The Cowboys got their butts whipped all afternoon on Sunday and that obviously doesn’t feel great. After a five-game win-streak, to get shut out and have nothing go right is a gut punch. Having to witness Washington and the Eagles get wins and “technically” remain alive is annoying. That loss to the Colts stings but the Cowboys are just one win away from clinching their division, with two teams whose combined record is 10-18 on deck.
The Cowboys were thoroughly dominated by a desperate Indianapolis team that couldn’t afford a loss of any kind and hope to make the playoffs. This Cowboys team wins football games with a stifling defense and an offense that can control the pace. The linebackers make tons of tackles while the offense wears opponents down and hits the occasional explosive play. None of that happened on Sunday and the Cowboys saw what a good team can do to them when they don’t execute. It’s a great lesson to learn about the parity in the NFL, where 5-11 teams are not too far off from being 11-5, if a few things bounced the right way.
Let’s assume this loss is the worst loss of the season though the 28-14 loss to the Titans isn’t far behind. Now, we are hearing questions like “who has this Cowboys team beat?” Two games ago, the Cowboys dominated the 10-1 Saints and had the defense to contend. Now, the Cowboys can’t be trusted because they lost to 7-6 Colts team? Look around the NFL’s playoff picture, every team may not have been shut out but they have bad losses too:
|NFC Seeds||Teams||Record||SOS Conf. Rk||Quality in Wins||Quality in Losses||Best Win||Worst Loss|
|1||Saints||11-2||8th||0.513||0.464||45-35 over LAR (WK9)||48-40 to TAM (WK1)|
|2||Rams||11-3||2nd||0.468||0.686||54-51 over KC (WK11)||30-23 to PHI (WK15)|
|3||Bears||10-4||16th||0.421||0.473||15-6 over LAR (WK14)||30-27 to NYG (WK13)|
|4||Cowboys||8-6||5th||0.464||0.565||13-10 over NO (WK13)||23-0 to IND (WK15)|
|WC1||Seahawks||8-6||9th||0.375||0.631||24-13 over DAL (WK3)||26-23 to SF (WK15)|
|WC2||Vikings||7-6-1||12th||0.362||0.653||23-21 over PHI (WK5)||27-6 to BUF (WK3)|
|AFC Seeds||Playoff Teams||Record||SOS||Quality in Wins||Quality in Losses||Best Win||Worst Loss|
|1||Chiefs||11-3||8th||0.428||0.738||38-28 over LAC (WK1)||43-40 to NE (WK6)|
|2||Texans||10-4||14th||0.425||0.536||19-16 over DAL (WK5)||27-22 to NYG (WK3)|
|3||Patriots||9-5||11th||0.539||0.464||43-40 over KC (WK6)||31-20 to JAC (WK2)|
|4||Steelers||8-5-1||5th||0.442||0.557||17-10 over NE (WK15)||24-21 to OAK (WK14)|
|WC1||Chargers||11-3||12th||0.409||0.667||29-28 over KC (WK15)||23-22 to DEN (WK13)|
|WC2||Ravens||8-6||7th||0.415||0.595||26-14 over PIT (WK4)||36-21 to CAR (WK8)|
Dallas has the second toughest schedule in the conference and third toughest of all playoff teams (we’re defining ““playoff teams for this article as teams that would make it if the season ended today). Only Pittsburgh and the Rams have had a tougher path towards a postseason berth. The Cowboys have only played in two games where they had a better record than their opponent. Those games were this past week against Indianapolis (7-6) and the week before against the Eagles (6-6).
The Cowboys signature victory over New Orleans is much more impressive knowing that their last loss was in week one to Tampa Bay before a ten-game win-streak. The top-seeded Saints have three wins over current playoff teams. Still, seven of the Saints victories came against teams below .500. The Rams have five wins over current playoff teams, two of which came by sweeping Seattle, leaving six wins against teams below .500. They also have two losses to playoff teams and just lost ugly to a 6-7 Eagles team.
The Chicago Bears have the easiest schedule in the conference and their record reflects it. The Bears have seven wins against teams below .500, including two wins over the Lions. Chicago does have three wins over current playoff teams and like the Cowboys, they took down a top seed in the conference. Still, the Bears lost to the Giants 30-27 in overtime just a few weeks ago.
Who did the Seahawks beat? The strongest opponent they beat were the Dallas Cowboys in week three. Yet, Seattle just lost by three points to the Nick Mullens-lead 49ers. The Vikings are even worse with five of their seven wins against teams that have a record below .400. Of the Vikings’ six losses, five of them were against playoff teams. Minnesota’s strongest opponent they have beaten are the now 7-7 Eagles.
Maybe the Cowboys loss to the Colts isn’t their worst loss after all, maybe it was week one against the Panthers? That’s the only team below .500 right now that has defeated the Cowboys. Out of the four NFC playoff teams to have four or more losses, Dallas and Minnesota are the only two that have only one loss to a sub-.500 team. Both Chicago and Seattle have two losses to “bad teams”.
It’s even worse on the AFC side though the Chiefs are the only playoff team to not have a loss to a team below .500. The Texans and Chargers only have one loss each to a team below .500. However, the Patriots and Steelers each have two and the Ravens have three losses. That’s 35% of the total losses between all AFC playoff teams coming to bad football teams. It just happens in the NFL and sometimes the best teams lose multiple games to bad football teams.
The Cowboys only have one win against a team currently in the playoffs, they also have two losses to current playoff teams in the Seahawks and Texans. Well, coincidentally, the Cowboys are also the best team that either of those teams beat this season. Only two current playoff teams, the Saints and Patriots, have opponents with a higher W/L percentage that they won against than they lost against. Are we supposed to write off those two teams because six of the seven losses between them came to inferior opponents? Nobody would take that bet.
Dallas has the fourth-highest quality of opponents they defeated in the entire postseason picture. The 2017 Eagles and 2016 Patriots are the only two teams to win the Super Bowl with the easiest schedule in their conferences over the last decade. Every other Super Bowl winning team averaged the fifth toughest road to the championship. The Cowboys may very well be one-and-done in the playoffs with all the warts they have, especially on offense. Half of these playoff teams have had their worst losses in the past few weeks so maybe we shouldn’t trust any of them. Then again, maybe this shutout loss was the wake up call the Cowboys needed and they can rattle off another five wins. Either way, let’s at least see this thing through before we make any final declarations.