Wisdom of the Crowds picks Dallas Cowboys to win NFC East
By Richard Ball
With Week Nine of the NFL season complete, many sports sites revisited their preseason predictions. The majority now pick the Cowboys to win the NFC East.
The Dallas Cowboys are the defending NFC East division champions. It is well known that there has not been a repeat divisional winner since the Philadelphia Eagles won four in a row from 2001-04.
The early season predictions anticipated that the NFC East trend would continue. A quick google search found preseason predictions from ESPN, The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, CBS, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, and NFL.com.
The Cowboys were picked to win the Division only seven of the forty forecasts representing 17.5 percent of the picks. The remaining thirty-three were all in on the Eagles.
One of the crowd, The Sporting News, had a very favorable view of Dallas. They went so far to pick them as Super 54 winners with a victory over the Chiefs.
At the midway point of the season, many of the sites checked their predictions and made some adjustments. Should Cowboys Nation be amused that Dallas is now picked to win the division on 67 percent of the scorecards?
Entering Week Ten, Dallas has a five-win and three-loss record. The Eagles sport a five-win and four-loss record giving the Cowboys a 0.5 game lead on their rivals.
Of significance, one of the Eagles losses was to Dallas in Week Seven when they were tuned by the Cowboys 37-10. This gives Dallas a small playoff advantage as the Cowboys can’t lose the first playoff tiebreaker.
Is it a good sign that people paid to talk or write about football have flip-flopped and are now picking the Cowboys to win the division? What has changed in their minds through the first half-season?
The Cowboys five wins have come against four teams with a combined four wins between them and the Eagles who now sit one game above 0.500. Two of the Cowboys losses were against the Packers and Saints, each currently leading their division, and then the embarrassing loss to the Jets.
Have the first eight games given them confidence that the Cowboys will win more games than the Eagles in the second half of the season? Let’s look at the remaining games for each team.
The Cowboys have four road games and the Eagles have three. Two of the Cowboys road contests are against the Patriots and the Eagles with the other two against NFC North teams Detroit and Chicago.
The Eagles road games are against the Dolphins, Redskins, and Giants. That would be an advantage for the Eagles.
The Cowboys’ four home games are against the Vikings, Bills, Rams, and Redskins. The Eagles’ four home games are against the Patriots, Seahawks, Giants, and Cowboys. This also looks like an advantage for the Eagles.
The Cowboys offense currently sits first overall with 437.6 yards of offense per game. This ranking could be artificially boosted by facing eight defenses that average a 20.5 ranking through the first half of the season.
The Eagles offense currently ranks 18th overall. Through their first nine games, they faced defenses that averaged 16th overall.
The Cowboys offense has the advantage and they will need it. Over the last eight games, quarterback Dak Prescott and his teammates will see defenses that average 12th overall including four games against top-ten defenses. The Eagles seven games are against defenses that average 20th overall with only two top-ten defenses remaining on the schedule.
The Cowboys defense currently ranks sixth overall yielding 318 yards per game. Dallas received a boost playing offenses that average 24th overall during the first half of the season. The offenses over the last eight games will be harder given their collective 17th ranking.
The Eagles defense ranks tenth. The nine offenses they played rank 17th and the seven they will play rank 18th.
While no games in the NFL are easy – just ask the Cowboys what happens when you play a winless New York Jets team – the Cowboys have the harder remaining schedule but the stronger team. Is that enough for the experts to have confidence in the ‘Boys?
They might also look at the Eagles road loss to the one win Atlanta Falcons and their home loss to the sub 0.500 Detroit Lions to make them think that the Eagles are a more flawed and inconsistent team than the Cowboys. Could they be giving a vote of no-confidence in Philadelphia more so than trust in Dallas?
Regardless of what has been written or said, the reality is the Week Sixteen game in Philadelphia will most likely influence which team wins the division. A lot will happen between now and then.
Let’s hope the Cowboys are focused on the Vikings and winning the game in front of them. The one game at a time mantra is cliche but a requirement for success in the NFL.