Which 3-3 team has best playoff shot?

October, 26, 2012
10/26/12
10:46
AM ET

Howard Smith/US PresswireThe Cowboys and Eagles are both 3-3. Which team has a better chance to make the playoffs?
This is the latest installment of a weekly NFL discussion that takes a closer look at one of the week’s hot topics. Today’s discussion focuses on which 3-3 NFC team has the best chance of making the playoffs:

THE COWBOYS HAVE THE BEST CHANCE OF MAKING THE PLAYOFFS
The Dallas Cowboys have had a disappointing season, but the rest of the schedule should be much easier than their first six games.

The first six opponents the Cowboys played currently have a combined record of 22-17, with four of them over .500.

The Cowboys’ remaining opponents have a combined 32-33 record, and only two of those teams are currently over .500 (New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons). They have only lost to teams with winning records so far.

Accuscore, which runs computer simulations for the football season, confirms the idea that the Cowboys have an easier schedule than their peers.

It gives the Cowboys a 34 percent chance of making the playoffs, nine percentage points higher than the team my colleague supports below, the Eagles.

Statistically speaking, based on this Insider article, the stats that seem to correlate best with future offensive performance are pass yards per attempt and offensive success rate (the percentage of plays that keep the team “on schedule” and increase the team’s chances of scoring).

The Cowboys rate better than the Eagles in both areas.

Their quarterback, Tony Romo, has completed 68 percent of his passes (third-best in the NFL), eight percentage points better than Michael Vick.

In the fourth quarter or overtime, Romo has a 70.6 completion percentage, best among qualified quarterbacks and 15 percentage points higher than Vick’s.

The Eagles have allowed a sack every 16 dropbacks, compared to the Cowboys 27 per dropbacks, the fourth-best rate in the league. That pass protection should give the Cowboys the best shot at making the playoffs.
--Alok Pattani and Hyun Choi

THE EAGLES HAVE THE BEST CHANCE OF MAKING THE PLAYOFFS
Defense can lead you to the playoffs and the Philadelphia Eagles have a good one. That makes them a better choice than the Cowboys.

Even though the Eagles rank worse than the Cowboys in yards allowed per game – 330.8 compared to the Cowboys’ 292.3 – The Eagles are ahead of the Cowboys in points allowed per game, 20.8 versus 22.2.

The Eagles defense has allowed just seven touchdown passes, tied for second fewest in the league, and has also picked off seven passes.

The Eagles have been the hardest team to complete passes against, allowing the lowest completion percentage (52.7) in the league. The Cowboys are allowing opponents to complete 61.1 percent of their passes.

The Eagles have allowed a Total QBR of 28.8, third-best in the league behind the Houston Texans and Chicago Bears, both of whom are near-locks for the playoffs.

They are the only three teams allowing a Total QBR under 30. Last season, three out of the top four teams in Total QBR allowed made the playoffs. The Cowboys Total QBR allowed is 49.7, ninth in the league.

If the Eagles maintain their strong pass defense, they can position themselves for a
playoff spot.
--Adam Grigely

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