Can Cowboys Make the Playoffs? These Stats Are Encouraging For Dallas

The Dallas Cowboys snapped a four-game losing streak and improved to 3-7 on Sunday with a 31-28 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

In normal circumstances, the result could have been considered a hammer blow to the Cowboys' hopes of securing the first overall pick in the draft. In 2020, however, normal circumstances are at a premium and coupled with the Philadelphia Eagles' loss in Cleveland, the win over the Vikings put Dallas firmly into contention for the divisional title.

While the Eagles currently hold the playoff berth reserved to the division winner, their margin for error is wafer-thin following two consecutive losses. Philadelphia is 3-6-1, with the Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Football Team all at 3-7.

According to data from Oddschecker, the Cowboys are second-favorite behind the Eagles to reach the playoffs. Dallas is 3-1 to play football in January, while Philadelphia is a 7-4 favourite, with the Giants and Washington at 7-2 and 5-1 respectively.

In percentage terms, the Cowboys' chances of returning to the playoffs after a one-season hiatus stand at 25 percent, while the Eagles have a 36.4 percent chance to make the postseason. The figures are consistent with projections from FiveThirtyEight, which give Dallas and Philadelphia a 21 percent and 37 percent chance of winning the division—as the only division whose leader has a losing record, the NFC East's only representative in the playoffs will be the division winner.

To put the figure into context, the Cowboys' current chances are the highest since they arrived into Week 7, with a 50 percent probability of making the playoffs and a 2-4 record. Dallas lost Andy Dalton to concussion in Week 7 after the former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback was on the receiving end of a vicious end from Washington's linebacker Jon Bostic.

With star quarterback Dak Prescott sidelined with the season-ending injury he suffered in the Week 5 against the Giants, Dalton's absence made an already difficult scenario prohibitive for the Cowboys, who turned to third-string quarterbacks Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert in the following two weeks and lost both games.

In the aftermath of the Eagles' 23-9 win over the Cowboys in Week 8, Dallas' chances of making the playoffs cratered to 9.10 percent, while Philadelphia's reached a season-high 75 percent.

The latter figure, however, has shrunk to 36.4 percent after the Eagles lost to the Giants and the Cleveland Browns over the last two weeks. The second of those two loss was particularly damaging for Philadelphia, as it came along wins for Dallas and Washington.

Significantly, the Cowboys have the second-easiest remaining schedule in the NFL—as calculated by their opponents' combined winning percentage so far this season.

Dallas still has to face its three divisional rivals, plus the Cincinnati Bengals who have just lost first overall draft pick Joe Burrow for the season to an ACL injury and a banged-up San Francisco 49ers.

The 6-4 Baltimore Ravens, who the Cowboys face on the road in Week 13, are the only team with a winning record left on the schedule for Dallas.

Philadelphia, in contrast, has the fifth-hardest remaining schedule in the entire NFL. Aside from NFC East matchups against Dallas and Washington, the Eagles still face trips to Green Bay and Arizona, as well as home games against the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints.

Additionally, the Cowboys are the only NFC East team still having to play all three of its divisional rivals. Philadelphia only faces Washington and Dallas, while the Cowboys are the only remaining divisional opponent left for both the Giants and Washington.

Given the dismal state of the NFC East, that could prove crucial in the race to the playoffs.

The division's cumulative 12-27-1 record after 11 weeks puts it on track to be the worst division in NFL history.

The NFC East's current winning percentage stands at .313, lower than the .344 the NFC West recorded in 2008, when its four members went a combined 22-42 and had a .250 winning percentage outside of the division.

Unlike the current iteration of the NFC East, the 2008 vintage of the NFC West at least boasted one team with a winning record, as the Arizona Cardinals finished 9-7 and went all the way to the Super Bowl.

Two years later, the NFC West became the first division in NFL history to send a team with a losing record to the playoffs.

Bar a major reversal of fortunes, the NFC East will follow suit this season.

Dallas Cowboys, NFL
Dalton Schultz #86 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with his teammates following a touchdown catch in the fourth quarter during their game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on November 22. Stephen Maturen/Getty