The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Brandon Carr vs Brandon Marshall: My Film Review

I watched Brandon Carr’s 2011 matchup with Brandon Marshall (Chiefs vs Dolphins). Carr played only 14 snaps on Marshall, limiting him to four receptions, 36 yards, and a touchdown. I took an in-depth look at the Carr-Marshall matchup at Dallas News. . .

With a 1st and 10 at the Chiefs’ 14-yard line, the Dolphins came out in a two-tight end Ace formation. At the bottom of the screen, you can see Carr lined up about three yards off of Marshall at the snap of the ball.

Carr met Marshall near the line, doing a nice job of getting his hands on him. Carr was able to re-route Marshall a bit, but unfortunately it wasn’t to the correct side.

With the coaches’ tape (below), you can see Marshall get an outside release on Carr. I’ve watched the play about 50 times, and I’m certain that Carr’s job was to force Marshall to the inside on the play. The Chiefs were in a pretty rare Cover 6 defense. Cover 6 is similar to Cover 3 in the back end with three deep defenders. Instead of two cornerbacks and a free safety deep, however, Cover 6 utilizes one deep cornerback and two deep safeties. It’s really Cover 2 on one side of the field and Cover 4 on the other—a true hybrid coverage.

Read the whole breakdown here.

By Jonathan Bales

Fantasy Football: Week 4 Game Previews

Patriots @ Bills

Player to Start: Donald Jones

For those in deep 24-team leagues (most of you, I assume), Jones is an option. Everyone knows the Patriots have a below-average secondary, but what they do really well is take away the opponent’s top playmaker. We saw that when the Pats stifled Larry Fitzgerald in Week 2.

Normally, New England might focus their attention toward C.J. Spiller. With the-guy-who-is-on-every-fantasy-team-of-mine-except-the-one-in-the-Grantland-league probably out, Steve Johnson becomes the focal point of the Bills offense. Look for Belichick to do everything in his power to limit Johnson, leaving Jones in single coverage.

Titans @ Texans

Player to Start: Matt Schaub

With the way Houston’s defense is playing right now, you really can’t start anyone on the Titans. Chris Johnson could easily break the 100-yard mark if the Titans can find a way to give him 100 carries, but I don’t see that happening.

Meanwhile, Tennessee has allowed more passing yards than all but two teams. They’ll once again be susceptible to the pass when they stack the box to limit Arian Foster.

Saints @ Packers

Player to Start: Cedric Benson

The Saints have allowed 645 rushing yards in three games. 645 rushing yards in three games. 645 rushing yards in three games. Sink in yet? That total is nearly 200 yards more than the second-worst run defense. If there’s ever a time that Green Bay will run the football, it’s this week. Look for Benson to register 20 carries and 100-plus yards.

Panthers @ Falcons

Player to Start: Jonathan Stewart

Only one team in the NFL is yielding more yards-per-carry than the Falcons. After getting away from their running game last Thursday night against the Giants, the Panthers figure to ride Stewart early and often on Sunday. The key will be keeping the score close against a Falcons offense that has turned into one of the most prolific in the league.

Vikings @ Lions

Player to Start: Percy Harvin

The Lions really have one of the league’s more underrated pass-rushing units. With Ndamukong Suh inside and Kyle Vanden Bosch working at end, Detroit can attack the passer from all angles. That means Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder will look to get the ball out quickly to Harvin, who is absolutely dynamite in PPR leagues. Meanwhile, Minnesota may need to pass the ball often in the second half of a game I anticipate the Lions dominating.

Chargers @ Chiefs

Player to Start: Ryan Mathews

Norv Turner said he’s going to limit Mathews’ touches, but I don’t buy it. Mathews is San Diego’s workhorse running back and they aren’t going to continually take him off of the field in favor of Ronnie Brown. Plus, Turner will probably look to attack Kansas City on the ground. Since their horrible Week 1 showing against the Falcons, the Chiefs have allowed only 192 passing yards per game.

49ers @ Jets

Player to Start: Randy Moss

Guess what? The No. 1 receiver facing off against the Jets no longer needs to be automatically benched. The Niners are going to attack the Jets on the ground this week, as they do to every team every week. I really think the 49ers win in spite of their putrid offense, not because of it, but whatever. They should be able to get Frank Gore going a little, which will set up playaction passes. With formidable and physical cornerback Antonio Cromartie still in the mix, look for tight end Vernon Davis and the Niners’ 50-year old free agent receiver acquisition to make down plays downfield.

Seahawks @ Rams

Player to Start: Marshawn Lynch

The Seahawks’ defense has been absolutely dominant through three weeks, particularly in the secondary. Simply put, opposing receivers have been immobilized at the line by massive cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. Thus, I don’t think anyone from St. Louis is capable of being started, outside of Danny Amendola in PPR.

