Dallas Cowboys Week 17 Rooting Guide w/ Draft and Schedule Implications

Eliminated from contention long ago, Dallas still has an interest in the fates of several NFL teams.

The Cowboys season is coming to an end. Even though the team has been mathematically eliminated from the playoff chase for a while, and realistically eliminated for even longer, there is still plenty to pay attention to for Week 17. The Cowboys are in contention for a Top 5 draft pick, and as such the results of several other NFL teams mean… something. As we outlined yesterday here on CowboysHQ, Dallas can finish from anywhere between the 2nd pick and the 8th pick depending on this weekend’s results.

Also of interest, Dallas has one game on their 2016 schedule still to be determined.  Dallas and all other NFC East teams will be facing the AFC North and the NFC North. Those home/away games are determined on a rotational basis. Dallas will also play the last place teams of the NFC South and NFC West. The San Francisco 49ers have locked up that distinction in the West, but New Orleans and Tampa are tied at 6-9 in the South. Dallas will host whichever of these two teams finishes with the worst record (playoff tiebreakers are used to decide final ranking for scheduling purposes).

Here’s a look at Dallas’ Home and Away schedule for 2016:

NY Giants NY Giants
Philadelphia Philadelphia
Washington Washington
Chicago Green Bay
Detroit Minnesota
Baltimore Cleveland
Cincinnati Pittsburgh
NFCS #4 San Francisco

Dallas’ last place schedule means that they will play at the most 6 games against playoff teams, pending whether or not Pittsburgh (9-6) can leapfrog the New York Jets (10-5) for the final AFC Wild Card spot. The Jets have won 5 games in a row.

Meanwhile, Dallas main interest lies in the teams surrounding them in the draft order. Here are the games of interest this weekend.

Draft OrderTeamRecordOpp. SoSWk 17 Opponent
1 Tennessee 3-12 0.493 @ Indianapolis
2 Cleveland 3-12 0.529 vs Pittsburgh
3 San Diego 4-11 0.511 @ Denver
4 Dallas 4-11 0.529 vs Washington
5 San Francisco 4-11 0.556 vs St. Louis
6 Miami 5-10 0.453 vs New England
7 Jacksonville 5-10 0.467 @ Houston
8 Baltimore 5-10 0.489 @ Cincinnati

 (Strength of Schedule calculated by CBSSports.com)

As CowboysHQ explained yesterday, Strength of Schedule can sometimes swing wildly for teams. Tennessee, Cleveland, San Diego, Dallas, San Francisco, Miami and Jacksonville all lost in Week 16. The variance in Schedule Strength was wide, though. The Titans dropped just .003, the Browns rose .009. The Ravens, who won in Week 16, saw their SoS drop from .490 to .489. The biggest swing of the week? Dallas, who lost to Buffalo, saw their Schedule Strength drop from .551 to .529, a .022 swing.

Unfortunately, none of the clubs surrounding Dallas face off against each other and everyone except San Francisco is playing a team either already in the playoffs, or still in contention. The only team that will be facing an opponent with the option of resting? Dallas, as Washington already is locked into the NFC's fourth seed.

As each team plays their 16th and final game of the season, so do the other 15 opponents on their schedule, so the Schedule Strength ranking will add another 31 games to each team’s formula. In the end, Dallas will benefit from every team they’ve played in 2015, save for Miami, losing their final game of the season.

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