Advanced Stats Notebook: Cowboys At Bears

Dallas looks to move to 6-0 on the road in 2014, and exorcise their Chicago demons from last season's whooping.

It’s difficult to say which conference is stronger at the moment, the NFC or the AFC. On one hand, the NFC has a team that is 8-4 and currently on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Not only that, but said team could realistically go 3-1 down the stretch and still be left out of the dance. That team is of course your Dallas Cowboys.

The AFC’s sixth seed has a record of 7-5, but is tied with five other team’s record-wise for the final spot. At the top of the standings, the AFC boasts New England and Denver. The NFC’s top two teams are probably Green Bay and Seattle. Who would you bet on in that four-team tourney? Not sure? Well, that’s what advanced stats are for!

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.

The Dallas Cowboys need wins, as pointed out above, at least three of them. So, let’s take a look at some of the statistical explanations for what kinds of team the 2014 Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears have proven to be, and what might transpire on Thursday Night.


Mean Wins is FootballOutsiders current projection for how each team will finish the season.

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.

The loss to Philly was damaging to say the least. Not the result, but the team’s performance. Dallas dropped a complete game in their projections.

Standard Statistics

Dallas Cowboys

Off Yds / GOff Pts / GDef Yds / GDef Pts / G
Total 377.2 25.2 364.1 22.8
Rank 8th 9th 22nd 16th

 

Chicago Bears

Off Yds / GOff Pts / GDef Yds / GDef Pts / G
Total 340.7 21.1 376.2 28.1
Rank20th 21st 26th 30th

Giving up 464 yards to the Eagles put Dallas slam on the side of bad defense again. Their average dropped from 355 yards a game, and from 16th to 22nd. Fortunately for Dallas, Chicago isn’t nearly as formidable an offense, or defense as the Eagles are. If form holds, Dallas should be able to outclass this opponent on their way to their sixth road win in six tries.

Third Down Conversions



Dallas somehow remains in second place as far as offensive conversion percentage, after setting the league on fire the first half of the season. Dallas’ rate over the past several weeks would put them at the bottom of the league. It’s hamstrung their offense and if it doesn’t change, there is no chance at a late push for the playoffs.

The reason for the failures could have everything to do with the offense becoming highly predictable. As Blogging The Boys points out in this great write-up , Dallas’ commitment to the run has resulted in opponents knowing what Dallas will do based on down and distance. To wit:

Nobody is complaining about the success of the ground game, and nobody was complaining about the lack of balance when the Cowboys were 6-1 earlier in the season. But running more has not made the Cowboys a more balanced team, far from it. The only question is, will this be a strength or a weakness for the team over the final four games?

One final thought: The league average pass ratio is 57% this season. Last year, the Cowboys had a pass ratio of 64%, this year they are down to 50%. Which means the Cowboys are exactly as far away from the league average this year as they were last year, except in the other direction.

Damn.



This stat just keeps getting worse. Dallas is all the way down to 30th in the league in third down conversion percentage allowed. They are a full three percent worse than last year’s horrible version of defense. Dallas can’t get off the field on defense, and they can’t stay on the field on offense. This might be a problem.

Toxic Differentials

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.”

Go To SportingCharts.com for more.



Aikman Efficiency Rankings

I was first introduced to the Aikman Efficiency Rankings via O.C.C.’s article on BTB back in September. In it, (available here) he references an interview that Jim Colishaw did with Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli. Marinelli stated that the only two stats he pays attention to are turnovers and the Aikman Efficiency Rankings. Let that sink in; if our DC holds it in such high regard, it should be part of The Notebook!

Head to the BTB article for a full breakdown of the Rankings, but as a synopsis, the rankings take into account the following seven categories: Total points scored (not including returns & safeties), turnovers allowed/forced, Red Zone Efficiency, Yards per play rush, adjusted yards per play pass, total first downs and third down conversion percentage. That’s a pretty fair summary of true indicators of performance.

Go To Aikman.com for more.



