Dallas’ Playoff Hopes and Off-Season Hurdles

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At 5-5, Dallas Cowboys fans have a myriad of questions about their team both short term and long term. This article aims to analyze both situations and present factual solutions both now and later.

Being so mediocre and depleted as they are, questions abound whether the Cowboys can win a playoff game should they win their division. I’ll show you how Dallas winning a playoff game isn’t so inconceivable in Part I.

If the Dallas Cowboys miss the playoffs or don’t play past January 5th, what is the answer going forward? Would the fans rather be dead than keep Coach Red? I’ll take a look at how the Cowboys organization addresses their current state in Part II.


The Dallas Cowboys’ playoff hopes hang in the balance like a loose tooth.

Going back to 1990, when the NFL last messed with the playoff formats to present what we have today, there have been 276 playoff teams. Among those 276 teams, only 29 of them had 5-5 records. That’s 10.5 percent.

In franchise history, the Dallas Cowboys have fielded five 5-5 teams: 1974, 1987, 1997, 1999, and 2012. Only 1999’s team, which finished 8-8, qualified for the playoffs, where the Minnesota Vikings summarily dispatched them in the wildcard playoffs.

Dallas’ saving grace has been the dismal divisional play. However, Philadelphia’s victories in their last three games, while Dallas has lost two out of their last three, has knotted things evenly at 5-5 for the NFC East’s top spot. If Dallas built its playoff hopes on the poor division play, it built its house on sand.

.500, or a follicle above, appears to be enough to win the 2013 NFC East title. With three of their last six on the road, and also three of their last six against potential winning teams, it’s safe to posit Dallas wins only three more games in 2013. The questions are:

  1. Will any other NFC East team tie or exceed their win total?
  2. Who did Dallas beat?
  3. What is their division record?

If Philadelphia and New York continue to improve as Dallas peters out, it’s curtains with the season ending on another familiar, underachieving note. More than likely, this is how the season will unfold. My heart tells me Tony Romo and the guys will find a way, but my head knows better.

However, let’s stay optimistic and talk about Dallas’ playoff chances.

Oct 13, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Kyle Wilber (51) recovers a fumble by Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (not pictured) in the fourth quarter at AT

Since 1990, there have been 10 division champions that had a 5-5 record at one point. The bulk of the teams came during the 2001-12 period. The 2006 Philadelphia Eagles are the only team to represent the NFC East in this criterion.

Of those 29 playoff teams, ten of them were division champions, which means they hosted a playoff game, a privilege Dallas earns with an NFC East title. Only the 2003 Baltimore Ravens and 2008 Minnesota Vikings lost in the wildcard playoffs. The formerly 5-5 team hosting a playoff game wins 80% of the time going back to 1990. Compare that to 13/18 formerly 5-5 teams that played on the road and lost in the wildcard. Going back to the year 2000, only 19/52 road teams won in the wildcard round. Also, going back to the year 2000, 7/9 of the division winners with 8-8 or 9-7 records won their playoff games, and that includes the 2010 7-9 Seattle Seahawks.

If the Dallas Cowboys qualify for the postseason, chances are they will win in the wildcard round, but lose in the divisional playoffs. Of the 14/29 formerly 5-5 teams that won in the wildcard round, only three of them ever advanced to the conference championship game: the 1995 Indianapolis Colts, 2001 New England Patriots, and 2007 San Diego Chargers. One of those teams should resonate in the mind of even the casual NFL fan.

Regardless whether the season ends in December or mid-January, the focus on the Dallas Cowboys long term comes to the fore.