Advanced Stats Notebook: Eagles at Cowboys

The Cowboys and Eagles are set to square off for the division lead on Thanksgiving. In the first of two matchups in a three-week span, we take a look at the advanced metrics that closely correlate to how winning teams perform.

It begins, now.

The Cowboys and Eagles have done what was necessary to make it to the home stretch with everything to play for. The two rivals sport identical 8-3 records for the 2014 season, but achieved in much different ways. Dallas has transformed their offense into a ball-control, pound-your-opponent offensive juggernaut with a quarterback playing extremely smart and controlled football. The Eagles have had to eschew their rep as a running team, and has relied on dominating special teams and defensive returns to complement their rapid-fire offensive pace. The Cowboys defense has shown improvement against the run, but is still struggling to get off the field on third downs due to struggling to get pressure on the quarterback. The Philly offense is led by Mark Sanchez.


This was written a month ago. Obsessed much?

We all know the infamous take originally attributed to Henry Du Pré Labouchère, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." In sports, though, statistics are how we measure performance beyond just the wins and losses. In football, where sample sizes are so small, and the mean so cluttered, it behooves us to try to analyze things that have a higher correlation to winning than previous wins.

Fortunately, over the past several years, many statisticians a million times smarter than the author of this piece have spent countless hours devising formulas that they use to judge the quality of teams beyond the normal statistical measures. These advanced metrics allow us a glimpse into which teams are winning based on quality play, which ones are winning because of inept opponents and which ones have a horseshoe crammed up their chimneys.

So, let’s take a look at some of the statistical explanations for what kinds of team the 2014 Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles have proven to be, and what might transpire on Thanksgiving.


Mean Wins is FootballOutsiders current projection for how each team will finish the season. That's right, they see Dallas and Philly both with 11 wins and needing a tiebreaker to settle the score.

Things have tightened up considerably over the last several weeks; the two teams are now in a neck-and-neck race. DVOA stands for Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average. It basically measures how much better a team (or player) is than the average team (or player) against the same opponent in the same game situations. Weighted DVOA puts more weight on the team’s recent performance, rather than weighing all games equally. Which makes sense, in regards to future success, how a team has played over the last six games is much more important than how they played Week 1.


Weighted DVOA sees the Cowboys as the more likely team of the two to get to the Number One seed, but sees Philly as a slightly better team in regards to winning the Super Bowl. The head-to-head Thanksgiving matchup will separate the two teams.

Standard Statistics

Dallas Cowboys

Off Yds / GOff Pts / GDef Yds / GDef Pts / G
Total 387.3 26.5 355.0 21.8
Rank 6th 7th 16th 14th

 

Philadelphia Eagles

Off Yds / GOff Pts / GDef Yds / GDef Pts / G
Total 411.8 31.1 375.3 25
Rank4th 3rd 26th 21st

For the second time this season, Dallas will be facing off against an offense that is performing at a higher clip than they are. They were able to handle the Saints earlier in the season, now the Chip Kelly offense is the test. Dallas’ defense is outperforming the Eagles defense by a wider margin than what seperates the offenses. Dallas’ hope lies in the evidence given when the Packers elite offense completely torched the Eagles D; The Colts offense also put up 27 points against this Eagles team, albeit in a losing effort.

Third Down Conversions



Dallas remains in second place as far as offensive conversion percentage, after setting the league on fire the first half of the season. They will need to perform at a much better clip than they have over the last four games if they are to keep the explosive Philly offense (and special teams) off the field.



Meanwhile, Cowboys defensive third down percentage has reached laughable levels. If they perform at this same pace against the Eagles they are going to lose. New York converted their first seven third down opportunities on Sunday, and then once Dallas took the lead converted both opportunities on the drive they retook the lead. Dallas got the last one though, and a dynamic fourth down one to seal the game as well.