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 Packers12115.28233.2
2Denver Broncos12106.986.220.7
3New England Patriots12102.184.617.5
4Indianapolis Colts12102.791.111.6
5San Francisco 49ers1287.776.511.2
6San Diego Chargers12102.191.410.7
7Dallas Cowboys12102.692.510.1
8Miami Dolphins1291.681.610
9Buffalo Bills1288.278.69.6
10Seattle Seahawks1294.985.99
12New Orleans Saints12101.794.17.6
11Atlanta Falcons1293.285.67.6
13Cincinnati Bengals1282.3757.3
14Cleveland Browns1279.674.15.5
15Pittsburgh Steelers12102.798.64.1
16Arizona Cardinals1287.684.43.2
17Houston Texans1290.687.53.1
18Kansas City Chiefs1292.889.73.1
19Detroit Lions1284.781.92.8
20New York Giants1289.389.10.2
 Avg Team 88.388.30
21Baltimore Ravens1293.597.4-3.9
22Philadelphia Eagles1284.190.4-6.3
23St. Louis Rams1284.692.7-8.1
24Tennessee Titans1283.994.5-10.6
25Chicago Bears1290.4101.1-10.7
26Carolina Panthers1283.898.2-14.4
27Washington Redskins1291.9107.8-15.9
28Tampa Bay Buccaneers127997-18
29Minnesota Vikings127392.1-19.1
30Jacksonville Jaguars1273.899.2-25.4
31Oakland Raiders1271.6100.9-29.3
32New York Jets1266.3106.6-40.3

Unlike other metrics, Dallas’ drop in Passer Rating differential wasn’t as sharp. They did lose 33% (down from 15.0) but only fell from the second tier of upper echelon teams. Chicago on the other hand is struggling to pass and struggling to stop it; though we know how the last Dallas opponent with a similar description fared.

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 Packers8.85.53.3
2Denver Broncos85.22.8
3Cleveland Browns6.54.91.6
4New England Patriots7.46.11.3
5Indianapolis Colts7.96.61.3
6Buffalo Bills5.94.61.3
7San Francisco 49ers5.950.9
8Seattle Seahawks6.55.60.9
9Detroit Lions65.10.9
10Miami Dolphins5.850.8
11Arizona Cardinals6.75.90.8
12San Diego Chargers7.26.60.6
13Cincinnati Bengals5.95.30.6
14Dallas Cowboys7.26.70.5
15Houston Texans6.76.20.5
16Pittsburgh Steelers7.57.40.1
17New Orleans Saints7.37.30
18Kansas City Chiefs5.95.90
 Avg Team6.36.30
19Baltimore Ravens6.96.90
20Philadelphia Eagles6.26.4-0.2
21Atlanta Falcons6.66.9-0.3
22Tennessee Titans5.96.5-0.6
23New York Giants66.7-0.7
24St. Louis Rams5.46.3-0.9
25Tampa Bay Buccaneers5.46.6-1.2
26Carolina Panthers5.56.7-1.2
27Chicago Bears5.87.3-1.5
28Washington Redskins6.37.8-1.5
29Minnesota Vikings4.35.9-1.6
30Jacksonville Jaguars4.27-2.8
31Oakland Raiders4.37.4-3.1
32New York Jets3.77.4-3.7

Here, we see a much bigger drop for the Cowboys; falling all the way from 5th in Week 13 to 14th this week. Dallas basically conceded a season’s worth of ANY/A differential with how badly they were dominated by Philly.

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”.



Want a visual as to the stark difference between early 2014 Dallas and right now Dallas?

COWBOYSOffense DVOADefense DVOAST DVOATotal DVOA
Value 11.1% 7.1% 0.0% 4.0%
Team Rank 8th 24th 13th 15th
BEARSOffense DVOADefense DVOAST DVOATotal DVOA
Value 1.9% 8.6% -4.1% -10.7%
Team Rank 14th 27th 26th23th

DVOA showed a huge drop in Dallas’ rankings due to the rare ineptness of their offense. The defense took a step back, but since it was a huge day of offense across the league, Dallas’ ranking actually climed even though their DVOA worsened. Fortunately, Dallas has a better DVOA score than Chicago in all three categories and should be able to translate that superiority to a road win.

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 89.5 47.7% 3.1 86.5
Team Rank 8th 7th 9th 9th
BEARSOffense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value 15.2 47.5% 13.1 2.1
Team Rank 24th 9th 4th 27th

Well, it isn’t Matt Forte’s fault. Chicago’s rankings are down in the dumps in the passing game, but the run game is operating at a high level of efficiency. With the way Jay Cutler is turning the ball over and making mistakes, it looks like this is the primary area of concern for Dallas on Thursday night.

