What recent history says about Cowboys' 11-win optimism

BY foxsports • June 25, 2013

IRVING, Texas – Two respected Dallas Cowboys voices not given to hyperbole – All-Pro tight end Jason Witten and scout-turned-analyst Bryan Broaddus – are in recent days offering rosy forecasts for 2013.

"Can this team win 11 games?'' Broaddus writes on the team's website. "You bet it can.''

Meanwhile, Witten was speaking before a crowd in his hometown of Elizabethton, Tenn., on "Jason Witten Day'' and starting a sentence, "When I'm standing in New York in early February holding up that Lombardi Trophy …''

I often call the NFL "a .500 league,'' and because it is true, the opportunity for the Cowboys to rebound from consecutive 8-8 seasons toward regular- and then postseason greatness surely exists.

But because it is a .500 league, the odds are great that Witten's wish and Broaddus' analysis will be offbase.

This is a one-bounce-of-the-ball NFL, and here's one way to tell: In 2011, 13 of the 32 teams finished within one game of .500. That means 40.6 percent of the league's teams were at .500 or within a whisker of it.

Can it be a two-bounce league? Sure. In two of the last three seasons, an incredible 19 teams in each year finished within two games of .500.  There is essentially a 59.4 percent chance that an NFL team will finish within two games of .500.

How do you bust out of the pack to win 11, as the astute Broaddus sees Dallas doing? Over the course of the last four seasons, it's happened to only seven teams per year. So there's a 78.1 percent chance a team won't win 11 games.

That number goes down, by the way, when it comes to trying to emerge from the NFC East with 11 wins. Maybe this is because the Cowboys play in such a challenging division (or maybe it's because the NFL East is lousy with mediocrity). But in the last three years, 12 editions of NFC East teams have obviously wished to get to the 11-win mark … and none of them have accomplished it.

So, the odds of winning 11 in the NFC East? Over the course of a three-year sample size … zero.

Cowboys fams, you want some optimism to buoy you, to allow you to join Witten and Broaddus in their feel-good outlooks?  Four years ago, an NFC East team actually won the division with those almost-impossible-to-get 11 wins. That team? Your Dallas Cowboys.