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Cowboys playoff tracker: Chances for postseason looking better and better

It’s never too early to start talking about the playoffs in the NFL.

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Here on Blogging The Boys, we’ve been tracking the Cowboys’ playoff chances since Week 1, even though there were some questions about why we would be talking about the playoffs so early. The Cowboys are now 4-1, and we continue with our weekly look at the Cowboys’ playoff chances, even if there will be some questions about why we’re doing it at all, given that the playoff appear to be a virtual lock.

In that Week 1 post, we used the following reference chart to show the historic playoff percentages for every relevant W/L record.

The Cowboys are 4-1, and 82 % of the teams starting the season with a 4-1 record over the last 19 seasons would have made the playoffs under the new 14-team playoff rules. That’s quite an improvement over the 30% the Cowboys had after their 0-1 start. largely agrees with that overall number, pegging the Cowboys’ playoff chances at 85%. Their algorithm takes into account the final score of each game, how unexpected the result was in the eyes of the pregame ratings, as well as last season’s record (to an extent). Importantly, their numbers are quarterback-adjusted, and without Prescott, their model suggests playoff chances of “just” 78% for the Cowboys.

Here’s a graph with FiveThirtyEight’s version of a QB ranking:

The graph shows all NFC East QBs ranked by their Value in ELO Points, which (in simple terms) is based on a 10-game rolling average of “a regression between ESPN’s Total QBR yards above replacement and basic box score numbers (including rushing stats) from a given game, adjusted for the quality of opposing defenses.”

Incorporating both passing and rushing, Prescott has 242 ELO points, while the other starting NFC East QBs are quite a bit behind Prescott. Josh Allen (268), Patrick Mahomes (266), and Tom Brady (260) are the only QBs with a higher value.

Another source for playoff odds comes from our good friends at Football Outsiders. Here’s how FO see the playoff chances for the NFC East:

Team Record Mean Proj. Wins DIV WC TOTAL Change
DAL 4-1 11.5 85% 6% 91% +5%
PHI 2-3 7.5 7% 13% 20% +8%
WAS 2-3 7.0 7% 9% 16% -7%
NYG 1-4 5.8 1% 4% 5% -5%

The 91% for the Cowboys is the highest number after Buffalo (99%) and Tampa Bay (94%) according to Football Outsiders. In part, that is owed to the weakness of the NFC East, but the number also reflects the strength of the Cowboys offense, which is the No. 2 offense in DVOA behind only the Bills.

The Cowboys are on the right trajectory. Best to sit back and enjoy the ride.

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