Get ready for math class, in a good way.
NFL power rankings are like cake at a business office party; they’re fun and generate excitement but ultimately don’t carry much weight. And in the over-saturated world of the NFL you can find literally hundreds of power rankings, including quite a few that seemed divorced from reality.
The folks over at Football Outsiders prefer mathematical algorithms. They don’t generate your standard “power rankings” but instead odds of a team making the playoffs, winning their division, earning a first round bye or even winning the Super Bowl. We’ve been tracking these odds this year and, well, if you’re in need of some warm fuzzy feelings about the Cowboys’ 2019 prospects you need go no further.
We all understand the first goal for any NFL team is to win their division. So how have the Cowboys’ odds in this department evolved since the pre-season? Glad you asked; the following shows each team’s odds of winning their division from prior to week 1 to prior to week 4 (now):
Wow. The computer guys gave the Cowboys about a one-in-three chance of winning the NFC East before the season started; that number is now better than four-in-five (80%). The Cowboys have the second highest odds of winning their division in the entire NFL, behind only the New England Patriots.
The pre-season favorite Eagles, by comparison, have seen their odds drop from better than two-in-five (40%) to less than 15%.
These are the kinds of calculations a Cowboys fan can get behind.
What about simply making the playoffs?
Dallas ranks third in likelihood to make the playoffs behind NE and Kansas City, with an 87% chance of reaching the post-season. These teams are good company to be hanging around.
Those Eagles? They were were given a 57% chance to make the playoffs before the season but have seen that number decline to 27%.
The story is pretty much the same no matter which metric we look at. Projected win totals?
The Cowboys again rank third, with FO now forecasting the team to win 11+ games. The Eagles are forecast to be a .500 team.
Football Outsiders’ proprietary “team wide” metric, called DVOA, essentially tells us how a team compares to the average NFL team. A positive number means that team is X% better than the average NFL team; likewise a negative number tells us how much worse that team is than the average NFL team. How has that metric changed since the season’s first week?
Yet again, Dallas ranks third, up there with New England and Kansas City. If you’re 25% better than the average NFL team you’re going to win a lot games. Philadelphia still ranks better than an average team, but not by much.
Honestly, we could do this all day. But we’ll look at just one more metric, chances of obtaining a #1 seed:
First, let’s just soak in the fact that your Dallas Cowboys are now the odds-on favorite to be the NFC’s number one seed, ahead of the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay, New Orleans and yes, those declining Eagles.
The keen readers out there who are able to identify hidden patterns may have noticed I’ve been having some fun with our division rival Eagles. That’s because any time we can have some fun at their expense, well, we should. It’s in that spirit I present the following:
Now, you don’t have to be a CIA code-cracker to pick up on the trends at work here. We see the Cowboys’ odds improving across the board while our division rival’s numbers have moved in the opposite direction. Like I said... warm fuzzy feelings inside.
Now, I’m having fun with this because such odds after three weeks are little better than pre-season odds. Heck, odds after eight weeks often turn out to look silly at the end of the season. You need only go back to week ten last year; that’s when a 3-5 Dallas squad traveled to Philadelphia where the Eagles were expected to “bury” the Cowboys and their 2018 hopes. We don’t have the actual FO odds from that week, but am confident Dallas’ numbers were no better that day than the Eagles’ odds are right now.
That’s not going to stop us from enjoying the moment, and right now your Dallas Cowboys are looking quite nice, thank you very much. Here’s the entire table for all the FO metrics:
Sports fans live a life of eternal optimism for the possibilities mixed with never-ending dread for the (virtually) inevitable disappointment. After all, only one team can win that final game in January. So let’s enjoy where this Cowboys team stands today; I doubt many would have predicted this just 24 days ago.
Which brings me to our last graphic, which shows the evolution of the Cowboys’ odds since the beginning of the season: