NFC East champion will win their division with a less-than-champion-like record
With three weeks remaining in the 2019 NFL season, one thing is for certain: Whichever team wins the NFC East will have a less-than-stellar regular season record. The Dallas Cowboys are sitting atop the NFC East with a losing record at 6-7. The Eagles are a game back with a 5-8 mark.
Even if the Cowboys win out in their three remaining contests, they would win the division with a 9-7 record, just a game above .500.
But there’s an even more interesting scenario that could play out that would certainly be an embarrassment to the league: The NFC East champion could end the season with a 6-10 record. Think about that: An NFC East champion with a 6-10 record could host a first-round playoff game against a Wild Card team that won 10 or more games in the regular season. Crazy, huh?
Here’s how that could happen:
* Dallas, 6-7, could lose their three remaining games against the Rams, Eagles and Redskins and finish 6-10
* Philadelphia, 5-8, could lose to the Redskins, beat the Cowboys, lose to the Giants and finish 6-10.
* Washington, now 3-10, is still, believe it or not, in the race to win the division… they could defeat the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys in their last three games and finish 6-10.
There it is, a three-way tie for the NFC East with Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington all ending the season with a record of 6-10.
Enough of the “could happens.” Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, there have been 27 division champions that ended the regular season with a winning percentage under .600 (that usually meant winning the division with less than 10 wins… which will happen in the NFC East this season). In fact, there have been five teams since 1970 (not counting the 1982 strike season) that won their division with a .500 or below winning percentage. The five:
1985: Cleveland 8-8 .500
2008: San Diego, 8-8 .500
2010: Seattle, 7-9 .438
2011: Denver, 8-8, .500
2014: Carolina, 7-8-1, .469
As you can see, the Cowboys will have to win three straight to avoid this list, and if we end the year with a three-way with the Cowboys, Eagles and Redskins at 6-10, it will set a new mark for futility for division champions.
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After a season-opening 20-19 loss to the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys have won 10 straight games. They have the best record in the NFC and the NFL and could secure home field advantage for the playoffs.
With their 31-26 Thanksgiving Day win over the Washington Redskins the Cowboys got their 10th consecutive win of the season. They became the 37th team in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to win 10 or more consecutive games in a single season in the NFL.
Looking at the previous 36 teams to win 10 straight (or more) in a season in the league, we see that more than half (19 to be exact) went on to play in the Super Bowl that season and 12 won the big game. That’s good news for Jerry Jones’ squad as they hope to turn this regular season success into a little success in the post-season. It has been two decades since the Cowboys played in the Super Bowl (they won Super Bowl XXX over Pittsburgh on January 28, 1996).
Let’s take a look at the 36 teams that won 10 or more straight games in a single season since 1966 (prior to the Cowboys this season) and which of those teams advanced to the conference title game or the Super Bowl.
Won 10 straight in a season
Oakland, 1967 (lost Super Bowl)
Miami, 1973 (won Super Bowl)
Oakland, 1976 (won Super Bowl)
New York Giants, 1990 (won Super Bowl)
San Francisco, 1994 (won Super Bowl)
Indianapolis, 2006 (won Super Bowl)
San Diego, 2006
Kansas City, 2015
New England, 2015 (lost in the conference championship)
Won 11 straight in a season
Los Angeles Rams, 1969
Pittsburgh, 1975 (won Super Bowl)
Miami, 1984 (lost Super Bowl)
San Francisco, 1990 (lost in conference championship)
Washington, 1991 (won Super Bowl)
Houston Oilers, 1993
San Francisco, 1997 (lost in the conference championship)
Jacksonville, 1999 (lost in conference championship)
Seattle, 2005 (lost Super Bowl)
San Diego, 2009
Won 12 straight in a season
Minnesota, 1969 (lost Super Bowl)
Chicago, 1985 (won Super Bowl)
New England, 2003 (won Super Bowl)
Won 13 straight in a season
New Orleans, 2009 (won Super Bowl)
Green Bay, 2011
Won 14 straight in a season
Miami, 1972 (won Super Bowl)
Denver, 1998 (won Super Bowl)
Pittsburgh, 2004 (lost in conference championship game)
Indianapolis, 2009 (lost Super Bowl)
Carolina, 2015 (lost Super Bowl)
Won 16 straight in a season
New England, 2007 (lost Super Bowl)
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Look at the standings in the NFL after Week #9 and you see a team that each year seems to be the best team in the AFC (New England) and a team that has yearly had a lot of promise but has seen those promises largely unfulfilled over the past several seasons (the Cowboys). Both teams sit at 7-1 and are tied for the best record in the league, and have the best record in their respective conference.
A major reason for Dallas’ success this year seems to have had its beginning at the 2016 NFL Draft when they chose running back Ezekiel Elliot with the fourth overall pick. But another choice, that of quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round with the 135th overall pick, will probably go down as a selection that was just as important. A pre-season injury to veteran Dallas QB Tony Romo set the wheels in motion for Prescott to eventually earn the starting job and the Cowboys have not looked back.
Elliott has gained 891 yards in his first eight games and Prescott has passed for 2,020 yards. That puts Elliott on pace to rush for just under 1,800 yards in the season, and places Prescott on a pace to throw for over 4,000 yards.
