The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Predicting the Cowboys’ 2013 Record

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At Dallas News, I used a simple formula to project the Cowboys’ 2013 record.

One of the most predictive stats available for projecting a team’s record—and one that helps us factor luck out of the equation—is called “Pythagorean wins.” Calculated using a simple formula, “Pythagorean wins” is the most likely win total for a team given the number of points they scored and allowed. When a team’s actual record deviates wildly from their Pythagorean win total (such as with the 2012 Colts), we know they’re likely to see a big swing in record in the following season. Actually, Pythagorean Expectation has over a 91 percent correlation with actual team wins, meaning it’s an extremely accurate way to predict future team strength. Simply put, teams don’t stay unusually lucky or unlucky for very long.

I introduced this concept in April with an examination of the Cowboys’ 2013 schedule. Looking at Pythagorean wins versus actual wins, we see that the ‘Boys’ opponents are tougher than advertised:

Overall, the Cowboys’ opponents won 121 games in 2012, but based on their point differentials, the most likely outcome was a total of 125 wins. The Cowboys’ schedule will be particularly difficult over the final quarter of the season, as per usual.

Pythagorean Wins for Dallas

Last season, the Cowboys scored 376 points and allowed 400. Based on those numbers, their Pythagorean Expectation was 7.41 wins, i.e. if we played out 1,000 seasons, the most likely outcome for Dallas in 2012 would have been a 7-9 finish.

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