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DMN: Five Downs With Football Outsiders: How are the Cowboys the NFC East's worst tea


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Five Downs With Football Outsiders: How are the Cowboys the NFC East's worst team?

Bill Barnwell, a contributing editor at footballoutsiders.com and one of the minds behind the must-read Pro Football Prospectus, will answer five Cowboys questions each week of the season using the FO data and methodologies. Here's the Week 6 edition:

1. If the NFC East standings went by the Football Outsider team efficiency rankings, the Cowboys would be in last place. They're seventh overall, and it's tough to argue that the No. 1 Giants and No. 5 Redskins have been more impressive through five games. How the heck are the 2-3 Eagles ranked third?

It's a tricky one, a combination of several factors. Some of the issue is luck -- the Eagles' opponents have gone nine-for-nine on field goals, including several 50+ yarders. The success rate of opposing field goals, of course, is totally random from year-to-year. They've also been subject to some long turnover returns, which is also random, while their turnover returns have been shorter.

The biggest thing, though, is how they've played in their games. Among the NFC East teams, who can say they've blown out a very good team? Washington's won four games by a total of 20 points. Dallas beat Philadelphia by four, Green Bay by 11 (in their most impressive performance of the year), and Cincinnati by nine. The Giants have blown out Seattle (the best performance of any team in the league so far by DVOA) and dominated the Redskins in a game they won by nine. They also had a close win against Cincinnati and a blowout against St. Louis.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, dominated Pittsburgh in a nine-point win the same way the Giants handled the Redskins, making their opposition look silly. They lost to Dallas by four on the road, lost to Chicago by four on the road, and lost to the Redskins by six points. They've looked very impressive in their two wins (the other a blowout of the Rams), and we give them credit for outplaying the Cowboys despite losing, perhaps owing to two 47+ yard field goals by Nick Folk.

Of course, shoulda coulda doesn't mean you can go back in time and change what happened. DVOA's pretty nifty at using these sort of things to predict future performance, though, so I'm pretty confident that the Eagles are still going to have a say in the playoff picture in the NFC.

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I realize that DVOA is gospel to many stat nerds, but any methodology that considers the Giants to have dominated the Redskins in Week 1, yet considers the Redskin wins over the Eagles and Cowboys to just be narrow wins is inherently flawed.

The Redskins controlled the tempo and flow of both of those games just as the Giants did against the Redskins. I can't take anything seriously that doesn't recognize that.

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Here is the thing. ONLY standings matter!

In that regard, the Cowboys are not the worst NFC east team

Yes, but it could portend the future if they don't address their problems.

While standings matter, they only matter at the end of the season when the playoff teams get selected. Being 4-1 doesn't mean much if you aren't able to follow through. (That statement would apply to the Redskins as well.)


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