Aikman Efficiency Ratings: Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks


Ever since I learned that Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli grades his defense using the Aikman Efficiency Ratings, I’ve kept a spot for the site on my favorites bar. When I learned that teams with higher Aikman Game Scores won 82 percent of the time, I wondered whether the ratings have any predictive capacity for Cowboys games.

Now that the folks over at Stats LLC, who administer the Aikman Efficiency Ratings, have five weeks of data it’s time to put that theory to the test with a recurring series in which we compare the Cowboys and their opponent in several aspects of the AERs, and see what that infers about who we can expect to win.

Seems appropriate, as this is a measurement conceived by Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman back in 2006. First, a brief definition of the AERs, lifted directly from the site:

"“The goal… was to create a system that measured factors related to winning without becoming subjective or too intricate.  And so in 1996, the Aikman Ratings came to be – a measurement of seven key, but easily obtained, statistical measurements (yards per rush, yards per pass play, turnovers per game, first downs per game, third-down percentage, points per game (unit on field) and points per red zone possession) combined and expressed in one simple number.”"

We’ll start by looking at the offensive, defensive, and overall AER rankings for both the Cowboys and their hosts this Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks. The numbers in this grid show where each team ranks among the 32 NFL teams. Looks like the Great Northwest is gearing up for a clash of titans:

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Each is a Top-6 ranked team, but it’s not what you expected, right? The ‘Hawks have the higher-rated offense and the Cowboys have the higher-rated defense. Remember, this rating is combination of seven different statistics. How they’re weighted is proprietary, so we can’t know which stats the Aikman crew believes are most important. But we can see where each team ranks in those categories among other NFL teams. We’ll start with the offense:

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Seattle is ranked higher in Points Per Game, Red Zone Efficiency, Yards Per Rush, and Turnovers (likely a big one). Dallas leads the league in Third Down Conversion Percentage and is superior to Seattle in First Downs Per Game and Yards Per Pass Attempt. Now for the defense:

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The Cowboys rank higher than Seattle in five of seven categories, including the all-important Red Zone Efficiency, Third Down Conversion Percentage, and Turnovers. Seattle has the stingiest defense in the league against the run, giving up just 2.6 yards per rush.

One thing the AERs do not take into consideration is strength of schedule. As of Week 5, the Dallas defense is rated higher than the Seattle defense. But how good were the offenses that each team has played? Here are the AER rankings for the offenses that Seattle and Dallas have faced so far:

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It’s starting to make sense. Seattle has played three Top 10 offenses and Dallas has played just one (New Orleans, the top-ranked unit in the league, which the Cowboys D flat-out bullied). How about each team’s offense? What kind of defenses have they played so far this season? Here are the AER rankings for each of their 2014 opponents:

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So Seattle has played better teams than Dallas so far this year. In fact, Seattle has already faced three of the Top 5 AER-ranked teams in the league, losing only to the No. 1-ranked San Diego Chargers. The highest-rated team Dallas has faced so far this year is the 10th-ranked San Francisco 49ers, who also handed Dallas their only loss of the season.

So if the Aikman Efficiency Ratings have any predictive capacity at all, Dallas is very likely to limp home a 4-2 team this Sunday.

But Seattle still has to do it on the field, right? Should be fun to see how these Hungry Dogs show.