Sports Illustrated predicts 8-8 season, no playoffs for Dallas Cowboys

Last year, Sports Illustrated predicted a 9-7 record for the Cowboys and a failure to make the playoffs. Things turned out differently.

This year, SI.com have looked into their crystal ball again and Conor Orr forecasts a bad season for the Cowboys.

COWBOYS: 8–8

Dallas has a chance to start white-hot with extremely an winnable game at home against the Giants before a road game (potentially against a rookie starting quarterback) in Washington followed by another home game against the rebuilding Dolphins. So long as they’re not stunned by FitzMagic, there’s a real chance we’re talking about an unbeatable Dallas team headed into a Week 4 matchup against the Saints in New Orleans. That’s when the meat of their schedule kicks in, with little respite until the bitter end. Given their dramatic shift at offensive coordinator, this was one of the hardest teams to grade when looking at a blank slate.

With an 8-8 record, the Cowboys finish second in the NFC East behind the 11-5 Eagles and ahead of the 6-10 Giants. Orr has no love for the Redskins who come in last in the division with a 5-11 record.

With the Cowboys projection, Orr stays moderately close to what the Vegas sportsbooks are projecting, as Vegas puts the over/under for the Cowboys at 9.0 wins. Orr is right on the money with the Vegas over/under for the Giants (6 wins), is much more pessimistic about the Redskins (Vegas: 6.5 wins) and much more optimistic about the Eagles (Vegas: 9.5 wins).

For the NFC, Orr has the Seahawks (11-5) and Saints (10-6) as the wildcard teams and they join the Eagles, Vikings, Falcons, and Rams as the NFC playoff teams.

Eight wins and no playoffs would clearly be a disappointment for Cowboys fans, even if some might welcome such a record as it would mean the end of Garrett’s tenure in Dallas, and probably some wholesale changes to the staff and team to go along with it. In a recent survey, 77% of almost 1,500 Blogging The Boys readers polled said the Cowboys would at least have to reach the NFC Championship Game for 2019 to be considered a successful season, so expectations are high in Dallas.

In 2018, the Cowboys played in 10 games decided by seven points or less and had an extraordinary 8-2 record in those games.

If they continue to play in that many close games, their luck could easily turn in 2019, so a 8-8 record is not out of the question.

In 2010, the Cowboys went 3-8 in games decided by seven points or less, including an incredible 0-6 start to the season, and ended up with a 6-10 record and a new head coach.

The key to avoiding a repeat of 2010 is pretty straight-forward, as Tom Ryle recently explained:

The solution is obvious: score more points. And that may be a clue as to just why the Cowboys were in so many of these close affairs in 2018.

There was an apparent tendency under former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to play it close to the vest when he had a lead. In other words, the conservative and unimaginative play-calling just got more conservative and easier to predict when the team had a lead. That, in turn, led to stalled drives and punts, rather than scoring opportunities. Another way to put it is that the Cowboys played to not lose when they got ahead. It is a form of situational football, and it is not a wise one. To use another football cliché, if you let the other team hang around, you are playing with fire.

Over the first seven games of the 2018 season, the Cowboys averaged just 20 points per game, and even the Amari Cooper-enhanced offense of the last nine games only averaged 22.1 points per game.

If you believe the 2019 offense will score more points, the playoffs are a very realistic target for the Cowboys. If you believe the offense is what it is and won’t improve much, an 8-8 record is the most likely outcome.

BTB Hall of Famer rabblerousr repeatedly made this point:

Close games are a subject to luck; in large sample sizes, all teams’ winning percentages in such games, regardless of overall record, are roughly .500. Consequently, what distinguishes good and bad teams is the paucity of such contests in which they are involved; the best teams win more games comfortably, while the worst are blown out more frequently. By extension – and this is the main point for today – teams that play a lot of close games should expect their overall records to hover around the .500 mark.

Good teams aren’t good because they win close games, but because they managed to avoid close games.

Can the Cowboys be such a team in 2019?

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