Another week, another loss, and things are starting to slip away from the Dallas Cowboys for 2015.
It was hoped that the return of Dez Bryant would spark the offense, but with Richard Sherman shadowing him all over the field, Bryant was extremely limited in his return to the field. The big play, which returned with vengeance against the Giants a week earlier, again went missing in action. There was not a single passing play greater than 20 yards on Sunday. Unacceptable.
The defense is doing it’s job, thanks to the integration of elite talent Greg Hardy along the defensive line. The linebackers have been a little quiet, but nothing egregious. Byron Jones is on his way, finally giving Dallas someone in the secondary to hang their hat on. The offensive line is outstanding, with La’El Collins joining the dominating skillsets of Tyron, Martin and Fredbeard. Yet still, nothing has been able to overcome the quarterback play.
Something must give, and for all intents and purposes, it must happen this Sunday against Philadelphia. Can Dallas recover from 2-6? Yes, the NFC East is full of troubled teams. Is it likely? Probably not. Here’s a look inside the advanced numbers to see what tendencies the team will attempt to capitalize on Sunday night.
|Off Yds / G||Off Pts / G||Def Yds / G||Def Pts / G|
|Off Yds / G||Off Pts / G||Def Yds / G||Def Pts / G|
Who would ever imagine a Cowboys offense being this defunct? The yardage rank isn’t as bad as it seems, as the difference between 11th and 21st place is a measly 8 yards a game. The scoring rank, though, is unacceptable. It’s a direct result of getting zero help from special teams and/or turnovers.
____Third Down Conversions____
Dallas has improved slightly, but is still abysmal in both third downs for and against. Fortunately, Philly is struggling to convert their third down opportunities as well, which should give the defense a chance to improve. Dallas had been on the rise in stopping third down conversions since an abysmal effort against the Saints, but fell backwards a bit in containing Russell Wilson and the Seahawks; specifically on their game-winning drive.
There won’t be a chart for the Toxic Differential Ledger this week, even though Dallas was +2. The reason? There were only a combined 6 Explosive Plays total for the game, the lowest total since I’ve been tracking this for the last two seasons (caveat, not all games have been tracked but most have). Dallas had four, Seattle had two but here’s the kicker. There were zero explosive passing plays by either team. In three of their last four games, Dallas has logged 5 or less Explosive Plays. Unacceptable.
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, but now include special teams touchdowns. 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!
The Cowboys are struggling on both sides of the ball according to Aikman, ranking 20th in each category. Meanwhile, the Eagles are touting a stellar defense, ranked 6th, but an even worse offense. Chip Kelly’s machine is broken down, coming in at a lowly 26th of 32 teams.
_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||7||110.9||76.1||34.8|
|3||New England Patriots||7||115.8||85.3||30.5|
|8||New York Jets||7||86.8||76.6||10.2|
|11||New York Giants||8||99.9||93.8||6.1|
|13||Kansas City Chiefs||8||92.1||89.4||2.7|
|14||San Diego Chargers||8||103.3||102.5||0.8|
|20||St. Louis Rams||7||81.7||88||-6.3|
|22||New Orleans Saints||8||101.7||108.7||-7|
|29||San Francisco 49ers||8||78.8||100.2||-21.4|
|31||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||7||85.6||111||-25.4|
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.
|2||New England Patriots||7||8.7||5.4||3.3|
|4||Green Bay Packers||7||7.7||5.4||2.3|
|8||New York Jets||7||6.2||5.2||1|
|10||St. Louis Rams||7||5.9||5.3||0.6|
|12||New York Giants||8||7.1||6.8||0.3|
|15||Kansas City Chiefs||8||6.2||6.4||-0.2|
|17||San Diego Chargers||8||7.4||7.7||-0.3|
|21||New Orleans Saints||8||7.3||8.2||-0.9|
|23||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||7||6.4||7.5||-1.1|
|31||San Francisco 49ers||8||5||7.5||-2.5|
______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|
|EAGLES||Offense DVOA||Defense DVOA||ST DVOA||Total DVOA|
For years, Football Outsiders has really liked Philadelphia in their number crunching, above and beyond what the eye test tells us. Not a complaint, advanced metrics are supposed to do just that. Here, FO is telling us that the Cowboys offense without Romo is the equal of the Philly offense in relative good health. However, they say that Philly has the third best defense in the league, and in all honesty it is one Dallas struggles with when they are matched up early in the year. Chip Kelly has made a concerted effort to slow his offense down, and the defense seems to benefit from not having to rush out on the field as quickly as years past. Still faster than most NFL teams, but they get two extra breaths per possession now.
______DVOA Playoff Odds______
Finally, we take a look at FO's Playoff Odds. Can't say it won't be a storybook ending to the season if Dallas manages to pull this one off.