Friday 14th December 2018


Don't Worry, the Dallas Cowboys Will Not Be Advancing Far in the Playoffs

Don't Worry, the Dallas Cowboys Will Not Be Advancing Far in the Playoffs

The Dallas Cowboys and their fans are able to wipe out their tears from the Golden State Warriors’ loss last night by celebrating a big victory over the New Orleans Saints. The Saints came into the game as the Super Bowl favorites, and on a 10-game winning streak, but now it’s the Cowboys that get to gloat.

They’ve shot to the top of the of the NFC East after being 3-5 just a month ago, and can put a stranglehold on the division if they beat the Eagles in one week. The defense is now 2nd in the league in points per game, and they just held the Saints to 176 total yards. Right now, it looks like all things are coming up Jerry Jones.

But I’m here to console the rest of you who are not Yankees and Cowboys fans. And that’s because teams like these Dallas Cowboys DO NOT WIN IN THE PLAYOFFS. That’s mostly true when they play at home, and definitely true when they have to go on the road.

The Cowboys’ defense is very good. The rushing attack is very good. What they are not good at is passing the football down the field. Yes, I know you are going to say they look better since trading away a first round pick for Amari Cooper. Marginally, though, because even with one great passing game (on Thanksgiving against Washington) they are at 6.2 Net Yards per Attempt in the five games since Cooper arrived, still well below the league average of 6.6. They have been below 6 net yards per attempt in three of the last five games, and Dak Prescott leads the NFL in sacks taken.

The NFL playoffs have produced many surprises in recent years. Teams that emerge from 9-7 or 10-6 and go deep into the playoffs and some of them have pulled off the ultimate upsets. None of them have resembled these Dallas Cowboys in the regular season. None of them were teams that scored well below the league average but held teams down, were great at stopping the run and running the ball, but bad at passing in the regular season.

Going back to 1990 (when the league added the second wildcard game in each conference), I pulled all playoff teams who had to play in the wildcard round and found those most similar to the Dallas Cowboys. I pro-rated the Cowboy’s numbers over a 16-game season, and compared them to other teams by league-adjusting points for and against, the net passing yards per play for and against, and the rushing yards per carry for and against, as well as win percentage.

Here were the 20 most similar teams:

I listed the playoff results for those teams at the far right. Nine of them played at home in the playoff round. They went 2-7. The other 11 teams went 1-10 on the road, and then all three teams that did advance lost in the Divisional Round. That’s right, a combined 3-20 record, and no Conference Championship Game appearances.

So enjoy it for now, because teams like Dallas tend to disappoint in January.

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