Feeling refreshed yet? After a week off to collect themselves, the Cowboys return to the field this Sunday against the New York Giants, trying to stop a three-game losing streak. On their side, a five-game winning streak against the Giants and Jason Garrett’s stranglehold on the road against NFC East opponents (a 12-3 record). Against them? Well… a lot.
Dallas will be welcoming back rookie DE Randy Gregory, who has been out of action since Week One with a high ankle sprain. His return should further legitimize a pass rush that awoke in the last game played, sacking Tom Brady five times when he had only been taken down four times all season prior. Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain returned from their four-game suspensions and led havoc. Their hands will be full this week, as Eli Manning and the Giants spend much of their energy getting the ball away quickly.
On the offensive side of the ball, Dallas is shaking things up. Matt Cassell, acquired in an early-season trade, takes over as starting quarterback for Brandon Weeden. Also, Ron Leary has been benched in favor of rookie La’el Collins at left guard, and Christine Michael appears in line for increased snaps at worst. More? Fish reports that Joe Randle likely remains "chairman of the RB By Committee'' ... But we'll see how the game unfolds.
And "DezWatch'' is done for this week, with Bryant reporting to the team hotel on Saturday night (again according to Fish, who visited with him briefly) but also being ruled OUT for today.
Dallas has had two weeks to prepare for the Giants attempt at revenge. ... with some time in between for a moving Jason Garrett-led visit to Ground Zero. Here’s a look inside the advanced numbers to see what tendencies the team will attempt to capitalize on.
|Off Yds / G||Off Pts / G||Def Yds / G||Def Pts / G|
New York Giants
|Off Yds / G||Off Pts / G||Def Yds / G||Def Pts / G|
What a difference one game makes. After basically a third of the season, Dallas has plummeted to a bottom-tier team in terms of scoring offense. As a whole, the offense has been on a downward trend since Brandon Weeden took over the steering wheel, and things fell all the way apart against the Patriots. Meanwhile on defense, Dallas needs to beware. The Giants are giving up a lot of yards, but not a lot of points, while Dallas is minimizing yards allowed, but not keeping opponents off the scoreboard. This trend is likely reflecting Dallas’ misfortune at creating turnovers and special teams gains; something that must turn around for Dallas to keep their hopes afloat for 2015.
____Third Down Conversions____
Dallas continues to be putrid on third down opportunities in 2015, and it’s costing them. A team cannot hope to find success if they can’t sustain drives, can’t get off the field on defense, can’t turnover the opponent and can’t get big plays out of their special teams. There isn’t a magic formula hidden in the entire world of advanced statistics to overcome these basic tenets of the game of football. Again, the need for a change in the offense to try and find a spark becomes more and more obvious as the Cowboys plummet down these rankings.
The Giants are actually doing a worse job at getting off the field than Dallas has, leaving some hope that if the offense becomes less predictable than “run on first, third and long…” they will be able to string solid plays together that lead to the end zone.
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.”
____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!
Unfortunately, Dallas has once again slipped miserably down the rankings.
_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
|Rk||Tm||G||Off Rating||Def Rating||Differential|
|1||Green Bay Packers||6||115.9||73.4||42.5|
|3||New England Patriots||5||118.4||87.5||30.9|
|5||New York Jets||5||83.4||60.9||22.5|
|8||San Diego Chargers||6||104.3||96.2||8.1|
|10||New York Giants||6||94||86.9||7.1|
|21||Kansas City Chiefs||6||88.8||97.3||-8.5|
|23||New Orleans Saints||6||96||106.8||-10.8|
|25||St. Louis Rams||5||77.7||91.6||-13.9|
|27||San Francisco 49ers||6||84.7||101.7||-17|
|31||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5||77.6||105.7||-28.1|
Surprise, another stat, another freefall for Dallas.
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||Tm||G||Off ANY/A||Def ANY/A||Differential|
|2||Green Bay Packers||6||8.5||4.8||3.7|
|3||New England Patriots||5||8.9||5.3||3.6|
|5||New York Jets||5||6||3.6||2.4|
|9||New York Giants||6||6.7||6.1||0.6|
|12||San Diego Chargers||6||7.6||7.2||0.4|
|16||St. Louis Rams||5||5.3||5.5||-0.2|
|22||Kansas City Chiefs||6||6.1||7.3||-1.2|
|23||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5||5.6||6.9||-1.3|
|26||New Orleans Saints||6||6.7||8.3||-1.6|
|31||San Francisco 49ers||6||5.6||7.7||-2.1|
______WEEK 6 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|
|GIANTS||Offense DVOA||Defense DVOA||ST DVOA||Total DVOA|
Nothing captures the failings of the offense against New England like DVOA. It swung 10 percentage points in the wrong direction. Meanwhile, DVOA surprisingly likes the Giants as the 12th best team in the league. In a weird twist, all three NFC East rivals rank above Dallas with Philly at 7 and Washington at 15. Hurry back, Tony.