COWBOYSDefense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value 52.8 53.3% 1.3 51.5
Team Rank 18th 22nd 18th 19th
BEARSDefense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value 64.1 52.1% -6.2 70.4
Team Rank 23rd 27th 15th 23th

The Bears defense is just bad. They truly miss the guidance of Rod Marinelli and Lovie Smith; and probably the players they had as well. Their run defense is around league average, but that can probably be attributed to the ease in gaining chunk yards in the passing game.

Summary

Both Dallas and Chicago are giving up what they are taking when it comes to big plays through the air. It seems based on the other rankings that Chicago’s big plays are more destructive. Dallas also holds an advantage in big plays in the run game, compared to the constant bludgeoning effect on Matt Forte that Chicago probably has to abandon as games go on. Maintaining this advantage in below freezing temperatures (though nowhere near last year’s fiasco) will be the key to Dallas starting to shake off their December demons.




CowboysHQ Top Stories

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Off Yds / GOff Pts / GDef Yds / GDef Pts / G
Total 377.2 25.2 364.1 22.8
Rank 8th 9th 22nd 16th
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\r\n Chicago Bears \r\n
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Off Yds / GOff Pts / GDef Yds / GDef Pts / G
Total 340.7 21.1 376.2 28.1
Rank20th 21st 26th 30th

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Giving up 464 yards to the Eagles put Dallas slam on the side of bad defense again. Their average dropped from 355 yards a game, and from 16th to 22nd. Fortunately for Dallas, Chicago isn’t nearly as formidable an offense, or defense as the Eagles are. If form holds, Dallas should be able to outclass this opponent on their way to their sixth road win in six tries.

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Third Down Conversions

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Dallas somehow remains in second place as far as offensive conversion percentage, after setting the league on fire the first half of the season. Dallas’ rate over the past several weeks would put them at the bottom of the league. It’s hamstrung their offense and if it doesn’t change, there is no chance at a late push for the playoffs.

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The reason for the failures could have everything to do with the offense becoming highly predictable. As Blogging The Boys points out in this great write-up , Dallas’ commitment to the run has resulted in opponents knowing what Dallas will do based on down and distance. To wit:

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Nobody is complaining about the success of the ground game, and nobody was complaining about the lack of balance when the Cowboys were 6-1 earlier in the season. But running more has not made the Cowboys a more balanced team, far from it. The only question is, will this be a strength or a weakness for the team over the final four games?

\r\nOne final thought: The league average pass ratio is 57% this season. Last year, the Cowboys had a pass ratio of 64%, this year they are down to 50%. Which means the Cowboys are exactly as far away from the league average this year as they were last year, except in the other direction.

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Damn.

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This stat just keeps getting worse. Dallas is all the way down to 30th in the league in third down conversion percentage allowed. They are a full three percent worse than last year’s horrible version of defense. Dallas can’t get off the field on defense, and they can’t stay on the field on offense. This might be a problem.

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Toxic Differentials

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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

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Go To SportingCharts.com for more.



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Aikman Efficiency Rankings

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I was first introduced to the Aikman Efficiency Rankings via O.C.C.’s article on BTB back in September. In it, (available here) he references an interview that Jim Colishaw did with Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli. Marinelli stated that the only two stats he pays attention to are turnovers and the Aikman Efficiency Rankings. Let that sink in; if our DC holds it in such high regard, it should be part of The Notebook!

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Head to the BTB article for a full breakdown of the Rankings, but as a synopsis, the rankings take into account the following seven categories: Total points scored (not including returns & safeties), turnovers allowed/forced, Red Zone Efficiency, Yards per play rush, adjusted yards per play pass, total first downs and third down conversion percentage. That’s a pretty fair summary of true indicators of performance.

[MEDIA:1441944] Go To Aikman.com for more.



