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Statistically Speaking: Dallas Cowboys 2014 Season Projection

Is two weeks too early to try to figure out what type of a team the 2014 Cowboys are? Of course it is. But that won't stop us from trying.

Tom Pennington

In what has become somewhat of an annual tradition here on Blogging The Boys, Week 2 marks the point in time where we run our first season projection for the Cowboys. In fact, this is the fifth year in a row that we've ventured a season projection this early in the season (follow these links for the four previous articles: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010).

As in previous years, we'll use the Pythagorean Formula as our murky crystal ball. 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. Over the last five years, it has been a fairly accurate indicator for the Cowboys overall.

Pythagorean Projection after two games
Cowboys 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Projected wins 9.7 4.5 8 5.3 8.9
Actual wins 11 6 8 8 8

The formula projected the Cowboys' final regular season record to within 1.5 games in four out of the last five years. In 2012, the one year where the projection was off by more than 1.5 games, the Cowboys started the season with a 3-5 record before finishing the season 5-3, so the formula was probably a better indicator of the early form of the team than of the later, improved form.

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 9.0 wins this season.

In many ways, that projection leaves us in no-man's-land. But it also highlights the current situation the Cowboys find themselves in. If you think the 28-17 loss to the 49ers is more indicative of the Cowboys' 2014 season, then your season projection should be lower than nine wins; if you think the 26-10 win over the Titans is a better harbinger of tings to come in 2014, then you're looking at a projection above nine wins. In fact, applying the Pythagorean only to the 49ers game yields a projection of 3.5 wins, applying it only to the Titans game returns a 14.6 win projection.

Even though the formula has shown some remarkable consistency for the Cowboys in the recent past, it is very far from a sure thing. Last year, the Texans stormed out to a 2-0 start and a 10.3 win projection before losing every single one of their remaining 14 games. The 49ers were 1-1 after two weeks last year and had a 4.7 win projection, but finished the season 12-4 anyway and advanced all the way to the NFC Conference Championships.

Is two weeks too early to try to figure out what type of a team the Cowboys are? Of course it is. But that hasn't ever stopped 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, 2014

Team Won Lost Points scored Points Allowed Projected Wins
Houston Texans 2 0 47 20 14.4
Carolina Panthers 2 0 44 21 13.9
Cincinnati Bengals 2 0 47 26 13.2
Buffalo Bills 2 0 52 30 13.0
Washington Redskins 1 1 47 27 12.0
Philadelphia Eagles 2 0 64 44 11.9
Arizona Cardinals 2 0 43 31 11.6
Denver Broncos 2 0 55 41 11.3
Baltimore Ravens 1 1 42 29 10.9
New England Patriots 1 1 50 40 9.8
Seattle Seahawks 1 1 57 46 9.7
San Diego Chargers 1 1 47 39 9.5
Minnesota Vikings 1 1 41 36 9.1
Dallas Cowboys 1 1 43 38 9.0
Chicago Bears 1 1 48 43 8.9
Detroit Lions 1 1 42 38 8.8
San Francisco 49ers 1 1 48 45 8.5
Tennessee Titans 1 1 36 36 8.0
Cleveland Browns 1 1 53 54 7.8
New York Jets 1 1 43 45 7.6
Miami Dolphins 1 1 43 49 6.9
New Orleans Saints 0 2 58 63 6.3
Atlanta Falcons 1 1 47 58 6.3
Green Bay Packers 1 1 47 60 6.0
Indianapolis Colts 0 2 51 61 5.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0 2 31 39 5.1
Pittsburgh Steelers 1 1 36 53 5.0
St. Louis Rams 1 1 25 51 3.2
Oakland Raiders 0 2 28 49 2.9
Kansas City Chiefs 0 2 27 50 2.6
New York Giants 0 2 28 60 2.0
Jacksonville Jaguars 0 2 27 75 1.1

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