The Dallas Cowboys are struggling to win on the road right now. The Cowboys had two straight opportunities to dispel the notion that they cannot win away from AT&T Stadium and came up short both times. The narrative (however right or wrong it is) was in their control and they did not do anything to change it.
Given the current landscape of the NFC playoff picture where Dallas is the top Wild Card team, the likelihood of them having to play on the road in the postseason is as high as it can possibly be. Even if the Cowboys are able to win the NFC East and secure the #2 seed in the conference, if things went as expected through the first two rounds, the NFC Championship Game would be a road game for America’s Team. Heck, if they were fortunate enough to reach the Super Bowl it would be a game played away from their home building.
The thing about projecting that far forward is that while we all feel as if it is impossible for the team to win away from home, oddsmakers and projections are suggesting it is the more likely thing.
Odds and projections seem to indicate that the Cowboys have a good chance of winning multiple road playoff games
If the playoffs began today the Cowboys would be on the road facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card Round. Obviously this feels like deja vu given that this is how both teams began their postseason journey a year ago. A rematch feels likely.
Assuming the Cowboys won they would have to travel for their Divisional Round matchup unless both of the other Wild Card teams also won their playoff games, something that has never happened since the NFL introduced a third Wild Card team in the 2020 season. Needless to say a second road trip would be the more likely thing.
Once again if the Cowboys managed to win again they would have to travel for the NFC Championship Game unless one of the lower-seeded Wild Cards happened to also win two straight road playoff games. Dallas is likely going to have to play on the road in the postseason (a lot) and given that doing so is their kryptonite has us feeling uneasy.
But this does not seem to be the case with oddsmakers and projectors. Consider that on Tuesday the folks over at ESPN offered their projections for both sides of the playoff picture and offered percentage chances for various seeding options and outcomes within the tournament.
Entering Week 17 the most likely outcome is that Dallas is the top Wild Card (they have already clinched a spot no worse than the #5 seed), the path we have been discussing here.
Given that Dallas has lost road games this season to San Francisco, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Miami, there is understandable concern that they will not be able to get the job done when the safety net of the regular season is removed. The thing is, this exact same projection model thinks that they will.
ESPN also put together projections for each team to make the playoffs (a destiny Dallas has already secured), clinch their division (the Cowboys are still alive in that capacity), take home the top seed (technically alive, but barely so) and make the Super Bowl which would mean winning the NFC Championship Game, a point that Dallas hasn’t even reached in a very long time.
Both the 49ers and Lions have already clinched their respective divisions and the Buccaneers are on the precipice of doing so. Philly has punched a playoff ticket along with the Cowboys and are two wins away against below-average teams from repeating as NFC East winners.
Acknowledging that the 49ers are in a league of their own, even despite Monday night’s loss, the best chance of reaching the Super Bowl in this model outside of San Francisco belongs to the Dallas Cowboys. The same Cowboys who within this very projection are going to have to play at least one and likely multiple playoff games to get there.
It is important to acknowledge that Dallas’ track record on the road speaks for itself and is something that has brought us a lot of pause over the course of the last few weeks. But the formula here does not seem to really care about that and thinks Dallas has better odds for serious postseason success than teams like the Lions and Eagles (we’ll throw the Buccaneers in there too since they will have a home playoff game) even though they will likely get to host at least one game in the postseason.
Speaking of literal odds though, the people in the desert are thinking along the same lines as ESPN in this sense. Consider various ones at the time of this writing courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.
To win the NFC East
- Philadelphia Eagles, -475
- Dallas Cowboys, +380
To win the NFC
- San Francisco 49ers, +100
- Philadelphia Eagles, +380
- Dallas Cowboys, +450
- Detroit Lions, +700
- Los Angeles Rams, +3000
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers, +3500
- Seattle Seahawks, +3500
- Green Bay Packers, +10000
- Minnesota Vikings, +12000
- Atlanta Falcons, +12000
To win the Super Bowl
- San Francisco 49ers, +225
- Baltimore Ravens, +350
- Miami Dolphins, +750
- Philadelphia Eagles, +800
- Kansas City Chiefs, +800
- Dallas Cowboys, +1000
- Buffalo Bills, +1200
- Detroit Lions, +1700
- Jacksonville Jaguars, +3500
- Cleveland Browns, +4500
As you can see the Eagles have significantly better odds of winning the division than the Cowboys and obviously a big reason for that is how we have gotten to this point and the edge that Philly has with regards to current record and tiebreakers. They do control their destiny for the division crown, after all.
But the Cowboys are not far behind them at all with regards to odds to win the NFC or Super Bowl and are even ahead of the Lions in both of those scenarios which lines up with ESPN. Collectively between ESPN and DraftKings there seems to be a somewhat (using that word loosely) consensus agreement that Dallas is the team in the NFC with the best odds outside of San Francisco.
Interestingly though this is the case despite that fact that the Cowboys are facing an overwhelming likelihood of playing multiple games on the road. There seems to be no real idea or answer as to why the Cowboys are currently struggling in games away from home, but there is some solace in the idea that it does not seem to be anything of concern through these specific points of evaluation.