One of the more interesting points of measurement in the National Football League is point differential among teams. This statistic is not necessarily interesting in the math of it all, it’s simply the difference of total points scored and allowed, but it is generally one of the stronger barometers of which teams are having success in a given year.
Consider who the top five teams are in point differential after 13 weeks of the season. We are talking about the four potential squads lining up in the conference championship games and a unit that has made a big leap forward in 2020.
2020 NFL leaders in point differential through Week 13:
- Pittsburgh Steelers, 123
- Kansas City Chiefs, 116
- Green Bay Packers, 106
- Miami Dolphins, 91
- Green Bay Packers, 80
It should come as no surprise to you that the Dallas Cowboys have what is currently the second-worst point differential in the NFL (-125). There are still four games left on the year of course, but it is highly possible that the Cowboys have one of the worst performances in their storied history in this particular measurement.
The Dallas Cowboys are on pace for one of their worst point differentials in franchise history
In case there was any doubt, this Cowboys season is likely going to be remembered as one of the worst in the long history of the club. Consider that things have reached such a low point for them that they are now at a place where big-time networks don’t even want them on their airwaves... the NFL flexed out of the Week 15 Cowboys/49ers game that was originally set to take place on Sunday Night Football. Dallas will now be in the 1 PM ET slot with the other mortals while the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants play under the lights.
Cleveland and New York are both in the negative as far as point differential is concerned as well (-15 and -34, respectively), but the Cowboys are so bad that it is more than twice the amount of the Browns and Giants combined. 2020 sure is something else.
The Cowboys should beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday (they are currently favored for what it’s worth), but after that no win is guaranteed. Games against the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Giants could all wind up as losses. At the very least they will likely be close contests which would do little to stop the bleeding on the point differential front.
Point differential highlights the overall-ness of your team as far as how your offensive and defensive performances balance each other out. When you look at the worst point differentials in Cowboys history, it makes sense because these were some awful teams.
Worst point differentials in Dallas Cowboys franchise history
- 1960 (12 games): -192
- 1989 (16 games): -189
- 1962 (14 games): -144
- 2020 (12 games in): -125
- 1988 (16 games): -116
- 2002 (16 games): -112
- 2004 (16 games): -112
The 2015 Cowboys just edged out the 2004 team with a point differential of -99. This season feels so much like that year with the starting quarterback lost to injury, but it’s hard to see the current group climbing out of their hole to the point that they would even match the end of double-digit point differential.
While it is possible that the Cowboys could lose three of their final four games it is unlikely that they will get utterly blown out. Say they lose three of four by an average of even 10 points (the margin in Baltimore was 17 for what it’s worth). If we assume the Cowboys beat the Bengals by something similar then we are looking at a group that could put together perhaps the second-worst point differential in team history in a 16-game season.
Offensively the Cowboys are down a number of players which is heavily impacting their ability to score points. However, on defense, they have the likes of DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, and so on. There are multiple second contracts on that side of the ball and while the offense often does them no favors there should be no excuse for how they are getting gashed over and over and over.
Things are bad for the Cowboys. The unfortunate news is that they might get worse before this season ends.