Toxic Differentials

This is a new addition to The Notebook. Toxic Differential is a metric that started with Super Bowl winning head coach Brian Billick when he was the offensive coordinator during the Randy Moss era in Minnesota. It’s used to measure a team’s ability to create and prevent both turnovers and explosive plays. Toxic Differential is calculated by adding together a team’s turnover differential (takeaways - giveaways) and its big play differential (big plays for - big plays against). Various sites have various definitions for what constitutes a big play. As they have the most comprehensive ranking, we’ll roll with SportingCharts.com’s definition of 10+ yards on a running play and 25+ yards on a pass play. As SportingCharts says, “Over the last 10+ seasons, a majority of teams that have won the Super Bowl finished the regular season in the Top 10 for Toxic Differential.”.

While Mark Sanchez is operating at a consistent 1:1 TD to Interception ratio on the season (same as his entire career) Tony Romo has moved far beyond the three-interception game from Week 1 when still working back from back surgery. He has 7:1 TD-to-INT ratio since Wk 2, and has thrown 8 TDs and no picks in his last three games. DeMarco Murray seems to have quieted his fumbling issues, for now. As far as the big play, it’s a little surprising to see Philly with such a low differential considering how explosive their offense has been. Facts are facts.

Primary Differential Rankings

We all know that it is a passing league, while running the football undoubtedly has an effect on the passing game, and more importantly how the opposition defends it. In the end, though, passing success is what leads to team success.

There are generally two stats that are easily calculated that seem to have a high correlation to predicting future success; Passer Rating differential and Adjusted Net Yards Per Passing Attempt differential. Both are calculated by simply finding the difference between what your offense achieves in each category and taking away what your defense gives up. Teams with the larger differentials are more likely to have future success (read: wins) than those teams with smaller, or negative differentials.

In statistics, this relationship between wins and PRD is called a correlation. The strength of the correlation is measured by the "correlation coefficient". The correlation coefficient measures the relationship between two variables. This coefficient is often referred to as "r²" and is expressed as a number between 1 and -1. The closer the r² number is to 1 or -1, the stronger the relationship between the two variables. The closer it is to zero, the weaker the relationship.

R² between PRD and wins in 2013 was 0.71, an astonishingly high correlation. It is almost as good as scoring differential (0.89) at predicting the W/L record of an NFL team.

Rk TmGOff Passer RatingDef Passer RatingDifferential
1Green Bay Packers11115.580.235.3
2Denver Broncos11108.685.722.9
3New England Patriots11102.18220.1
4San Francisco 49ers1191.974.117.8
5Dallas Cowboys11106.891.815
6Pittsburgh Steelers11106.493.812.6
7Indianapolis Colts1199.188.510.6
8San Diego Chargers11100.790.310.4
9Buffalo Bills1190.680.610
10Miami Dolphins1192.983.19.8
11Cincinnati Bengals1184.476.28.2
12Arizona Cardinals1189.282.27
13Cleveland Browns1181.875.46.4
14Atlanta Falcons1191.9874.9
15Seattle Seahawks1193.289.93.3
16Kansas City Chiefs1192.790.12.6
17New Orleans Saints1198.196.91.2
 Avg Team 88.388.30
18New York Giants1188.489.5-1.1
19Detroit Lions1181.382.5-1.2
20Tennessee Titans1185.188-2.9
21Baltimore Ravens1192.695.6-3
22Houston Texans1182.888.7-5.9
23Chicago Bears119299.3-7.3
24Philadelphia Eagles118393-10
25Carolina Panthers1185.497-11.6
26Washington Redskins1189.1103.5-14.4
27St. Louis Rams1182.698.7-16.1
28Tampa Bay Buccaneers1180.5100-19.5
29Minnesota Vikings1170.394.7-24.4
30Oakland Raiders1174.5100-25.5
31Jacksonville Jaguars1172.899.1-26.3
32New York Jets1167.4109.4-42

Tony Romo’s second consecutive MVP-like performance has shot Dallas to third in offensive passer rating, and fifth in differential. Meanwhile this another example of how out-of-this-world Philly’s special teams have been in 2014; they are amongst the worst teams in the league in passer rating differential. To put this in perspective, Cam Newton, Jay Cutler and the Washington tri-headed disaster all have better passer ratings than Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez.

