Dallas Cowboys schedule released: Can they succeed after starting 0-1?

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The NFL released the Dallas Cowboys 2021 schedule and fans are buzzing. It’s not that the opponents are unexpected – we’ve known the Cowboys opponents for quite some time now – it’s when they meet that’s sparking the discussion.

Obviously Dallas has the usual lineup of intra-division teams to play. The Giants, Eagles, and that football team from the District of Columbia. That should be seen as good news for Cowboys fans that hope to get back to the playoffs.

What are the odds Dallas makes the postseason after starting off the season with a loss?

The NFC East is considered the worst in the NFL, so jumping from 3rd place in the division to 1st place is not beyond the realm of possibility. In fact, it’s almost expected for a fully healthy Dallas Cowboys roster.

But it’s some of the other games on the schedule that has us concerned…

Something that immediately jumps off the page is who the Dallas Cowboys face in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Frankly, it’s hard not to notice a match-up against the defending champions. This is especially true when that matchup happens the first week of the new season.

Getting matched-up against the champs is like starting off the season one game in the hole. That’s not an indictment on the Dallas Cowboys, per say, it’s just the reality of the situation.

Defending Super Bowl champions are historically good football teams. They are prone to winning their season opener regardless of who they face. And considering all of the adversity Dallas faces in week one, the smart money should be on the Bucs in this contest, regardless of how optimistic you or I am about the Cowboys this year.

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Look at what Dallas has to overcome:

  1. They are returning key personnel who missed most, if not all, of last season (Dak, Tyron, La’el, LVE will all be rusty).
  2. They are installing a new defensive scheme under a brand new defensive coordinator.
  3. They are expected to start three new outside free agents and up to three rookies rookies (hello, sloppiness).
  4. They are playing the game on the road, in a full stadium, with verbal communication nearly impossible.

Therefore, it’s not absurd to think the Dallas Cowboys will probably lose their season opener even if we think the Cowboys are Super Bowl contenders this year. So what happens if the Dallas Cowboys start the season 0-1? What does it do for their playoff odds?

Five Thirty Eight has crunched the numbers and not surprisingly, the odds drop after starting the season with a loss. Based on their historical data, teams start the season with a 38% of making the playoffs and that number drops to 25% after a Week 1 loss. In fact, teams that start 0-1, on average, end the season with 6.9 wins.

Clearly, the 6.9 wins does not account for the extra game on the schedule, but the raw percentages will largely remain true. But even that shouldn’t be seen as pure doom and gloom, Cowboys fans. As we mentioned earlier, the Cowboys happen to play in a fairly poor division. The winner of the NFC East is guaranteed a playoff spot and all Dallas has to do is do better than their division rivals and they’ll get a ticket to the postseason.

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At the end of the day a loss is a loss and it doesn’t matter if it happens in Week 1 or Week 8. The odds just look ugly because bad teams tend to lose more often than not and good teams tend to win more often than not. It doesn’t account for losing to the best team in the league.

  • Published on 05/13/2021 at 16:01 PM
  • Last updated at 05/13/2021 at 22:58 PM