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NFL Playoff Tracker: Dallas Cowboys face long odds for postseason play

A look at the historical playoff odds for teams based on their record after five games.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Here on Blogging The Boys, we’ve been tracking the Cowboys’ playoff chances since Week 1, even though there were some questions about why we would be talking about the playoffs after losing the season-opener. The Cowboys are now 2-3, and we continue with our weekly look at the Cowboys’ playoff odds.

This week, we’ll start by looking at how the Cowboys’ Super Bowl odds have developed over the last six weeks, even if this may not be for the faint of heart, and as an added bonus, the chart below also includes the Super Bowl odds for the other NFC East teams. Think of this as a kind of Vegas Power Ranking.

NFC East Super Bowl odds by week, 2018
Week 1 2 3 4 5 6
Eagles +900 +900 +1,200 +1,100 +2,200 +2,500
Cowboys +2,800 +4,000 +3,300 +5,000 +6,600 +6,600
Redskins +6,500 +5,000 +6,600 +4,000 +5,000 +6,600
Giants +4,000 +5,000 +8,000 +6,600 +10,000 +10,000

The Super Bowl odds for the Cowboys have all sorts of assumptions built in, like the strength of schedule, injuries, and even the amount of money being wagered on the outcome. Similarly, when you look at the playoff odds provided on numerous other websites, they all contain various assumptions about the strength of the team, the schedule, and many other things.

The odds for the Cowboys in the table above haven’t been going in the right direction, and for those still left with some hope for the season, the hope is that these odds have bottomed out and will improve again at some point as the Cowboys claw their way back into postseason play.

But before making the Super Bowl, teams first have to make the playoffs. Since realignment in 2002, only 27 of 130 teams that made the playoffs started 2-3, which means the Cowboys currently have just a 21% chance of making the playoffs.

But to make the playoffs, the Cowboys need to string some wins together, because an 8-8 record won’t get you to the playoffs. And that win streak should best get started against the Jaguars, as the table below shows:

Playoff odds based on six games, 2002-2017
Record after six games 6-0 5-1 4-2 3-3 2-4 1-5 0-6
Playoff Teams 21 39 77 44 10 1 0
Total Teams 23 50 124 130 106 57 11
Percentage 91% 78% 62% 34% 9% 2% 0%

The table illustrates in stark detail the precarious situation Jason Garrett put the team in with his decision-making in the Houston game. The Cowboys could have been sitting pretty with a 3-2 record and a 49% playoff chance with a win in Houston. Instead, they are sitting at 2-3 and staring at a game against the Jaguars that could drop them to 2-4 with a 9% playoff chance.

A win against the Jaguars and the Cowboys could bring their playoff odds back up to 34%.

Still, at 3-3, the Cowboys might well have to go 7-3 the rest of the way in order to make the playoffs. That’s a tough ask for a team that currently isn’t even an average team.

Unless you’re playing in the NFC East, where it looks like every team is trying to avoid the playoffs altogether. Football Outsiders, for example, currently don’t have any NFC East projected for more than eight wins.

WAS 2-2 7.5 36.4% 5.4% 8.0% 44.4% -11.6%
DAL 2-3 7.4 26.8% 2.8% 4.9% 31.7% -2.7%
PHI 2-3 6.9 27.7% 2.8% 5.0% 32.7% -8.5%
NYG 1-4 5.7 9.1% 0.4% 2.8% 11.9% 4.3%

That means the best way, and perhaps the only way, to make the playoffs for the Cowboys is to win the NFC East - because that might be possible with an 8-8 or 9-7 record this year, whereas a wildcard berth might require a 10-6 or even 11-5 record this year. And to get to a 10-6 record, the Cowboys would have to go 8-3 for the rest of the year, and that doesn’t feel like something this team is currently capable of.

But we’ll know more next week.

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