The 2016 Dallas Cowboys are the 2015 Carolina Panthers
I was looking at some Dallas Cowboys (13-3) stats the other day, and I thought to myself that I had seen this before. By “this” I mean a team with a really good record, but you just aren’t convinced by the team somehow. Where have I seen it before? 2015 Carolina Panthers. The Panthers were really good last year, but you just never got the feeling they were a great team. They finished the season 15-1, then squeaked past Seattle in the Divisional Round as Russell Wilson had arguably the worst game of his career and still almost won. They then crushed the Cardinals on there way to the Super Bowl where they got man handled by the Denver Broncos.
So let’s take a look at how similar these teams are. First, I think it’s interesting to look at strength of schedule. According to TeamRankings.com, the 2015 Carolina Panthers had the 29th most difficult schedule and the 2016 Dallas Cowboys schedule is ranked 30th in terms of difficulty. So while both of their records were very good, there schedules weren’t exactly the most difficult.
Dallas is 13-3 overall, but only 3-2 against teams that made the playoffs this year. (Fun Note: Atlanta is 2-2 against playoff teams and the Patriots are 4-1.) The Panthers were 4-0 against playoff teams in 2015. Compare this to Denver who played 7 games against playoff teams last year and went 5-2.
Next I looked at “Luck” as defined by TeamRankings.com. In 2015, Carolina was ranked number 1 luckiest team and Dallas in 2016 is ranked number 2.
And just look at these team stat lines next to each other. The 2015 Carolina Panthers scored 500 points and allowed 308. The 2016 Cowboys scored 421 and allowed 306. And look at the average points per drive. The Cowboys this year scored 2.45 pts/drive and last year the Panthers put up 2.4 pts/drive.
So, no doubt the 2016 Dallas Cowboys are pretty good. I just don’t think they are great. I think they have a decent chance to make the Super Bowl, but I have a hard time seeing them winning it. I don’t think they can beat any of the teams that have a chance to come out of the AFC (realistically, New England, Kansas City, or Pittsburgh). And I’m not sure they can beat the Packers who are playing great right now. So this is where I might say something like: “If the Cowboys win the Super Bowl, I’ll get the Cowboys logo tattooed on my forehead”. But that wouldn’t be a smart thing to do because, if there is one thing that I learned from 2016, it’s that even events that have a 0% chance of happening (You know what I’m talking about) can actually happen. And the Cowboys have a much better than 0% chance to win the Super Bowl. But I’d bet a tattoo on my forehead that they won’t win the Super Bowl this year……….