For Prescott, he could become the 16th rookie QB in history to pass for over 3,000 yards in a season. If he was to stay on pace and go over 4,000, he would become only the fourth rookie QB to reach the 4,000-yards passing mark. The three with over 4,000 yards passing as a rookie:
Andrew Luck, 2012, Indianapolis, 4,374
Cam Newton, 2011, Carolina, 4,051
Jameis Winston, 2015, Tampa Bay, 4,042
If Elliott stays on pace, he could challenge the rookie record for most rushing yards in a season, 1,808, held by Eric Dickerson with the Rams in 1983. If Elliott goes over the 1,500-yards rushing mark, he would become only the seventh rookie RB in history to reach 1,500 yards rushing in their first season. The six rookie running backs with 1,500 rushing yards in a season:
Eric Dickerson, 1983, Rams, 1,808
George Rogers, 1981, New Orleans, 1,674
Alfred Morris, 2012, Washington, 1,613
Ottis Anderson, 1979, St. Louis, 1,605
Edgerrin James, 1999, Indianapolis, 1,553
Clinton Portis, 2002, Denver, 1,508
What Prescott and Elliott are accomplishing together this season, however, could be historic. Consider this: Only once in NFL history has a team had a rookie QB throw for over 3,000 and a running back gain 1,500 yards rushing in the same season. That happened in 2012 when Washington Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin had 3,200 yards passing and ’Skins rookie running back Alfred Morris had 1,613 yards rushing that same season. Prescott and Elliott, if they stay healthy, could challenge these two. Would that make them the greatest rookie backfield in league history? I’ll let you decided.
Right now, there has been only two rookie tandems (QB and RB) that have reached 3,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing in the same campaign. They are:
Washington, 2012: Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin
Cleveland, 2012: Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden
Of course, if you look at the rookie season of Cam Newton in 2011, he passed for 4,051 yards and rushed for 706 that season, so he reached the two numbers by himself, a feat that was duplicated the following season when Robert Griffin passed for 3,200 yards and rushed for 815 that same season.
Keep an eye on the Cowboys, especially if good health and success continues… Prescott and Elliott could accomplish something pretty rare.
Here are some of the numbers that helped define the Packers 30-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on October 16.
- The Packers defense allowed 30 points in a game for the 36th time since 2000. The Pack is now 7-29 in those games. When they allowed their opponents to score 30 or more points in a game at Lambeau they are 3-9 since 2000.
- This was the 16th loss by 14 or more points in a contest since 2006. Five of those losses came at home. The last loss by 14 or more points at home was 27-13 to the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 10, 2013.
- The Cowboys scored first in the game on Sunday. The Packers are 7-4 at Lambeau Field since 2010 when their opponents score first.
- This was the 15th home game since 2000 where the Packers never led in the game. The last game was on Jan. 3, 2016 against the Vikings when the Pack never led in that 20-13 loss.
- Green Bay allowed three passing TDs. Since 2000 they are 14-9 at home when the opposition scores three or more TD’s via passes.
- The Cowboys had 191 yards rushing in the game. It was the 18th game at home since 2000 that they allowed the opponents to rush for 180 or more yards; the team was 9-8-1 in those games. In all games since 2000, the Pack has allowed opponents to rush for 180 or more yards in 32 games, compiling a 13-18-1 record in those games.
- The team had four turnovers against Dallas. Since 2010 they are 1-3 in games at Lambeau when they have four or more turnovers; they are 4-8 in those games at home since 2000.
- Dallas QB Dak Prescott had a QB Rating of 117.4 in the game. The Packers are now 3-8 since 2010 when the opposing QB has a QB Rating of 115 or above.
- Fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 157 yards for the Cowboys. Green Bay is 4-10 in games since 2000 when the opponents have a player rush for 150 or more yards against the Pack. The Packers have now lost four of their last five games when a player gains 150+ yards rushing against their defense.
- Packers receiver Ty Montgomery had 10 catches for 98 yards in the game. He became the seventh Packers receiver to catch 10 or more passes in a game since 2000. Montgomery had 15 receptions in 2015, his rookie year, and had no receptions in 2016 prior to his 10-reception game last Sunday against the Cowboys.
- The Packers are now 13-8 against the NFC East since 2006, including a 9-3 record at home.
- Green Bay is now 27-10 in mid-afternoon games (3pm start) in the Mike McCarthy era. They are 13-7 since 2012 and have now lost two straight in these mid-afternoon starts.
In the 48-year history of the Super Bowl, 17 of those games (35.4%) were decided by one score (eight points or less). Unfortunately, last year’s Seattle win over Denver, 43-8, finished at the other end of the spectrum with a blowout that was the third largest margin in the game’s history.
Three teams have lost multiple Super Bowl games by eight points or less: Dallas (lost three) and New England and Cincinnati (each lost two). For Dallas, they lost their three Super Bowls by three, four and four points. The Cowboys have, however, won five Super Bowls, which makes those close losses a little easier to take. The Bengals, on the other hand, lost two Super Bowls by four and five points in their only two appearances in the big game. New England has three Super Bowl victories and two losses by three and four points. It’s interesting to note that the Patriots won each of their three championships by three points each.
Here’s a look at the games in Super Bowl history that were decided by one score.
Point Differential, Super Bowl Games (Date of Game)
1: N.Y. Giants over Buffalo (1991)
3: Baltimore over Dallas (1971); New England over St. Louis (2002); New England over Carolina (2004); New England over Philadelphia (2005); N.Y. Giants over New England (2008); Baltimore over San Francisco (2013)
4: Pittsburgh over Dallas (1976); Pittsburgh over Dallas (1979); San Francisco over Cincinnati (1989); Pittsburgh over Arizona (2009); N.Y. Giants over New England (2012)
5: San Francisco over Cincinnati (1982)
6: Green Bay over Pittsburgh (2011)
7: Miami over Washington (1973); Denver over Green Bay (1988); St. Louis over Tennessee (2000)
Note: Six of the 17 one-score Super Bowls have happened in the past 10 years.
Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp