That loss really hurt. The Cowboys were on the cusp of finishing off one of the top teams in the NFL, and the chance went wide left. On one hand, we finally saw the flashes of offensive domination from Week 1 return. Unfortunately, DeMarco Murray was injured with a foot sprain and we’re not sure when he’ll return. But Felix Jones looked pretty good! Unfortunately, we all remember how that’s worked out in the past.
If this team is going to be anything other than an 8-8 or worse team, the next 4 weeks are as important as it gets. The Cowboys have 2 division rivals coming up and a road game against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons. The team that came the closest to beating the Falcons is the Carolina Panthers, who we must not overlook.
That being said, Carolina is also the most beatable of their next 4 opponents. It’s absolutely vital that they go into that difficult New York-Atlanta-Philadelphia stretch at 3-3.
The Clock (A Tale of Woeful Time Management)
I feel no need to continue the dissection of the last 20 seconds of the game against the Ravens ad nauseam. I found the loss so devastating and disheartening, that I didn’t talk to anyone about this game at all until Wednesday. If you want like to read more about it, you may do so here, here, here, and here. While the approach to that play was truly dumbfounding, the team was in a position to win the game against a pretty good opponent. Let’s not fire any Coaches, Wide Receivers, or Quarterbacks just yet.
The Word Is The Third… Receiver Again
Remember when Ogletree had that huge game against the Giants? Man, that was really nice. Since? Not so much. The two plays that stick out to me since are the volleyball serve he popped up the Bears for an interception and the dropped pass TD pass against the Ravens in the 4th Quarter. He had 4 targets in last week’s game and came up with no catches. Since his huge game in Week 1 he is averaging 2.25 catches, 26.75 yards, and 0 touchdowns per game. I think it might be time to give somebody else a chance.
Jonesin’ For a Running Game
The DeMarco Murray injury is really worrying me. We’re hearing lots of positive news about the injury being minor. The MRI was negative and all of the news has been pretty positive. Ed Werder reports that Murray is telling teammates that he’ll be ready to play in next week’s game against the Giants. Clearly we can’t take a player’s word about his own injury. What worries me most is that Darren McFadden had a foot sprain this time last year that was first reported as being minor. He was listed as week-to-week (like Murray), but the foot never healed and he missed the rest of the season. I’m not trying to be Chicken Little about this, but I think it warrants at least a little bit of concern.
Speaking of Running Backs… Still think we should have cut Felix Jones? Ok, ok – it was one game and against a Ravens defense that I warned you was overrated last week. I have many of the same feelings about Felix that many of you have, but I think this game will be very interesting to see how he and Tanner perform. The Cowboys are facing another underwhelming defense this week, and should be able to get something going.
Stat Nerd Alert
I realize that statistical analysis isn’t for everyone, so if you only want my prediction, scroll all the way down. If you’d like to go ‘next level’, please keep reading. Every week I’m going to compare offensive and defensive stats for the Cowboys opponents and do a direct comparison of any opponents that both teams have faced. This helps gives an idea of how a team performed under comparable conditions. Obviously the NFL is unpredictable and results vary wildly week to week, but I find it interesting and I might as well share it with you. All stats and rankings were compiled before the Thursday night game between Seattle and San Francisco. With no further ado, here are my notes for this week:
- Against shared opponents, the Cowboys are 2-1 and the Panthers are 0-3.
- Vs. the Buccaneers, both of these teams had similar offensive output, though the Cowboys were able to cash in 6 more points than the Panthers, despite their Yards Gained being virtually identical. The Cowboys defense significantly outperformed the Panthers, yielding 6 fewer points and nearly 100 yards less to the Bucs’ offense.
- Vs. the Giants, these two teams performance disparity is far greater than any other Shared Opponent. The Cowboys offense managed 24 points and 433 total yards, while the Panthers only scored 7 points off of their 405 total yards. The Panthers offense turned over the ball 5 times, while the Cowboys only had 1 TO. The Cowboys defense held the Giants offense to 17 points on 269 total yards, while the Panthers gave up 36 on 327 total yards. The turnovers and the Panthers inability to score were the clear delineating factors in this game.
- The one game that the Cowboys performed at a lower level than the Panthers was against the Seahawks. The primary difference in this game was the success that Carolina had in defending the run against the Seahawks. The Cowboys ceded 182 rushing yards (4.4 YPC) vs. Carolina giving up 98 rushing yards at 2.8 YPC. This is the only game the Cowboys have given up more than 100 yards rushing. This is the only game the Panthers have given up less than 100 yards rushing. Both teams lost to the Seahawks.
- Despite being 6th in the NFL in Total Yards (387.4/game) and Passing Yards (287.8), the Cowboys are 24th in the NFL in Points per Game (18.8). Drive-killing turnovers and penalties are the primary culprit. With as productive as their offense is at accumulating yards, it is positively shameful to come away with only 18.8 PPG.
- The Cowboys are also 20th in Rushing Yards (99.6). The Cowboys had a significant uptick in their rushing effectiveness against the overrated, and now deeply injured, Raven’s defense. Prior to this game they were only averaging 67.8 Rushing Yards/Game. With the injury to DeMarco Murray and only effectively rushing 3 out of 5 weeks so far, it will be interesting how the Cowboys fare against a bottom-10 Rush Defense in Carolina.
- On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys have excellent Yards against ratings, but their points allowed have them in the bottom third of the league. Their Points Allowed is skewed by the sometimes ineffectiveness of the offense. The two pick-sixes from the Bears game are counted in this metric, though the defense obviously had nothing to do with giving up those points.
- In terms of points scored per game, the Cowboys have faced 3 teams in the top 10 (Giants 4th, Bears 2nd, and Ravens 9th) and two in the bottom half of the league (Seahawks 28th, Buccaneers 16th).
- The Carolina Panthers are in the bottom third of the league in every category except Rushing Yards (13th) and Pass Yards Allowed (19th)
- Their Rushing Yards is inflated by two prolific performances against the Saints (219 yards) and the Falcons (199 yards). The Saints run defense is ranked 31st in the league, while the Falcons are ranked 25th. In their other 3 games they averaged 50.6 yards rushing, with performances of 10, 60, and 82 yards.
- Three of their games have come against prolific passing offenses in the Saints (1st), Falcons (10th), and Giants (5th). In each of these games, they gave up 280 or more passing yards and a minimum of 27 points. They gave up only 128 yards of passing against the Bucs (25th) and 212 to the Seahawks (31st). So far they haven’t had much middle ground in terms of passing offense faced.
- In each of the games against prolific passing offenses (Falcons, Saints, Giants), the Panthers gave up at least 120 yards rushing. Of those three teams, only the Giants have a Rushing Offense ranked in the top of the league. Falcons (25th), Saints (30th), and Giants (9th).
- The Panthers offensive unit has been unpredictable, only scoring more than 12 points against the Saints (35) and Falcons (28).
Ultimately, I think we’ll see more of the same from the Cowboys offense. Carolina hasn’t been able to stop any offense of note yet, and I don’t see that changing against the Cowboys. On the other side of the ball, I think Rob Ryan will find ways to confuse Cam Newton to cause turnovers, particularly if the Cowboys get an early lead and turn their offense myopic. The Cowboys are extremely creative in finding ways to lose, so I don’t discount that as a possibility, but I think ultimately they take the day. Cowboys fans will still grumble all week leading up to the rematch with the Giants. It’s going to get interesting in Valley Ranch very soon.
Cowboys 24, Panthers 13