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Dallas Cowboys Season Projection: My Crystal Ball Ain't So Crystal Clear

Is two weeks too early to try to figure out what type of a team the Cowboys are? Of course it is. But that won't stop us from trying. And we're going to use some middle school math along the way.

High and tight, DeMarco, high and tight.
High and tight, DeMarco, high and tight.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Every year since 2010 I await the conclusion of Week 2 with a great deal of excitement and trepidation at the same time. Why? Because that's when we run our first season projection for the Cowboys here on Blogging The Boys.

Last year, just like this year, the Cowboys started the season 1-1, and scored only 31 points while allowing 44. This year, the Cowboys scored more points (52) but also allowed more points (48) than they did last year. Going by these numbers only, the Cowboys look a little better than they did last year. Does this mean that they will have a better record at the end of the season than last year's 8-8, perhaps even get into the playoffs?

Let's crunch some numbers to get a better feel for where the Cowboys currently stand.

For our crystal ball, we'll use the Pythagorean Formula. We've used the formula before (for more details, go here) so I'll be very brief: The formula was developed to measure overall team strength, on the hypothesis that a team's true strength could be measured more accurately by looking at points scored and points allowed, rather than by looking at wins and losses. This is the NFL version of the formula:

Points Scored2.37
Points Scored2.37 + Points Allowed2.37

With the formula, we can take a stab at projecting how many wins we can expect for each NFL team based on the results of the first two games. Of course, the formula was initially developed for baseball, where a season consists of 162 games, so using the formula after only two games does not meet any requirement for statistical validity, but bear with me, it could be fun.

The point here is that barring significant changes in a team's performance, the formula can be a good early predictor of what a team's eventual record could be. This is the fourth year that we're running this projection for the Cowboys (follow these links for the three previous articles: 2012, 2011, 2010), and it has been a fairly accurate indicator for the Cowboys overall.

Pythagorean Projection after two games
Cowboys 2009 2010 2011 2012
Projected wins 9.7 4.5 8 5.3
Actual wins 11 6 8 8

The formula projected the final regular season record to within 1.5 games from 2009-2011, and trended a little stronger towards the negative side in 2012. But the Cowboys did start off 2012 with a 3-5 record before finishing the season 5-3, so the formula was a good indicator of the early form of the team last season.

As you read on, keep in mind that the Pythagorean Projection is not a prediction, it is merely a projection based on the currently available data. As the data changes, so will the projection, and the more data points the model gets, the more robust the projection will be. Also, because the formula doesn't correct for strength of opponent, teams that have had lopsided wins over inferior competition in the first two weeks may find themselves with a favorable projection that they won't be able to maintain over the season - and vice versa.

But as it stands today, based only on the two games played so far and a 1-1 record, the projection for the Cowboys is for 8.7 wins this season.

No need to give up on the season just yet though: the formula is very far from a sure thing, even though it has shown some consistency for the Cowboys in the recent past. Last year, the Bengals had a win projection of just 4.8 wins after two games but still made the playoffs with a 10-6 record. The Eagles on the other hand stormed off to a 2-0 record and a 9.4 win projection - but would only win two more games for the rest of the season.

Is two weeks too early to try to figure out what type of a team the Cowboys are? Of course it is. But that won't stop us from trying. As in years past, we'll revisit this formula frequently over the course of the season, and after the next two games we should have a pretty good idea where this season could be heading. And perhaps our crystal ball will be a little clearer and a little more Cowboys-friendly by then.

With all of that out of the way, here's how all 32 NFL teams stack up after two weeks:

Pythagorean Projected Wins by NFL team, week 2, 2013

Team Won Lost Points scored Points Allowed Projected Wins
Seattle Seahawks 2 0 41 10 15.5
Kansas City Chiefs 2 0 45 18 14.6
Denver Broncos 2 0 90 50 13.2
Miami Dolphins 2 0 47 30 12.4
New Orleans Saints 2 0 39 31 10.9
Houston Texans 2 0 61 52 10.3
New England Patriots 2 0 36 31 10.2
Green Bay Packers 1 1 66 54 9.6
Chicago Bears 2 0 55 51 9.6
Cincinnati Bengals 1 1 41 34 9.5
Oakland Raiders 1 1 36 30 9.5
Detroit Lions 1 1 55 49 9.0
Dallas Cowboys 1 1 52 48 8.7
Philadelphia Eagles 1 1 63 60 8.4
Tennessee Titans 1 1 40 39 8.2
Atlanta Falcons 1 1 48 47 8.2
Arizona Cardinals 1 1 49 48 8.2
Indianapolis Colts 1 1 41 41 8.0
San Diego Chargers 1 1 61 61 8.0
Buffalo Bills 1 1 45 46 7.8
New York Jets 1 1 28 30 7.4
St. Louis Rams 1 1 51 55 7.4
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0 2 31 34 6.2
Baltimore Ravens 1 1 41 55 5.7
Carolina Panthers 0 2 30 36 5.5
Minnesota Vikings 0 2 54 65 5.5
San Francisco 49ers 1 1 37 57 4.7
New York Giants 0 2 54 77 4.2
Washington Redskins 0 2 47 71 3.8
Pittsburgh Steelers 0 2 19 36 2.5
Cleveland Browns 0 2 16 37 1.7
Jacksonville Jaguars 0 2 11 47 0.4

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