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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 Packers12115.28233.2
2Denver Broncos12106.986.220.7
3New England Patriots12102.184.617.5
4Indianapolis Colts12102.791.111.6
5San Francisco 49ers1287.776.511.2
6San Diego Chargers12102.191.410.7
7Dallas Cowboys12102.692.510.1
8Miami Dolphins1291.681.610
9Buffalo Bills1288.278.69.6
10Seattle Seahawks1294.985.99
12New Orleans Saints12101.794.17.6
11Atlanta Falcons1293.285.67.6
13Cincinnati Bengals1282.3757.3
14Cleveland Browns1279.674.15.5
15Pittsburgh Steelers12102.798.64.1
16Arizona Cardinals1287.684.43.2
17Houston Texans1290.687.53.1
18Kansas City Chiefs1292.889.73.1
19Detroit Lions1284.781.92.8
20New York Giants1289.389.10.2
 Avg Team 88.388.30
21Baltimore Ravens1293.597.4-3.9
22Philadelphia Eagles1284.190.4-6.3
23St. Louis Rams1284.692.7-8.1
24Tennessee Titans1283.994.5-10.6
25Chicago Bears1290.4101.1-10.7
26Carolina Panthers1283.898.2-14.4
27Washington Redskins1291.9107.8-15.9
28Tampa Bay Buccaneers127997-18
29Minnesota Vikings127392.1-19.1
30Jacksonville Jaguars1273.899.2-25.4
31Oakland Raiders1271.6100.9-29.3
32New York Jets1266.3106.6-40.3

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Unlike other metrics, Dallas’ drop in Passer Rating differential wasn’t as sharp. They did lose 33% (down from 15.0) but only fell from the second tier of upper echelon teams. Chicago on the other hand is struggling to pass and struggling to stop it; though we know how the last Dallas opponent with a similar description fared.

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 Packers8.85.53.3
2Denver Broncos85.22.8
3Cleveland Browns6.54.91.6
4New England Patriots7.46.11.3
5Indianapolis Colts7.96.61.3
6Buffalo Bills5.94.61.3
7San Francisco 49ers5.950.9
8Seattle Seahawks6.55.60.9
9Detroit Lions65.10.9
10Miami Dolphins5.850.8
11Arizona Cardinals6.75.90.8
12San Diego Chargers7.26.60.6
13Cincinnati Bengals5.95.30.6
14Dallas Cowboys7.26.70.5
15Houston Texans6.76.20.5
16Pittsburgh Steelers7.57.40.1
17New Orleans Saints7.37.30
18Kansas City Chiefs5.95.90
 Avg Team6.36.30
19Baltimore Ravens6.96.90
20Philadelphia Eagles6.26.4-0.2
21Atlanta Falcons6.66.9-0.3
22Tennessee Titans5.96.5-0.6
23New York Giants66.7-0.7
24St. Louis Rams5.46.3-0.9
25Tampa Bay Buccaneers5.46.6-1.2
26Carolina Panthers5.56.7-1.2
27Chicago Bears5.87.3-1.5
28Washington Redskins6.37.8-1.5
29Minnesota Vikings4.35.9-1.6
30Jacksonville Jaguars4.27-2.8
31Oakland Raiders4.37.4-3.1
32New York Jets3.77.4-3.7

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Here, we see a much bigger drop for the Cowboys; falling all the way from 5th in Week 13 to 14th this week. Dallas basically conceded a season’s worth of ANY/A differential with how badly they were dominated by Philly.

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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”.

[MEDIA:1441961]

Want a visual as to the stark difference between early 2014 Dallas and right now Dallas?

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COWBOYSOffense DVOADefense DVOAST DVOATotal DVOA
Value11.1%7.1%0.0%4.0%
Team Rank8th24th13th15th
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BEARSOffense DVOADefense DVOAST DVOATotal DVOA
Value1.9%8.6%-4.1%-10.7%
Team Rank14th27th26th23th
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DVOA showed a huge drop in Dallas’ rankings due to the rare ineptness of their offense. The defense took a step back, but since it was a huge day of offense across the league, Dallas’ ranking actually climed even though their DVOA worsened. Fortunately, Dallas has a better DVOA score than Chicago in all three categories and should be able to translate that superiority to a road win.

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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.

\r\n

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.

\r\n\r\n

\r\n

EPA Breakdowns

\r\n

\r\n

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.

\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
COWBOYSOffense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value89.547.7%3.186.5
Team Rank8th7th9th9th
\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
BEARSOffense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value15.247.5%13.12.1
Team Rank24th9th4th27th
\r\n

Well, it isn’t Matt Forte’s fault. Chicago’s rankings are down in the dumps in the passing game, but the run game is operating at a high level of efficiency. With the way Jay Cutler is turning the ball over and making mistakes, it looks like this is the primary area of concern for Dallas on Thursday night.

