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NFL Playoff Tracker: Why the Cowboys face a must-win game against the Eagles

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

NFL: DEC 09 Eagles at Cowboys Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Here on Blogging The Boys, we’ve been tracking the Cowboys’ playoff chances since Week 1 and have weathered many a derisive comment about why we would look at playoff odds at all for this team. The Cowboys are now 3-3, and we continue with our weekly look at the Cowboys’ playoff odds.

But before we do that, we’ll first take a look at some of the latest win projections for the 2019 Cowboys. Keep in mind that these win projections consider all six games the Cowboys have played so far, and don’t just base their projection on the last three.

And these projections are pretty much in line with historical averages. Care to wager a guess how many total wins 3-3 teams have averaged over the last 17 years?

8.1 wins. No surprise there.

Which just goes to show that if the Cowboys want to improve their win projections, they’ll need to win more games - or play like they did in the first three games.

Since realignment in 2002, only 49 of 143 teams that started with a 3-3 record made the playoffs, which means the Cowboys currently have a 34% chance of making the playoffs.

Which brings us to the reason why the Cowboys must win against Philly on Sunday: If the Cowboys beat the Eagles 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 15%.

Playoff odds based on seven games, 2002-2018
Record after six games 7-0 6-1 5-2 4-3 3-4 2-5 1-6 0-7
Playoff Teams 18 26 72 65 18 5 0 0
Total Teams 18 32 99 128 122 85 44 16
Percentage 100% 81% 73% 51% 15% 6% 0% 0%

The difference in playoff odds between 4-3 teams (51%) and 3-4 teams (15%) is 36 points, and that 36-point difference is the largest possible swing in playoff odds at any point in the season, as the graph below illustrates.

The Cowboys are 3-3, and there’s no point in arguing coulda, shoulda, woulda. They are facing the most important game of the season in terms of their playoff odds. Win and their playoff odds get a significant big boost, lose and their odds drop to 15%.

And that’s not even accounting for the divisional ramifications of a win against the Eagles.

Also, the 3-3 Eagles are in the exact same spot as the Cowboys. A win on Sunday and they’ll remain on track for the postseason. Lose and they’ll have to turn to their backup QB once again to try and salvage their season.

We’ll know more next week.