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Cowboys playoff tracker: Why Cowboys need to set season goals beyond division title

What are your updated season goals for the Cowboys?

NFL: NOV 24 Cowboys at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After the win over the Patriots, the Cowboys are heading into the bye week with a 5-1 record. They’ll take a few days off and then start preparing for the Week 8 game in Minnesota.

That game will either see them improve to 6-1 or drop to 5-2. Since realignment in 2002, 94% of the teams with a 6-1 record would have made the new 14-team playoff format. For 5-2 teams, that percentage is sill a solid 80%, as the table below shows.

Playoff chances based on seven games, 2002-2020
Record after seven games 7-0 6-1 5-2 4-3 3-4 2-5 1-6 0-7
Playoff Teams 21 34 93 76 31 11 0 0
Total Teams 21 36 116 135 133 96 52 19
Percentage 100% 94% 80% 56% 23% 11% -- --

You might feel that these numbers are too generic and don’t apply to the specific situation of the Cowboys, and that may be true. So here’s a look at the 10 seasons in which the Cowboys started either 6-1 or 5-2:

Cowboys midseason record and resulting final record since 1990
6-1 record after 7 games 5-2 record after 7 games
Year Final Record Playoff Result Year Final Record Playoff Result
2016 13-3 Lost Div 2009 11-5 Lost Div
2014 12-4 Lost Div 2003 10-6 Lost WC
2007 13-3 Lost Div 1993 12-4 Won SB
1995 12-4 Won SB 1991 11-5 Lost Div
1994 12-4 Lost Conf
1992 13-3 Won SB

10 seasons, 12.0 wins on average, 10 playoff appearances, four trips to the conference championships, three Super Bowls.

Other metrics also look promising for the 2021 Cowboys.

  • Pythagorean Formula: 12.6 wins
  • Football Outsiders: 11.8 wins; 94% chance of making the playoffs, 11% chance at the No. 1 seed.
  • Elo Ratings: 12-5 record; 93% chance of making the playoffs; 11% chance at the No. 1 seed, 6% chance at a Super Bowl ring
  • ESPN FPI: 11.8 wins; 97% playoffs; 30% NFC Championship game; 13.5% chance to make the Super Bowl, 6.3% chance to win it.

Bill Parcells used to say “Don’t eat the cheese” when things were going well as he didn’t want his players to take their success for granted, or to read about their success and get overconfident.

But is it perhaps time to adjust your goals for the 2021 Cowboys? Surely, they are not just playing for a playoff appearance anymore, even if some Cowboys fans felt just a few months ago that simply making the playoffs would be a stretch for this team. Other Cowboys fans, without so much as blinking, will tell you that “In Dallas, there is only one goal, and that’s a Super Bowl,” which endears us Cowboys fans so much to the rest of the NFL fan base: our collective ability to hold on to successes from 25+ years ago - and derive some sort of expectation and relevance from it for today - is unparalleled.

So what are your updated season goals for the Cowboys?

  • Cruise to a division title, rest injured players for postseason for the final 3-4 games, and go deep in the playoffs?
  • Reach the Championship game and hope for a Super Bowl appearance?
  • To paraphrase Mike Florio, see the team that used to be America’s Team become America’s Team again, with ticker tape parades and visits to the White House?
  • Or just be happy to finish with a winning record?
  • And then there’s always #SUPERBOWLMINIMUMCOWBOYS!

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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