Can The Cowboys Make The Playoffs?
As you'll see below, the NFL has a comeback story every year. For each of the last 5 years there has been a team to get hot in the second half of the season and make the playoffs.
2011- Denver (3-5) to (8-8) AFC West Champs
2010- Indianapolis (6-6) to (10-6) AFC South Champs
2009- Baltimore (4-4) to (9-7) AFC Wild Card, NY Jets (4-6) to (9-7) AFC Wild Card
2008- San Diego (3-5) to (8-8) AFC West Champs
2007- Washington (5-7) to (9-7) NFC Wild Card, Arizona (4-4) to (10-6) NFC West Champs
So while it hasn't produced any Super Bowl teams (only the Jets made it as far as the conference title game), history at least shows that a team can go from below average or mediocre to hot and playing football in January.
As you might imagine, schedule and injuries play a big role in a team's turnaround. The team that sticks out to me with the best chance of turning it around to become a playoff team is the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas will go on the road for the 6th time in 9 weeks this week in Philly, so on the backside they'll play 5 of their last 7 games at home. The schedule also gets a little easier with just one team (Pittsburgh) sporting a winning record, whereas 7/8 teams they've played so far have been .500 or better.
The Cowboys defense ranks 17th in points allowed, and that should improve as the quality of opponent drops. The thing to look at is if the offense can get going. The Cowboys seem to have talented play-makers, they just shoot themselves in the foot far too often. Dallas has turned it over more than any team in the NFC, and has the worst +/- in the conference too at -11. Turnovers can be a fickle thing though, and if you swing that category, winning and losing games can switch quickly too. Dallas isn't so much getting outplayed as they are making mistakes to get themselves beat. Stop beating yourself Dallas, and you'll start winning games.
Dallas is just a game back in the loss column of Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Minnesota in the loss column in the NFC so it's not as bad as it feels in Big D. I believe they are fully capable of going 8-0, 7-1, or 6-2 in the second half and all those would put them in position to contend for a playoff spot.