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NFL Playoff Tracker: Winter is here for Cowboys; desperation game against Titans looming

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The chances of making the postseason don’t look too bright for the 3-4 Cowboys.

Dallas Area Hit With Snow Storm, Two Days Before City Hosts The Super Bowl Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

In last week’s playoff tracker, we looked at why the Cowboys faced a must-win game in Washington:

If the Cowboys win in Washington and improve to 4-3, their playoff odds jump to 51%. If they lose and drop to 3-4, their playoff odds drop to just 14%.

Well, the Cowboys lost, and their playoff odds took a big dive. And even with a win against the Titans in two weeks (which is by no means a given for this team), the Cowboys will not hit the halfway mark of the season with a winning record.

Winter is here for the Dallas Cowboys.

What is the escalation of a must-win game? Probably a desperation game. Which is why the Cowboys face a desperation game against the Titans: If the Cowboys win and improve to 4-4, their playoff increase to 32%. If they lose and drop to 3-5, their playoff odds drop to just 11%.

Playoff odds based on eight games, 2002-2017
Record after six games 8-0 7-1 6-2 5-3 4-4 3-5 2-6 1-7 1-8
Playoff Teams 13 20 61 55 32 11 0 0 0
Total Teams 13 22 76 94 100 104 62 30 11
Percentage 100% 91% 80% 59% 32% 11% 0% 0% 0%

You might feel that these numbers are too generic and don’t apply to the specific situation of the Cowboys, and that may be true. So here’s a look at the 10 seasons in which the Cowboys started either 4-4 or 3-5:

Cowboys midseason record and resulting final record
4-4 record
after 8 games
Final record Playoffs 3-5 record
after 8 games
Final record Playoffs
2013 8-8 - - 2012 8-8 - -
2011 8-8 - - 2004 6-10 - -
2006 9-7 Lost WC 2002 5-11 - -
1999 8-8 Lost WC 2000 5-11 - -
1997 6-10 - - 1990 7-9 - -

10 seasons, 7.0 wins on average, lucked into the playoffs twice, nine wins as a ceiling. And they never made the playoffs - or had a winning record - after starting 3-5. Desperation.

Other metrics also project the same old Jason Garrett song and dance, barring an improbable turnaround in player and coaching performance.

But this is nothing new, as we pointed out after Week 3, when we said Winter is Coming for the Cowboys.

What the data here tells us is the Cowboys are basically an 8-8 team with the occasional swing in either direction.

Under Garrett’s tenure, the team has been oscillating around eight wins for the last eight years, and barring a huge showing against the Lions next week, the data here is robust enough to suggest that the ceiling for the 2018 team is yet another 8-8 season.

To borrow from Bill Parcells, you are what your record says you are. And that record says the 2018 Cowboys are an average to below average team.

Nothing has changed.

We’re just further along into yet another average Garrett season.

And keep this in mind: With another coach, the Cowboys might be sitting pretty at 5-2, but Garrett’s conservative game management on the final offensive drives is a key reason why the Cowboys didn’t get a chance to win both the Texans and Redskins games.

What bugs me most is Garrett should know better; his conservative game management has has cost him multiple games, as Michael Strawn summarizes here in his most recent article.

Garrett seems to have no willingness, whatsoever, to be aggressive on the road. It has bitten him repeatedly and yet he continues to make the same predictable, conservative calls.

Considering Jerry Jones’ love of risk, I can’t imagine he’s happy to have a team coached by a man with no stomach for risk-taking. Garrett is rightly getting roasted today. His tepid ways are likely going to see him somewhere else soon.

Garrett and his staff now have two weeks to develop a gameplan to defeat the 3-4 Titans. Fail at that task and Garrett should start polishing his resumé and start tidying up his desk.