Adjusted Net Yards Per Pass Attempt, or ANY/A, comes in third when it comes to correlating to victory with an R2 coefficient of 0.69. What exactly is ANY/A?

ANY/A: Adjusted net passing yards per attempt = (Passing Yards + (Passing TDs)*20 - (INTs thrown)*45 - Sack Yards) / (Passing Attempts + Sacks)

It’s basically a formula that takes into account sacks and interceptions in qualifying how efficient a team is in the passing game. Here’s how the team’s square up in this metric.

Rk TmANY/A ForANY/A AllowedDifferential
1Green Bay Packers8.75.33.4
2Denver Broncos8.25.32.9
3Cleveland Browns6.85.11.7
4New England Patriots7.45.81.6
5San Francisco 49ers6.34.71.6
6Buffalo Bills6.14.71.4
7Dallas Cowboys7.76.61.1
8Arizona Cardinals6.85.71.1
9Indianapolis Colts7.56.51
10Cincinnati Bengals6.25.30.9
11Miami Dolphins5.95.20.7
12San Diego Chargers7.16.40.7
13Pittsburgh Steelers7.670.6
14Detroit Lions5.75.30.4
15Tennessee Titans6.15.80.3
16Seattle Seahawks6.36.10.2
17Kansas City Chiefs6.15.90.2
18Baltimore Ravens6.86.70.1
 Avg Team6.36.30
19New Orleans Saints77.4-0.4
20Houston Texans66.4-0.4
21Atlanta Falcons6.47-0.6
22Philadelphia Eagles6.16.7-0.6
23New York Giants67-1
24Carolina Panthers5.76.7-1
25Chicago Bears67.1-1.1
26Washington Redskins6.27.3-1.1
27Tampa Bay Buccaneers5.57-1.5
28St. Louis Rams5.27-1.8
29Minnesota Vikings4.26.1-1.9
30Oakland Raiders4.77.3-2.6
31Jacksonville Jaguars4.27.1-2.9
32New York Jets3.87.7-3.9

Once again, we have Dallas performing on pace with the league’s Top 10 teams, on a passing snap play-by-play basis, and Philadelphia in the bottom half of the league.

Week 13 DVOA Ratings

DVOA is a metric, devised by Football Outsiders, which measures success on each play as compared to league average based on "a number of variables including down, distance, location on field, current score gap, quarter, and opponent quality.” The metric is outputted in “percentage points better than average”.

COWBOYSOffense DVOADefense DVOAST DVOATotal DVOA
Value 14.5% 6.1% 0.1% 8.5%
Team Rank 5th 25tht 13th 10th
EAGLESOffense DVOADefense DVOAST DVOATotal DVOA
Value -2.2% -5.3% -0.4% 9.4%
Team Rank 16th 8th 1st25th

DVOA likes Philly’s defense more than most other metrics, and loves their special teams like they should. They are not impressed by the Eagles offense, and think the average team would have done better when facing the defenses that they have.

Team EPA Per Game, Defense By Offense

Expected Points Added (EPA)

The value of a football play has traditionally been measured in yards gained. Unfortunately, yards is a flawed measure because not all yards are equal. For example, a 4-yard gain on 3rd down and 3 is much more valuable than a 4-yard gain on 3rd and 8. Any measure of success must consider the down and distance situation.

Suppose the offense has a 1st and 10 at midfield. This situation is worth +2.0 EP. A 5-yard gain would set up a 2nd and 5 from the 45, which corresponds to a +2.1 EP. Therefore, that 5-yard gain in that particular situation represents a +0.1 gain in EP. This gain is called Expected Points Added (EPA). Likewise, a 5-yard loss on 1st down at midfield would create a 2nd and 15 from the offense’s own 45. That situation is worth +1.2 EP, representing a net difference of -0.8 EPA.

