaps the Redskins.

It boggles the mind for such a storied and highly touted division, but only one team from the East has won a playoff game since 2009. The Cowboys.

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