November 11, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan reacts to a play against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second half at Lincoln Financial Field. The Cowboys defeated the Eagles 38-23. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE

The Cowboys Hope To Flush the Browns

The Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-23!  Never mind that this was a terrible Philadelphia team that was statistically worse in almost every category than the Cowboys.  Never mind that Michael Vick was knocked out of the game and that the Cowboys’ defense scored 2 TDs on his rookie replacement.  I say that with all seriousness – I’m not being cynical or sarcastic when I tell you to disregard those things.

A win is the salve that every heartbroken fan relies on.  It is the fertilizer for the seed of hope that the Dallas Cowboys are germinating.  It is also sometimes the lie we delude ourselves with.

But I am OK with that.  I bought the ticket, I’ll take the ride.

I think it’s a ride that many fans are on – though I’m not sure that we all keep things in perspective quite like we should.  These are dramatizations of conversations I’ve actually heard after three pivotal games this season.

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Time: Friday, September 6th 9:00 AM

Place: Office Water Cooler

(GENERIC OFFICE WORKER A walks up to GENERIC OFFICE WORKER B at cooler.  Both are positive, upbeat, and seem to have an extra skip in their step)

A:  Hey Bob!  Did you watch the Cowboys game last night?

B: I can’t believe how amazing the Cowboys looked against the Giants!  They ran the ball well and Romo really put the team on his shoulders for the win.

A: I think this might be our year to win it all!  Romo looks amazing!

B: Super Bowl!

(Cut to TIME LAPSE MONTAGE)

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Time: Tuesday, October 2nd 9:00 AM

Place: Office Water Cooler

(GENERIC OFFICE WORKER A walks up to GENERIC OFFICE WORKER B at cooler.  Both are downtrodden, depressed, and seem to be dragging)

A:   Worst. Team. Ever.

B:   They should cut Romo and fire Jason Garrett immediately.

A:    F—–g Cowboys!  The Bears?  The freaking Bears?

B:   Think we can get a franchise QB in the first round?

(Cut to TIME LAPSE MONTAGE)

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Time: Tuesday, November 12th 9:00 AM

Place: Office Water Cooler

(GENERIC OFFICE WORKER A walks up to GENERIC OFFICE WORKER B at cooler.  Both are positive, upbeat, and seem to have an extra skip in their step)

A: The Cowboys can make the playoffs!  They totally dominated the Eagles and their offense is really clicking!

B: Yep!  They’ll blow out the Browns 45-0 and then destroy the Redskins.

C:  Tony Romo is the best quarterback ever.

(GENERIC OFFICE WORKER A walks up to GENERIC OFFICE WORKER B hold HANDS and begin DANCING)

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Ok, so I’m not exactly a screenwriter, but you get the point.

I want so desperately to believe– and logically I do believe a lot of the components are there.  I also know that this team has proven what it is over and over again this season.

They will beat the teams that they’re supposed to and they will usually play the good teams well, but not do enough to win the game.  On the other hand, the most difficult phase of their season is over and the Giants are entering a far more difficult segment of their season after the bye week.  I just pray Eli’s arm doesn’t get enough rest to overcome their recent hardships.

The Cowboys have to keep winning.  The Giants need to keep losing.  If the Cowboys go 2-0 against the Browns and Redskins, they put the Giants in a very interesting situation against the Packers on 11/25.  If they lose that game (assuming the Cowboys win both games), the Cowboys will be in first place with the Division record tie breaker.  We can all hold hands and dance if that happens.

And now for the stat nerdery!

2012 Cleveland Browns

  • It’s pretty clear that this team isn’t very good.  They are no higher than 18th (Pass Yards For) in any NFL ranking and are an abysmal 2-7 for the season
  • Like the Cowboys, the Browns have struggled scoring points, but the Browns issues are not related to turnovers or penalties… they’re just terrible at moving the ball.
  • Without looking at the stats, I would have guessed that they ran the ball significantly better than they do, considering they have a very talented running back in Trent Richardson.  They’re 27th in the league.  That’s not a knock on Richardson – more on that below.
  • Aside from a strong defensive game against the inconsistent Chargers, this team has been fairly horrendous defensively.  They rank no higher than 20th in any defensive category.

 

 

Trent Richardson

  • As mentioned above, I was surprised to see how awfully the Browns run the ball – I had assumed that this was their sole strong point considering the acclaim and highlights I’ve seen from Richardson.  He averages 3.8 YPC.
  • Because teams tend to load up against the run, a significant percentage of his productivity (29.4%) comes from him catching balls out of the backfield.
  • Considering his teams’ offensive woes, he is still on pace to have over 1400 total yards and ~10 TD on the season.  That’s a pretty impressive performance for a rookie on a bad team.

Browns VS. Opponents Season Average

  • This table is a measurement of how a team performs against its’ opponents season average.
  • The Browns offense scores 5.3 points less than opposing teams normally give on defense.  Their offensive production has been their weakest point.
  • Their defense was somewhat more surprising.  They allow 0.6 fewer points than opposing teams’ average on offense for the season.  Their defense is roughly breaking even on average.  They have 2 games where they gave up significantly more than average points (Giants +14.3 and Bengals +9.6), but offset those high totals with good performances against the Chargers (-17.2) and Ravens (-5.2).

 

Cowboys VS. Opponents Season Average

  • Unsurprisingly, using the same system of measurement as above – the Cowboys are very average.  They basically score what opposing defenses give up on average and their defense shaves 1.8 points from opposing offenses.
  • Basically they are an average offense and very slightly above average defense.

 

Comparison of Shared Opponents

  • This comparison is about what I thought it would be.  The Cowboys are the better team statistically, sans the Browns’ advantage in points allowed against the Eagles and Ravens.  The Cowboys (for a change) have the advantage in the most crucial metric – Wins and Losses.
  • Again, this shows the reality of these teams in stark terms.  The Cowboys are average and the Browns are one of the worst teams in the league


Browns VS. Cowboys Side By Side

 

  • Reiterated for the sake of thoroughness – Cowboys = Average, Browns = Bad

 

Predictions

As a stat nerd, I’ve been analyzing my weekly predictions, and while I’m reasonably satisfied with my 66.6% success rate in outcome prediction, there is clearly room for improvement in the actual prediction of each team’s final score.  I will say that on average my prediction in margin of victory is pretty good (8.7 points predicted VS. 9.1 actual).

To this end, I’m going to use the Vs. Opponents Average analysis from above to help inform my prediction.

  • The Cowboys normally score (+0.1 points) what their opponents average in defensive points allowed.  The Browns give up an average of 23.4 points per game. (23.5)
  • The Cowboys normally decrease a team’s average points scored by 1.8 points per game.  The Browns average 18.8 points scored per game. (17)
  • The Browns offense scores 5.3 points less than what an opposing defense allows on average.  The Cowboys average 22.7 points against.  (17.4)
  • The Browns’ defense normally decreases a team’s average points score by 0.6 points per game.  The Cowboys score an average of 20.9 points per game. (20.3)

If I average all of that together, the final predicted score would come out to 21.9 to 17.2.  I think the Cowboys offense will produce marginally better than the numbers say, but I am going to stick with the math this time.

The Cowboys matchup with Cleveland might appear to be an automatic W at first glance, but we can never be entirely sure which Cowboys team is going to show up on any given Sunday.  The Cowboys continue to play ‘must win’ games if they have any hope of reigniting their playoff chances.  The Cowboys do just enough to come away with a win here, but I don’t think it will be as pretty as we would like.

Cowboys 21, Browns 17

 

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