Basically what your looking at in the above interactive chart is that teams with Good Offenses and Good Defenses exist in the upper right quadrant. The further to the right, the better your offense, and the further “north” the better your defense.

Washington is a decidedly average team, but look at how much better the Cowboys offense is than Washington's. Hover over each team in the interactive table above from AdvancedFootballAnalytics.com. For more information on this metric and it’s friend, Win Probability Added (WPA), I strongly recommend heading over to their website and checking out the glossary.

EPA Breakdowns

Success Rate simply determines the percentage of plays that lead to a positive EPA. In other words, the Cowboys “averageness” isn’t a result of being average play by play, it’s that they make crushing mistakes, also known as turnovers.

COWBOYSOffense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value 99.0 48.4% 3.9 95.1
Team Rank 7th t4th 10th 7th
EAGLESOffense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value 40.0 43.7% -2.5 42.5
Team Rank 14th 18th 13th 16th

EPA likes the Eagles offense a little more than other metrics, placing them as a middle-tier team. To show, once again, how much fumbling affects offensive production, look at how close Philly’s Run EPA is to Dallas’. McCoy is having a bad season, Murray is on a record-setting pace. However, Murray’s five fumbles has taken points off the board in bundles, therefore muting the Cowboys run game effectiveness.

COWBOYSDefense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value 41.3 54.3% -3.6 44.9
Team Rank 15th 14th 16th 14th
EAGLESDefense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value 20.4 57.6% -30.4 51.0
Team Rank 9th 1st 4th 15th

The interesting note here is that Philadelphia has the best defensive success rate in the entire league. So why is their overall performance so bad? Look back up to Toxic Differential. On a play-by-play basis, Philly’s defense is highly successful. Then they give up the big play, and do it often.

Summary

Smoke and mirrors… and Special Teams. When looking at these metrics, Dallas has an advantage it should be able to exploit on Thursday. In addition to these metrics, they have a more dominant run game if they can avoid turning the ball over. The key will be those pesky special teams of the Eagles, which are operating at an elite level in 2014. Because Special Teams touchdowns eliminate the other two facets of the game for an entire possession, it’s difficult to document how impactful these returns are on a game; but Cowboys fans should realize it is an equalizing factor. Hopefully, Dwayne Harris’ performance from Sunday night shows that he is ready to provide Dallas the impact he did in 2013, to also give them a threat to score in any phase of the game. That’s been nonexistent this season.

Philly’s Defensive Success Rate but horrible Toxic Differential shows that Dallas will need to remain patient and then capitalize on the several big play opportunities that Philly should afford them.




CowboysHQ Top Stories

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Off Yds / GOff Pts / GDef Yds / GDef Pts / G
Total 387.3 26.5 355.0 21.8
Rank 6th 7th 16th 14th
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\r\n Philadelphia Eagles \r\n
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Off Yds / GOff Pts / GDef Yds / GDef Pts / G
Total 411.8 31.1 375.3 25
Rank4th 3rd 26th 21st

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For the second time this season, Dallas will be facing off against an offense that is performing at a higher clip than they are. They were able to handle the Saints earlier in the season, now the Chip Kelly offense is the test. Dallas’ defense is outperforming the Eagles defense by a wider margin than what seperates the offenses. Dallas’ hope lies in the evidence given when the Packers elite offense completely torched the Eagles D; The Colts offense also put up 27 points against this Eagles team, albeit in a losing effort.

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Third Down Conversions

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[MEDIA:1437659]

Dallas remains in second place as far as offensive conversion percentage, after setting the league on fire the first half of the season. They will need to perform at a much better clip than they have over the last four games if they are to keep the explosive Philly offense (and special teams) off the field.

[MEDIA:1437672]


Meanwhile, Cowboys defensive third down percentage has reached laughable levels. If they perform at this same pace against the Eagles they are going to lose. New York converted their first seven third down opportunities on Sunday, and then once Dallas took the lead converted both opportunities on the drive they retook the lead. Dallas got the last one though, and a dynamic fourth down one to seal the game as well.