\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
COWBOYSDefense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value52.853.3%1.351.5
Team Rank18th22nd18th19th
\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
BEARSDefense EPASuccess RateRun EPAPass EPA
Value64.152.1%-6.270.4
Team Rank23rd27th15th23th
\r\n

The Bears defense is just bad. They truly miss the guidance of Rod Marinelli and Lovie Smith; and probably the players they had as well. Their run defense is around league average, but that can probably be attributed to the ease in gaining chunk yards in the passing game.

\r\n\r\n

\r\n

Summary

\r\n

\r\n

Both Dallas and Chicago are giving up what they are taking when it comes to big plays through the air. It seems based on the other rankings that Chicago’s big plays are more destructive. Dallas also holds an advantage in big plays in the run game, compared to the constant bludgeoning effect on Matt Forte that Chicago probably has to abandon as games go on. Maintaining this advantage in below freezing temperatures (though nowhere near last year’s fiasco) will be the key to Dallas starting to shake off their December demons.

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

It’s difficult to say which conference is stronger at the moment, the NFC or the AFC. On one hand, the NFC has a team that is 8-4 and currently on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Not only that, but said team could realistically go 3-1 down the stretch and still be left out of the dance. That team is of course your Dallas Cowboys.

The AFC’s sixth seed has a record of 7-5, but is tied with five other team’s record-wise for the final spot. At the top of the standings, the AFC boasts New England and Denver. The NFC’s top two teams are probably Green Bay and Seattle. Who would you bet on in that four-team tourney? Not sure? Well, that’s what advanced stats are for!

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.

The Dallas Cowboys need wins, as pointed out above, at least three of them. So, let’s take a look at some of the statistical explanations for what kinds of team the 2014 Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears have proven to be, and what might transpire on Thursday Night.

Giving up 464 yards to the Eagles put Dallas slam on the side of bad defense again. Their average dropped from 355 yards a game, and from 16th to 22nd. Fortunately for Dallas, Chicago isn’t nearly as formidable an offense, or defense as the Eagles are. If form holds, Dallas should be able to outclass this opponent on their way to their sixth road win in six tries.

Dallas somehow remains in second place as far as offensive conversion percentage, after setting the league on fire the first half of the season. Dallas’ rate over the past several weeks would put them at the bottom of the league. It’s hamstrung their offense and if it doesn’t change, there is no chance at a late push for the playoffs.

The reason for the failures could have everything to do with the offense becoming highly predictable. As Blogging The Boys points out in this great write-up , Dallas’ commitment to the run has resulted in opponents knowing what Dallas will do based on down and distance. To wit:

Unlike other metrics, Dallas’ drop in Passer Rating differential wasn’t as sharp. They did lose 33% (down from 15.0) but only fell from the second tier of upper echelon teams. Chicago on the other hand is struggling to pass and struggling to stop it; though we know how the last Dallas opponent with a similar description fared.

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.

Here, we see a much bigger drop for the Cowboys; falling all the way from 5th in Week 13 to 14th this week. Dallas basically conceded a season’s worth of ANY/A differential with how badly they were dominated by Philly.

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 showed a huge drop in Dallas’ rankings due to the rare ineptness of their offense. The defense took a step back, but since it was a huge day of offense across the league, Dallas’ ranking actually climed even though their DVOA worsened. Fortunately, Dallas has a better DVOA score than Chicago in all three categories and should be able to translate that superiority to a road win.

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.

Well, it isn’t Matt Forte’s fault. Chicago’s rankings are down in the dumps in the passing game, but the run game is operating at a high level of efficiency. With the way Jay Cutler is turning the ball over and making mistakes, it looks like this is the primary area of concern for Dallas on Thursday night.

The Bears defense is just bad. They truly miss the guidance of Rod Marinelli and Lovie Smith; and probably the players they had as well. Their run defense is around league average, but that can probably be attributed to the ease in gaining chunk yards in the passing game.

Both Dallas and Chicago are giving up what they are taking when it comes to big plays through the air. It seems based on the other rankings that Chicago’s big plays are more destructive. Dallas also holds an advantage in big plays in the run game, compared to the constant bludgeoning effect on Matt Forte that Chicago probably has to abandon as games go on. Maintaining this advantage in below freezing temperatures (though nowhere near last year’s fiasco) will be the key to Dallas starting to shake off their December demons.

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