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Cowboys Playoff Tracker: Can Cowboys make playoffs with a losing record?

The Cowboys’ outlook has dimmed a bit.

Cleveland Browns v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Four games into the season, the Cowboys have the league’s second-worst record at 1-3. But oddly, thanks in large part to the ineptitude of the remaining NFC East teams, they are just half a game behind the division lead.

While the Cowboys have been spectacularly unprepared to play professional football over the first four games of the season - the team is on track to break all sorts of records for ineptitude - the other three NFC East teams are trying their darndest to keep the Cowboys in the playoff picture.

Yeah, you read that right. At 1-3, we’re still talking playoff odds. Suck it up, buttercup.

If the other NFC East teams continue to play the way they’ve been playing, there is a chance the Cowboys could still qualify for the playoffs, even with a losing record. The Seattle Seahawks became the only team since the NFL moved to a 16-game schedule in 1978 to make the playoffs with a losing record, when they did so with a 7-9 record in 2010 (EDIT: Plus the 2014 Panthers, who finished 7-8-1, as @westeroscowboy pointed out on Twitter). The 2020 Cowboys could be next.

Here’s what some of the advanced stats sites out there show as the Cowboys’ current playoff odds: calculates playoff odds by taking into account score differential, last season’s record (to an extent), the unexpected nature of each team’s wins, and more. Mix it all together and the site gives the Cowboys a 58% chance of making the playoffs. That’s pretty impressive for a 1-3 team. Here’s the projection for the entire division.

Team Record Projected Record Playoff Odds
DAL 1-3 8-8 54%
PHI 1-2-1 7-8-1 37%
WAS 1-3 5-11 11%
NYG 0-4 4-12 4%

Football Outsiders

Another source for playoff odds comes from our good friends at Football Outsiders. Here’s how FO see the playoff odds for winning the division, getting a by week, or gaining a wild card berth:

Team Record Mean Proj. Wins DIV WC Total
DAL 1-3 7.6 47% 4% 51%
PHI 1-2-1 7.0 32% 4% 36%
WAS 1-3 5.7 13% 2% 15%
NYG 0-4 5.0 9% 1% 10%

Similar picture here, the Cowboys have the best odds in a desolate NFC East.


Can’t talk odds without looking at the sportsbooks, even if their objective is less about making an accurate prediction and more about balancing the money on each side of the bet. Per, the Cowboys are still favored to take the NFC East on four different sportsbooks:

The Cowboys play the 0-4 Giants on Sunday. You can’t currently find an easier opponent in the league. But the Cowboys will probably find a way to make even the Giants look like Super Bowl contenders.

This is the way.

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