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Toxic Differentials

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This is a new addition to The Notebook. Toxic Differential is a metric that started with Super Bowl winning head coach Brian Billick when he was the offensive coordinator during the Randy Moss era in Minnesota. It’s used to measure a team’s ability to create and prevent both turnovers and explosive plays. Toxic Differential is calculated by adding together a team’s turnover differential (takeaways - giveaways) and its big play differential (big plays for - big plays against). Various sites have various definitions for what constitutes a big play. As they have the most comprehensive ranking, we’ll roll with SportingCharts.com’s definition of 10+ yards on a running play and 25+ yards on a pass play. As SportingCharts says, “Over the last 10+ seasons, a majority of teams that have won the Super Bowl finished the regular season in the Top 10 for Toxic Differential.”.\r\n

[MEDIA:1437639]

While Mark Sanchez is operating at a consistent 1:1 TD to Interception ratio on the season (same as his entire career) Tony Romo has moved far beyond the three-interception game from Week 1 when still working back from back surgery. He has 7:1 TD-to-INT ratio since Wk 2, and has thrown 8 TDs and no picks in his last three games. DeMarco Murray seems to have quieted his fumbling issues, for now. As far as the big play, it’s a little surprising to see Philly with such a low differential considering how explosive their offense has been. Facts are facts.

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Primary Differential Rankings

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\r\n\r\nWe all know that it is a passing league, while running the football undoubtedly has an effect on the passing game, and more importantly how the opposition defends it. In the end, though, passing success is what leads to team success.

\r\nThere are generally two stats that are easily calculated that seem to have a high correlation to predicting future success; Passer Rating differential and Adjusted Net Yards Per Passing Attempt differential. Both are calculated by simply finding the difference between what your offense achieves in each category and taking away what your defense gives up. Teams with the larger differentials are more likely to have future success (read: wins) than those teams with smaller, or negative differentials.

\r\nIn statistics, this relationship between wins and PRD is called a correlation. The strength of the correlation is measured by the \"correlation coefficient\". The correlation coefficient measures the relationship between two variables. This coefficient is often referred to as \"r²\" and is expressed as a number between 1 and -1. The closer the r² number is to 1 or -1, the stronger the relationship between the two variables. The closer it is to zero, the weaker the relationship.

\r\nR² between PRD and wins in 2013 was 0.71, an astonishingly high correlation. It is almost as good as scoring differential (0.89) at predicting the W/L record of an NFL team.

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Rk TmGOff Passer RatingDef Passer RatingDifferential
1Green Bay Packers11115.580.235.3
2Denver Broncos11108.685.722.9
3New England Patriots11102.18220.1
4San Francisco 49ers1191.974.117.8
5Dallas Cowboys11106.891.815
6Pittsburgh Steelers11106.493.812.6
7Indianapolis Colts1199.188.510.6
8San Diego Chargers11100.790.310.4
9Buffalo Bills1190.680.610
10Miami Dolphins1192.983.19.8
11Cincinnati Bengals1184.476.28.2
12Arizona Cardinals1189.282.27
13Cleveland Browns1181.875.46.4
14Atlanta Falcons1191.9874.9
15Seattle Seahawks1193.289.93.3
16Kansas City Chiefs1192.790.12.6
17New Orleans Saints1198.196.91.2
 Avg Team 88.388.30
18New York Giants1188.489.5-1.1
19Detroit Lions1181.382.5-1.2
20Tennessee Titans1185.188-2.9
21Baltimore Ravens1192.695.6-3
22Houston Texans1182.888.7-5.9
23Chicago Bears119299.3-7.3
24Philadelphia Eagles118393-10
25Carolina Panthers1185.497-11.6
26Washington Redskins1189.1103.5-14.4
27St. Louis Rams1182.698.7-16.1
28Tampa Bay Buccaneers1180.5100-19.5
29Minnesota Vikings1170.394.7-24.4
30Oakland Raiders1174.5100-25.5
31Jacksonville Jaguars1172.899.1-26.3
32New York Jets1167.4109.4-42

