The mathematically-inclined folks at NumberFire.com have calculated the odds of each NFL team reaching the playoffs, and they have concluded that once again the New York Giants will win the NFC East with a 9-7 record and be the only team from the division to reach the playoffs. That would mean the Giants go 3-3 after their bye and hold off the Dallas Cowboys, whom the numbers project to go 4-3 the rest of the way and finish 8-8 for the second year in a row. They put the Giants' chances of reaching the playoffs at 65.6 percent and the Cowboys' chances at 41.3 percent, making Dallas the team that comes closest without making it:
Down but not out, the Cowboys benefit from having the easiest schedule in the NFL the rest of the way. They'll need some help from other teams in the NFC, but if Dallas can improve its pass defense, which has allowed 42 points over expectation so far, the Cowboys have an outside shot at a playoff spot.
Not a bad situation for a 4-5 team, and this is the kind of exercise that will change every week, so depending on what happens this weekend the Cowboys' chances in next week's predictor could be better than they are in this week's.
And for those curious, the predictor has the Washington Redskins going 4-3 the rest of the way to finish at 7-9 and a 12.1 percent chance at making the playoff field and the Philadelphia Eagles going 2-5 the rest of the way to finish at 5-11 and a 0.8 percent chance of making it. Looks as though the predictor has been watching the Eagles' recent games.