The Patriots are on a rampage, and no amount of "Hot Wife" chatter is going to swing that one way or another.
The Dallas Cowboys are preparing to take on a team that is hell-bent on giving two middle fingers to the entire NFL, but are getting their defense back in hopes of ending this two-game losing streak. Dallas has never lost three games in a row during the Jason Garrett tenure, but this will be a difficult trend to maintain with New England coming to town.
With Dez Bryant sidelined for at least another few weeks, running back Lance Dunbar was the new “electricity” for the Cowboys offense. Losing him for the year due to an ACL injury suffered on special teams is a big blow to the game plan. The Cowboys will have to find a new spark plug, especially considering the high-octane opponent coming to town. The Patriots have scored 40 and 51 points in their last two games, and have had two weeks to study up on a short-handed Dallas’ tendencies.
Two weeks for mastermind Bill Belicheck to prepare for a shrunken playbook for a ship captained by Brandon Weeden? Good luck with that. Here, we’ll take a dive into the Advanced Stats Notebook to see where the Cowboys could hold some advantages of their own that they’ll look to exploit on Sunday afternoon.
______DVOA Playoff Odds______
Mean Wins is Football Outsiders 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. As the season progresses, 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. For now though, the sample size is what it is.
For the Cowboys, DVOA and Mean Wins took another body blow with last week’s loss. The model projected the last two weeks as games Dallas could win without Tony Romo, and those losses combined with the rest of the schedule while he’s out has dropped them out of a projected first place finish in the division.
|Off Yds / G||Off Pts / G||Def Yds / G||Def Pts / G|
New England Patriots
|Off Yds / G||Off Pts / G||Def Yds / G||Def Pts / G|
There’s not much to say here on the Patriots side. They are, by far, the most explosive offense in the NFL through the first month. On Dallas’ side, the main takeaway is how little help the offense is getting from the other two facets of the team. The defense isn’t getting turnovers and special teams aren’t getting huge returns, leaving the offense to navigate long fields of play. The fact that scoring is up since Weeden took the reigns is an amazing feat, considering how streamlined the offense has become.
____Third Down Conversions____
When it comes to standard statistics, this is where Dallas’ issue lie. They cannot continue to be this futile in keeping drives alive. Even on failed drives, a handful of conversions flips field position and gives the defense a chance to have minor errors without it resulting in opponent points. New England is setting the pace on conversions like Dallas did in 2014 early in the season; 60% is an unreal rate.
There is some hope here for Dallas in the fact that New England tends to let opponents covert third down opportunities at an unacceptable rate. This is an area where the return of Greg Hardy could have an immediate impact on Dallas’ defense performance. If he can get consistent pressure that results in sacks for him or his linemates, than the down/distance of the third down opportunities changes and the ratio should decrease. This might not be the game it shows up in, though, considering the Patriots skill in this regard.
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.”
|DAL||1 1-10-DAL 14 (14:00) J.Randle right end to DAL 28 for 14 yards (B.Browner).||DAL+1|
|DAL||1 1-10-DAL 28 (13:15) L.Dunbar right tackle to NO 27 for 45 yards (B.Browner).||DAL+2|
|NO||1 1-10-DAL 29 (6:39) M.Ingram right end to DAL 15 for 14 yards (S.Lee).||DAL+1|
|DAL||3 2-11-DAL 24 (9:45) B.Weeden pass deep left to B.Butler pushed ob at NO 9 for 67 yards (B.Browner). Pass 41, YAC 26||DAL+2|
|DAL||3 1-10-DAL 20 (1:26) D.McFadden right end to DAL 34 for 14 yards (K.Phillips).||DAL+3|
|NO||4 1-10-DAL 24 (8:37) M.Ingram right tackle to DAL 9 for 15 yards (B.Church).||DAL+2|
|DAL||4 1-10-DAL 33 (3:54) (Shotgun) B.Weeden pass deep middle to J.Witten to NO 39 for 28 yards (J.Byrd). Pass 22, YAC 6||DAL+3|
|NO||4 1-10-DAL 47 (:31) (No Huddle, Shotgun) D.Brees pass deep right to B.Coleman to DAL 17 for 30 yards (A.Hitchens). Pass 25, YAC 5||DAL+2|
|NO||5 2-10-NO 20 (14:57) (Shotgun) D.Brees pass deep right to C.Spiller for 80 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Pass 18, YAC 62||DAL+1|
In recent weeks, both the ebb and flow and the final ledger of the Toxic Events told the story of the game. Not so much for Week 4. Dallas always maintained the advantage here, but weren’t able to turn that into victory. They needed a late drive to even force the tie, should’ve lost in regulation then took a final tumble in overtime. IF you win the Toxic Event battle yet lose the game, you can confidently say that was a game you let get away.
____AIKMAN EFFICIENCY RATINGS____
I was first introduced to the Aikman Efficiency Rankings via O.C.C.’s article on Blogging The Boys back in September of 2014. In it, (available here) he references an interview that Tm 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!
_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.
PASSER RATING DIFFERENTIAL
|1||Green Bay Packers||4||125.9||74.6||51.3|
|3||New England Patriots||3||119.6||90.2||29.4|
|8||New York Jets||4||78.1||62.3||15.8|
|12||San Diego Chargers||4||107.9||98.4||9.5|
|14||New York Giants||4||96.4||88.4||8|
|16||St. Louis Rams||4||95.6||93.4||2.2|
|23||Kansas City Chiefs||4||89.2||106.5||-17.3|
|28||New Orleans Saints||4||94.5||116.3||-21.8|
|29||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4||71.2||99.8||-28.6|
|32||San Francisco 49ers||4||67.7||108.3||-40.6|
Low and behold, the Cowboys still remain competitive in this crucial stat. Not as good as the Pats, obviously… but even with 2.5 games of Weeden and the defensive shortcomings of the last two weeks, Dallas remains a plus-team in regards to Passer Rating differential.
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.
|2||Green Bay Packers||4||9.1||4.6||4.5|
|4||New England Patriots||3||9.1||5.7||3.4|
|8||St. Louis Rams||4||7||5.4||1.6|
|10||New York Jets||4||5.3||3.9||1.4|
|13||New York Giants||4||7.3||6.2||1.1|
|15||San Diego Chargers||4||7.8||7.2||0.6|
|23||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4||5||6.5||-1.5|
|27||Kansas City Chiefs||4||5.8||8.2||-2.4|
|31||New Orleans Saints||4||6.6||10||-3.4|
|32||San Francisco 49ers||4||3.5||8.2||-4.7|
______WEEK 4 DVOA RANKINGS______
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”.
|COWBOYS||Offense DVOA||Defense DVOA||ST DVOA||Total DVOA|
|PATRIOTS||Offense DVOA||Defense DVOA||ST DVOA||Total DVOA|
Double Middle Finger Tour. Nothing points to the Patirots dominace as much as their DVOA. TO put their Offensive DVOA in perspective, the difference between their rating and the Number Two Cincy Bengals (8.2%) would rank as the 8th best rating in the league. If thisversion of Dallas escapes with a win, it will be one of the bigger upsets of the season.