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Tony Romo’s second consecutive MVP-like performance has shot Dallas to third in offensive passer rating, and fifth in differential. Meanwhile this another example of how out-of-this-world Philly’s special teams have been in 2014; they are amongst the worst teams in the league in passer rating differential. To put this in perspective, Cam Newton, Jay Cutler and the Washington tri-headed disaster all have better passer ratings than Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez.

Adjusted Net Yards Per Pass Attempt, or ANY/A, comes in third when it comes to correlating to victory with an R2 coefficient of 0.69. What exactly is ANY/A?

\r\nANY/A: Adjusted net passing yards per attempt = (Passing Yards + (Passing TDs)*20 - (INTs thrown)*45 - Sack Yards) / (Passing Attempts + Sacks)

\r\nIt’s basically a formula that takes into account sacks and interceptions in qualifying how efficient a team is in the passing game. Here’s how the team’s square up in this metric.

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Rk TmANY/A ForANY/A AllowedDifferential
1Green Bay Packers8.75.33.4
2Denver Broncos8.25.32.9
3Cleveland Browns6.85.11.7
4New England Patriots7.45.81.6
5San Francisco 49ers6.34.71.6
6Buffalo Bills6.14.71.4
7Dallas Cowboys7.76.61.1
8Arizona Cardinals6.85.71.1
9Indianapolis Colts7.56.51
10Cincinnati Bengals6.25.30.9
11Miami Dolphins5.95.20.7
12San Diego Chargers7.16.40.7
13Pittsburgh Steelers7.670.6
14Detroit Lions5.75.30.4
15Tennessee Titans6.15.80.3
16Seattle Seahawks6.36.10.2
17Kansas City Chiefs6.15.90.2
18Baltimore Ravens6.86.70.1
 Avg Team6.36.30
19New Orleans Saints77.4-0.4
20Houston Texans66.4-0.4
21Atlanta Falcons6.47-0.6
22Philadelphia Eagles6.16.7-0.6
23New York Giants67-1
24Carolina Panthers5.76.7-1
25Chicago Bears67.1-1.1
26Washington Redskins6.27.3-1.1
27Tampa Bay Buccaneers5.57-1.5
28St. Louis Rams5.27-1.8
29Minnesota Vikings4.26.1-1.9
30Oakland Raiders4.77.3-2.6
31Jacksonville Jaguars4.27.1-2.9
32New York Jets3.87.7-3.9

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Once again, we have Dallas performing on pace with the league’s Top 10 teams, on a passing snap play-by-play basis, and Philadelphia in the bottom half of the league.

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Week 13 DVOA Ratings

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\r\nDVOA is a metric, devised by Football Outsiders, which measures success on each play as compared to league average based on \"a number of variables including down, distance, location on field, current score gap, quarter, and opponent quality.” The metric is outputted in “percentage points better than average”.

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COWBOYSOffense DVOADefense DVOAST DVOATotal DVOA
Value14.5%6.1%0.1%8.5%
Team Rank5th25tht13th10th
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EAGLESOffense DVOADefense DVOAST DVOATotal DVOA
Value-2.2%-5.3%-0.4%9.4%
Team Rank16th8th1st25th
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DVOA likes Philly’s defense more than most other metrics, and loves their special teams like they should. They are not impressed by the Eagles offense, and think the average team would have done better when facing the defenses that they have.

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Team EPA Per Game, Defense By Offense

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Learn About Tableau
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Expected Points Added (EPA)

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The value of a football play has traditionally been measured in yards gained. Unfortunately, yards is a flawed measure because not all yards are equal. For example, a 4-yard gain on 3rd down and 3 is much more valuable than a 4-yard gain on 3rd and 8. Any measure of success must consider the down and distance situation.

