History favors Cowboys: non-qualifiers from ’16 who made playoffs in’17

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders perform during halftime as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Seattle Seahawks at AT
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders perform during halftime as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Seattle Seahawks at AT /

The Cowboys have a good chance at the postseason next year. Here’s a look at some NFL teams that bounced back from a 9-7 record (or worse) and made the playoffs this year:

Historically speaking, the Dallas Cowboys have a good shot at the postseason next year. Never mind that injuries and suspensions plagued their roster in a way that would sink most franchises. Forget that they’ll face a much easier schedule in 2018 coming in second place in the NFC East. And never mind that Dak Prescott will get another full offseason of preparation as the franchise quarterback.

All of those things are important – extremely important – to a bounce back season, but they are largely subjective analysis and bit of speculation. We’ll spend all offseason on that juicy stuff. Today we’re simply looking at recent historical data:

This postseason the following teams qualified for the postseason: New England, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Tennessee, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans, Carolina, and Atlanta.

While some of these franchises are perennial postseason characters, majority are not. It’s that revolving door of parity that gives hope for promising franchises like the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas limped their way to a 9-7 record this past season. While this was disappointing in nearly every way, we must recognize a nine-win season is typically good enough for a playoff spot. Just this season Tennessee and Buffalo qualified for the playoffs with 9-7 records.

Jacksonville represents a big leap in performance. Last season they finished 3-13. Only the Browns and 49ers had poorer records. This season they jumped to 10-6 and won the AFC South.

Last season Buffalo finished 7-9, and as mentioned earlier, they made the playoffs this year at 9-7. It may only be a two game bump but I think we all know how much better we’d be feeling today had the Cowboys won two more games this season.

I’ll tell you where they’d be: Dallas would be 11-5. They’d face the Carolina Panthers in the Wild Card round (possibly hosting it) and be set to face the Nick Foles led Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round.

Philadelphia may be the most comparable example. They finished 7-9 last season and exploded to 13-3 this season. Their team essentially switched places with the Cowboys and closely resembles them in many ways. It just goes to show how easily things can change (and hopefully change back).

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Minnesota was 8-8 last season and this season they are 13-3 and owners of the No. 2 seed. The L.A. Rams were 4-12 and jumped to 11-5. All it seemed to take was a coaching change. Do you hear that Jerry Jones?

New Orleans and Carolina both finished at the bottom of the NFC South with a 7-9 and 6-10 record, respectively. This season both teams are 11-5 and legitimate challengers for the conference crown.

As you can see, things changed significantly from one postseason to the next. And it largely happened without major roster moves. For a talented team like the Dallas Cowboys, making the postseason next year isn’t just a possibility – it’s darn near an inevitability.

This offseason as we evaluate the roster and plan for 2018, we need to consider how things can organically change. We must weigh player performances from the last two years and not just rely on last season, because we can see firsthand how often performance changes season-to-season for nearly every team in the league.

Next: Why Dez Bryant isn't even tradeable

The Dallas Cowboys missed the playoffs this season but fans should feel optimistic looking to the future because the past has shown how inevitable change is in the postseason.