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Tough Schedule May End Up Hurting Cowboys Twice This Year

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The Cowboys have played a relatively tough schedule this year, and that may ultimately impact their draft spot.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

When we first took a look at the 2015 Strength Of Schedule (SOS) at the end of last season, we saw that the Cowboys' 2015 opponents finished the 2014 season with a combined 119-136-1 record for a .467 winning percentage, the "easiest" schedule the the Cowboys have had in the last 10 years. Overall, that .467 SOS was only the 24th "toughest" schedule - or the 9th "easiest", as you prefer.

Now that the regular season is nearing its end, we can take a look at how the schedule has actually played out so far. Through Monday, Nov. 30, the Cowboys SOS is .523, which is currently tied with the Saints for the fifth toughest schedule in the league.

In Cowboys Nation we're keeping a keen eye on SOS because it is used as a tiebreaker to determine final draft spots. So after starting the season with what was supposed to be an easy schedule and then flaming out dramatically, will the tough SOS end up hurting the Cowboys again when it comes to draft spots?

Draft Position

These are the rules for determining the draft order for the 2016 draft:

  1. Teams that make the playoffs receive the last 12 draft picks from position 21-32, ordered by which round of the playoffs they were eliminated.
  2. Teams that didn't make the playoffs are ordered by their regular season W/L record.
  3. The tiebreaker for teams with identical records is the Strength of Schedule. For the draft order, the lower SOS results in an earlier pick.
  4. If the SOS does not resolve a tie, a division or conference tiebreaker is used. If that fails as well, draft order is determined by a coin toss during the NFL Combine.

So there you have it. SOS will play a key role in determining the Cowboys' draft position, and a high SOS is definitely not a good thing to have, and the 2016 draft order illustrates the point.

1. Tennessee Titans: 2-9 (.514 SOS)
2. Cleveland Browns: 2-8 (.511 SOS)
3. Baltimore Ravens: 3-7 (.500 SOS)
4. Dallas Cowboys: 3-8 (.523 SOS)
5. San Diego Chargers: 3-8 (.529 SOS)
6. San Francisco 49ers: 3-8 (.534 SOS)

7. Miami Dolphins: 4-7 (.474 SOS)
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: 4-7 (.486 SOS)
9. Philadelphia Eagles: 4-7 (.511 SOS)
10. St. Louis Rams: 4-7 (.517 SOS)
11. New Orleans Saints: 4-7 (.523 SOS)
12. Detroit Lions: 4-7 (.528 SOS)

Of the teams picking in the top 12 (if the season were to end today), the Cowboys currently have the third highest SOS behind the Chargers, 49ers and Lions. In the draft order above, that actually works out in the Cowboys' favor, as the Cowboys have the lowest SOS of the three teams with a 3-8 record and hence would get the fourth overall pick.

However, imagine if the Cowboys were 4-7. They'd be part of a group of 4-7 teams stretching from the 6th overall spot all the way to the 12th overall spot. based on their. 523 SOS, they'd share a spot with the Saints, but would lose out on the divisional tiebreaker to settle into the 11th spot, and that's quite a big gap between the 6th and 11th overall spot.

If you are unsure which teams to root for over the coming weeks, root for the opponents of the teams the Cowboys have already played or will play this year. The more losses the Cowboys' opponents pile up, the more the Cowboys' SOS goes down. In the end, this may well be worth a couple of draft spots between April 30 and May 2.