\r\nSuppose the offense has a 1st and 10 at midfield. This situation is worth +2.0 EP. A 5-yard gain would set up a 2nd and 5 from the 45, which corresponds to a +2.1 EP. Therefore, that 5-yard gain in that particular situation represents a +0.1 gain in EP. This gain is called Expected Points Added (EPA). Likewise, a 5-yard loss on 1st down at midfield would create a 2nd and 15 from the offense’s own 45. That situation is worth +1.2 EP, representing a net difference of -0.8 EPA.

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Basically what your looking at in the above interactive chart is that teams with Good Offenses and Good Defenses exist in the upper right quadrant. The further to the right, the better your offense, and the further “north” the better your defense.

Washington is a decidedly average team, but look at how much better the Cowboys offense is than Washington's. Hover over each team in the interactive table above from AdvancedFootballAnalytics.com. For more information on this metric and it’s friend, Win Probability Added (WPA), I strongly recommend heading over to their website and checking out the glossary.

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EPA Breakdowns

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Success Rate simply determines the percentage of plays that lead to a positive EPA. In other words, the Cowboys “averageness” isn’t a result of being average play by play, it’s that they make crushing mistakes, also known as turnovers.

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COWBOYSOffense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value99.048.4%3.995.1
Team Rank7tht4th10th7th
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EAGLESOffense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value40.043.7%-2.542.5
Team Rank14th18th13th16th
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EPA likes the Eagles offense a little more than other metrics, placing them as a middle-tier team. To show, once again, how much fumbling affects offensive production, look at how close Philly’s Run EPA is to Dallas’. McCoy is having a bad season, Murray is on a record-setting pace. However, Murray’s five fumbles has taken points off the board in bundles, therefore muting the Cowboys run game effectiveness.

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\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
COWBOYSDefense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value41.354.3%-3.644.9
Team Rank15th14th16th14th
\r\n
\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
EAGLESDefense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value20.457.6%-30.451.0
Team Rank9th1st4th15th
\r\n

The interesting note here is that Philadelphia has the best defensive success rate in the entire league. So why is their overall performance so bad? Look back up to Toxic Differential. On a play-by-play basis, Philly’s defense is highly successful. Then they give up the big play, and do it often.

\r\n\r\n

\r\n

Summary

\r\n

\r\n

Smoke and mirrors… and Special Teams. When looking at these metrics, Dallas has an advantage it should be able to exploit on Thursday. In addition to these metrics, they have a more dominant run game if they can avoid turning the ball over. The key will be those pesky special teams of the Eagles, which are operating at an elite level in 2014. Because Special Teams touchdowns eliminate the other two facets of the game for an entire possession, it’s difficult to document how impactful these returns are on a game; but Cowboys fans should realize it is an equalizing factor. Hopefully, Dwayne Harris’ performance from Sunday night shows that he is ready to provide Dallas the impact he did in 2013, to also give them a threat to score in any phase of the game. That’s been nonexistent this season.

Philly’s Defensive Success Rate but horrible Toxic Differential shows that Dallas will need to remain patient and then capitalize on the several big play opportunities that Philly should afford them.

\r\n
\r\n
\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"

It begins, now.

The Cowboys and Eagles have done what was necessary to make it to the home stretch with everything to play for. The two rivals sport identical 8-3 records for the 2014 season, but achieved in much different ways. Dallas has transformed their offense into a ball-control, pound-your-opponent offensive juggernaut with a quarterback playing extremely smart and controlled football. The Eagles have had to eschew their rep as a running team, and has relied on dominating special teams and defensive returns to complement their rapid-fire offensive pace. The Cowboys defense has shown improvement against the run, but is still struggling to get off the field on third downs due to struggling to get pressure on the quarterback. The Philly offense is led by Mark Sanchez.

