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Elo ratings: Dallas Cowboys favored in all remaining games

A look at the win probabilities for all remaining Cowboys games yields surprising results.

Los Angeles Chargers vs Dallas Cowboys Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In mid-September, when the Cowboys had just improved to 1-1 on the season, we took a look at the Elo ratings published on and saw that they predicted double-digit wins for the 2021 Dallas Cowboys.

This early projection was not entirely convincing for some of the Cowboys faithful.

“I thought ELO was a band. Who knew they were oddsmakers too?”

“I’m still predicting 8 or 9 wins until I see evidence that the Cowboys are a good team that can string some wins together.”

“I’m sticking to my original 8-9 forecast for now.”

“I think they’ll be a middling team and I certainly don’t see them winning any playoffs game if they even qualify...”

Well, the Cowboys are 6-1, and it may be time to re-evaluate some of those projections, just as FiveThirtyEight does every week.

As a reminder, here is how the ELO Algorithm saw the season playing out after Week 2:

Week Opponent W/L Win Prob. Elo Point Spread Record
3 Philadelphia Eagles W 68% -5 2-1
4 Carolina Panthers W 63% -3.5 3-1
5 New York Giants W 73% -7.0 4-1
6 @ New England Patriots L 43% +2.0 4-2
7 Bye
8 @ Minnesota Vikings L 47% +1.0 4-3
9 Denver Broncos W 56% -1.5 5-3
10 Atlanta Falcons W 75% -7.5 6-3
11 @ Kansas City Chiefs L 26% +7.0 6-4
12 Las Vegas Raiders W 60% -3.0 7-4
13 @ New Orleans Saints L 41% +2.5 7-5
14 @ Washington Football Team L 49% +0.5 7-6
15 @ New York Giants W 57% -2.0 8-6
16 Washington Football Team W 65% -4.5 9-6
17 Arizona Cardinals W 56% -2.0 10-6
18 @ Philadelphia Eagles W 51% -0.5 11-6

The Elo ratings system at the time had the Cowboys favored in 10 of their remaining 15 games, which would have translated to an 11-6 season record.

Importantly, the two games in which the Cowboys were initially projected as underdogs (at Patriots, at Vikings) turned into wins for the Cowboys.

Technically, you can’t simply add up individual probabilities to arrive at a W/L record. Which is where the algorithm comes in: They simulated the remainder of the season 100,000 times to arrive at a projected W/L total for the Cowboys, and sat at 9-8 after two weeks.

But that was then, and this is now. The updated projection for the Cowboys now looks as follows:

Week Opponent W/L Win Prob. Elo Point Spread Record
3 Philadelphia Eagles W 2-1
4 Carolina Panthers W 3-1
5 New York Giants W 4-1
6 @ New England Patriots W 5-1
7 Bye
8 @ Minnesota Vikings W 6-1
9 Denver Broncos W 73% -7.0 7-1
10 Atlanta Falcons W 85% -12.0 8-1
11 @ Kansas City Chiefs W 53% -0.5 9-1
12 Las Vegas Raiders W 74% -7.5 10-1
13 @ New Orleans Saints W 59% -2.5 11-1
14 @ Washington Football Team W 69% -5.5 12-1
15 @ New York Giants W 71% -6.5 13-1
16 Washington Football Team W 81% -10.0 14-1
17 Arizona Cardinals W 62% -3.5 15-1
18 @ Philadelphia Eagles W 68% -5.5 16-1

The Cowboys are favored in all their remaining games, even if the margin for error is slim in some cases. The Chiefs game is the tightest projection right now, and could easily change (in either direction) pending the outcome of tonight’s MNF game.

But again, being favored in all remaining games doesn’t mean they are projected to win all remaining games. The 538 algorithm currently has the Cowboys pegged as a 13-4 team.

They also have the Cowboys with a 98% chance of making the playoffs, the second-best chance (23%) at the NFC East top seed behind only the Packers (25%), and are tied for the third-best Super Bowl odds.

Not a bad place to be in. Still, there is the non-trivial matter of three games the Cowboys are projected to lose en route to their 13-4 regular season record.

Going by the Elo point spreads, the toughest remaining games are the road trips to the Chiefs and Saints (sans Jameis Winston) and the Week 17 game at home against the Cardinals.

Do you think those are the most likely losses this year, or do you have a wary eye on a different game or set of games?

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