It’s somehow already Week 18. And while several teams will be fighting for their playoff lives, the Dallas Cowboys have already sealed their playoff destiny. For Cowboys fans, it’s time to start thinking about the playoffs.
Perhaps there’s no better way to get a lay of the land in the NFL than to look at the latest Super Bowl odds. But Cowboys fans might not be thrilled with what they see. The oddsmakers have a clearly defined tier of the most legitimate Super Bowl contenders, and Dallas isn’t a part of it.
Check out these odds from DraftKings Sportsbook:
- Kansas City Chiefs +380
- Buffalo Bills +380
- Philadelphia Eagles +550
- San Francisco 49ers +750
- Dallas Cowboys +1000
The line has been drawn, and Dallas is sort of in no man’s land. The next-closest teams are the Los Angeles Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 25/1 odds. So while the Cowboys have the third-best Super Bowl odds in the NFC, why are they being valued a cut below the league’s elites?
Dallas’ defense has declined in the second half
The Cowboys defense is still one of the league’s top units, ranking eighth in yards per play allowed and second in DVOA. But the unit hasn’t been quite as dominant recently. Since the bye week, Dallas has allowed 349.5 yards per game and has surrendered at least 20 points in five of those outings.
Now, those numbers themselves aren’t reason to sound the alarm. But it’s more concerning when considering that five of those games came against the Giants, Colts, Texans, Eagles with Gardner Minshew under center and the Titans with Joshua Dobbs at QB. The unit has also posted negative expected points contributed in five of those eight contests.
What’s bailed the Dallas defense out is takeaways, as Dallas has multiple takeaways in six of the eight games. But it’s hard to bank on forcing turnovers in the postseason when the opponents are stronger and more disciplined. Dallas has to find a way to get stops and get off the field on third down at a stronger clip. Dallas has a 62% success rate on third downs this season.
Doubt in Dak?
Can Dak Prescott get it done in the postseason? So far, the answer is no. Prescott is 1-3 in the postseason, with Dallas averaging 23.5 points in those games. He has just six passing touchdowns and three interceptions in those games, while averaging 262 yards.
Prescott hasn’t been bad in the postseason, and you can’t blame him individually for any of the postseason setbacks. But he hasn’t been prolific, which is what Cowboys fans have expected from the sixth-highest paid QB in the NFL.
Dallas has a strong, balanced offense. And Prescott is having another solid season, ranking 11th in defensive-adjusted yards above replacement and sixth in DVOA among QBs. But the team may need Prescott to reach another level if they’re going to make a deep run.
Lackluster recent playoff success
There’s no sugar-coating it, the Dallas Cowboys haven’t been great in the postseason recently. Dallas has made five playoff appearances since 2014 and are 2-4 in those games, with no trips beyond the Divisional Round.
Dallas is deemed “America’s Team,” and one of the league’s most publicly-backed teams. Perhaps oddsmakers are letting it be known that they aren’t buying the hype with these odds.
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy certainly has the experience, but McCarthy hasn’t won a playoff game since 2016. Part of the reason is he’s made just one playoff appearance since that 2016 campaign in Green Bay. But any Cowboys fans who don’t fully trust McCarthy entering the playoffs has every right. While he won the Super Bowl in 2018, McCarthy came up short several times with Packers teams that were legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
McCarthy’s playoff experience could come in handy against less seasoned coaches such as Nick Sirianni, Kevin O’Connell and Todd Bowles. But he’ll have to be quicker to make adjustments after the team fell flat in the postseason a year ago.
The NFC is really tricky
The NFC is definitely the inferior conference of the two, but the conference feels extremely competitive and could be up for grabs.
The Eagles have been the best team in the league all year, but have concerns with Jalen Hurts’ health. The Vikings, who Dallas dominated on the road earlier in the season, has gotten the breaks all season long and has an explosive offense. The Buccaneers, who beat the Cowboys in Week 1, still have a ton of talent and the GOAT Tom Brady. Surging teams like Green Bay and Detroit could be poised for a run if they can get in the postseason.
Getting to the Super Bowl is never easy, and the gap between the first and seventh seed in the NFC feels tighter than ever.