We all know the infamous take originally attributed to Henry Du Pré Labouchère, \"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.\" In sports, though, statistics are how we measure performance beyond just the wins and losses. In football, where sample sizes are so small, and the mean so cluttered, it behooves us to try to analyze things that have a higher correlation to winning than previous wins.

Fortunately, over the past several years, many statisticians a million times smarter than the author of this piece have spent countless hours devising formulas that they use to judge the quality of teams beyond the normal statistical measures. These advanced metrics allow us a glimpse into which teams are winning based on quality play, which ones are winning because of inept opponents and which ones have a horseshoe crammed up their chimneys.

So, let’s take a look at some of the statistical explanations for what kinds of team the 2014 Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles have proven to be, and what might transpire on Thanksgiving.

 

Tony Romo’s second consecutive MVP-like performance has shot Dallas to third in offensive passer rating, and fifth in differential. Meanwhile this another example of how out-of-this-world Philly’s special teams have been in 2014; they are amongst the worst teams in the league in passer rating differential. To put this in perspective, Cam Newton, Jay Cutler and the Washington tri-headed disaster all have better passer ratings than Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez.

Adjusted Net Yards Per Pass Attempt, or ANY/A, comes in third when it comes to correlating to victory with an R2 coefficient of 0.69. What exactly is ANY/A?

It’s basically a formula that takes into account sacks and interceptions in qualifying how efficient a team is in the passing game. Here’s how the team’s square up in this metric.

Once again, we have Dallas performing on pace with the league’s Top 10 teams, on a passing snap play-by-play basis, and Philadelphia in the bottom half of the league.

DVOA is a metric, devised by Football Outsiders, which measures success on each play as compared to league average based on \"a number of variables including down, distance, location on field, current score gap, quarter, and opponent quality.” The metric is outputted in “percentage points better than average”.

DVOA likes Philly’s defense more than most other metrics, and loves their special teams like they should. They are not impressed by the Eagles offense, and think the average team would have done better when facing the defenses that they have.

Basically what your looking at in the above interactive chart is that teams with Good Offenses and Good Defenses exist in the upper right quadrant. The further to the right, the better your offense, and the further “north” the better your defense.

Washington is a decidedly average team, but look at how much better the Cowboys offense is than Washington's. Hover over each team in the interactive table above from AdvancedFootballAnalytics.com. For more information on this metric and it’s friend, Win Probability Added (WPA), I strongly recommend heading over to their website and checking out the glossary.

Success Rate simply determines the percentage of plays that lead to a positive EPA. In other words, the Cowboys “averageness” isn’t a result of being average play by play, it’s that they make crushing mistakes, also known as turnovers.

EPA likes the Eagles offense a little more than other metrics, placing them as a middle-tier team. To show, once again, how much fumbling affects offensive production, look at how close Philly’s Run EPA is to Dallas’. McCoy is having a bad season, Murray is on a record-setting pace. However, Murray’s five fumbles has taken points off the board in bundles, therefore muting the Cowboys run game effectiveness.

The interesting note here is that Philadelphia has the best defensive success rate in the entire league. So why is their overall performance so bad? Look back up to Toxic Differential. On a play-by-play basis, Philly’s defense is highly successful. Then they give up the big play, and do it often.

Smoke and mirrors… and Special Teams. When looking at these metrics, Dallas has an advantage it should be able to exploit on Thursday. In addition to these metrics, they have a more dominant run game if they can avoid turning the ball over. The key will be those pesky special teams of the Eagles, which are operating at an elite level in 2014. Because Special Teams touchdowns eliminate the other two facets of the game for an entire possession, it’s difficult to document how impactful these returns are on a game; but Cowboys fans should realize it is an equalizing factor. Hopefully, Dwayne Harris’ performance from Sunday night shows that he is ready to provide Dallas the impact he did in 2013, to also give them a threat to score in any phase of the game. That’s been nonexistent this season.

Philly’s Defensive Success Rate but horrible Toxic Differential shows that Dallas will need to remain patient and then capitalize on the several big play opportunities that Philly should afford them.

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