For any normal NFL team, a 2-7 record would mean no hope for the playoffs and a high draft pick in the spring. But the Dallas Cowboys are a different breed of 2-7 team, namely because Tony Romo is back under center. The four-time Pro Bowler has missed all but two games this season with a broken collarbone. And the results have been evident for the Cowboys, who are 2-0 with Romo and 0-7 in his absence. So now that he’s healthy again, does Dallas still have a chance to make the playoffs? Let’s discuss this by looking at a few different factors below.
1. The NFC East is Weak
Before the 2015 NFL season began, the NFC looked like it could be a somewhat tough division. Dallas was coming off a 12-4 season, Philadelphia was 10-6 last year, and the New York Giants were mediocre. But then Romo got hurt, Philly’s new offense failed to gel, New York didn’t capitalize on key opportunities, and division-doormat Washington somehow snuck into the race. Right now, New York leads the division with a 5-5 record, followed by both the Eagles and Redskins at 4-5.
This puts Dallas three games behind the NFC East leader and two games out of second place. With seven contests left, they possibly have enough time to leapfrog all three teams—depending upon how everybody plays. What’s more is that neither New York, Philly nor Washington seems to have the talent to close out the division with a stellar run.
2. Backup Quarterbacks killed Dallas
Romo is giving the Cowboys a boost exactly where they need it. In relief of Romo, Dallas tried Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel, neither of whom could lead this team to a single victory. For Weeden’s part, the numbers weren’t bad; he just didn’t do enough to get touchdowns in the red zone (2TD passes in 3 games). As for Cassel, he did a little better job of throwing for touchdowns (4TD passes), but he also threw five interceptions in four contests. Long story short, this team will more than welcome back Romo and his 113.2 QBR from last season.
3. The Schedule is Tough
One knock against the Cowboys’ chances of making the postseason is their schedule. Their easiest opponents include: @Miami and Washington (twice)—neither of which is a complete cakewalk. Their other games include: Carolina, @Green Bay, NY Jets and @Buffalo. All of these teams have winning records and Carolina is undefeated. Surviving this stretch might have been easier last year, when DeMarco Murray was running over opponents, but it’s going to be much harder this time around.
4. Dallas is not a Complete Team
It’s not like the return of Romo automatically means this is the best team in the NFC East. Murray is running the football in Philadelphia, and Darren McFadden is starting running back this season. McFadden has done okay with 494 rushing yards and a 3.8 YPC average, but he hasn’t gone for 1,000 yards in a season since 2010. There’s little to back him up either since the early season starter, Joseph Randle, was dismissed from the team for personal problems. The defense also isn’t perfect in Dallas, ranking 17th in total defense; however, it’s serviceable enough if the offense is clicking.
As mentioned before, Romo is filling the exact position that Dallas has sorely needed ever since his Week 2 injury. So this gives the Cowboys a chance to win in each of their last seven games. However, Dallas lost some pretty winnable games against the Saints and Buccaneers when Romo was out. This will come back to haunt them as they face some of their toughest opponents of the season over the final seven contests.
It seems that the biggest bonus for Dallas is that the NFC East isn’t particularly strong. However, they’d probably still have to go at least 5-2 or 6-1 to have any hope of winning the division. We see Dallas winning four out of their next seven and finishing at 6-10, but maybe they’ll surprise us. Now here’s a look at our betting line for their next game.
Dallas vs. Miami (11/22 at 1:00pm EST)
Dallas -1 (-115)