Meanwhile, the Rams’ defense has overachieved a bit. The one thing they can do well is get to the passer, despite registering only four sacks in 2012. Led by Chris Long, look for the Rams’ defensive ends to rush upfield in an attempt to welcome Russell Wilson to the NFL, leaving gaping running lanes for Lynch.

Dolphins @ Cardinals

Player to Start: Michael Floyd

The Dolphins boast the NFL’s third-worst pass defense in terms of total yards allowed. They’re going to do everything possible to limit Fitzgerald, so look for Arizona’s rookie wide out, who scored his first career touchdown last week, to take advantage of some single coverage. Miami has allowed eight receiving touchdowns this season—the second-most in the league.

Raiders @ Broncos

Player to Start: Willis McGahee

Remember what Peyton Manning was like in 2010? Yeah, that’s never coming back. The Broncos aren’t going to be able to consistently win with Manning floating passes over the middle, so you can bet they’ll lean heavily on McGahee. The veteran running back doesn’t have much explosiveness left, but he’s a good bet for red zone carries.

Bengals @ Jaguars

Player to Start: Maurice Jones-Drew

The Bengals have allowed an insane 5.8 yards-per-carry in 2012—almost a full yard more than the second-worst defense. Even if they load the box, I don’t think they’ll be able to stop MJD from crossing the century mark in rushing yards. At home, the Jags may actually be winning (or at least not getting killed) late in the game, so Jones-Drew could see a few extra touches.

Redskins @ Bucs

Player to Start: Robert Griffin III

If you own RGIII, chances are you’re starting him every week at this point. The rookie has a particularly good matchup in Tampa Bay against the league’s worst-ranked pass defense. Only one team has allowed more yards-per-pass than the Bucs—and it’s the Redskins. This one has the makings of a good old-fashioned 38-34 defensive battle.

Giants @ Eagles

Player to Start: Michael Vick

Andy Reid said he’s going to lean more heavily on the run this week. In his world, that means allowing Vick to scramble after he drops back to pass. Look, there’s no way you’ll see an exorbitant number of LeSean McCoy carries, regardless of the matchup. That’s especially true against a banged-up Giants secondary that probably couldn’t stop Fred-Ex at this point. Vick will get back on track this week by throwing just two picks.

My Cowboys-Bears preview is up at Grantland.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys vs Bears: 3 Matchups to Watch

At NBC, I posted three key matchups to monitor on Monday night. . .

WR Miles Austin and WR Dez Bryant vs CB Tim Jennings

Through three weeks of the season, cornerback Tim Jennings might be playing better than just about any defensive back in the league. Opposing quarterbacks have tested Jennings, targeting him 27 times. He has allowed only nine completions and 3.52 yards-per-attempt while picking off four passes.

Jennings’ main weakness is his size. At 5’8’’, 185 pounds, I think both Austin and Bryant have a natural advantage over him. Despite his play-making ability in Cover 2, I think the Cowboys are going to test Jennings, especially with Austin on him. Opposite Jennings is a big, physical cornerback in Charles Tillman who has been targeted only five times all season. If he can re-route Bryant at the line, Tony Romo might look Austin’s way and hope we can outmuscle the Bears’ smaller cornerback.

Check out the other two matchups at NBC.

By Jonathan Bales

Projecting Cowboys’ Player Performances vs Bears

At DallasCowboys.com, I posted another fantasy football-esque look at the Cowboys’ Monday night matchup with the Bears.

Projected Stat Lines

Tony Romo: 22-for-35, 250 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

Jason Witten: 3 receptions, 35 yards

Dez Bryant: 4 receptions, 65 yards, TD

Miles Austin: 5 receptions, 80 yards

DeMarco Murray: 20 carries, 80 yards, 3 receptions, 20 yards

This game has all the makings of yet another defensive battle for the Cowboys. Although I’m generally a proponent of passing early and often, I think Dallas needs to give Murray a little more attention on Monday night.

In low-scoring games, the impact of a few big plays is monumental. Even if Murray isn’t killing Chicago on the ground, hammering the Bears with the run could set up a well-timed deep play-action look or two later in the game. In what could easily be a 21-17-type of contest, generating a quick score would be extremely valuable for either club, even more so than usual.

Read the whole post at the team site.

By Jonathan Bales

8 Stats That Tell the Story of the Cowboys’ Defense

The Cowboys’ defense hasn’t been good in 2012. They haven’t been great. They’ve been sensational. A blocked punt and a few short fields have changed the general perception of the defense, causing many to believe the D has been just okay. On a per-play basis, the Cowboys have been among the best defenses in the NFL. I broke down eight stats that show why at DMN, and here are the two most important. . .

4.4: Yards-per-play allowed by Dallas—the lowest mark in the NFL

No defense has been more efficient than your Dallas Cowboys through the season’s first three weeks. If the defense played even average against the Giants or Bucs, this team would be 1-2 or even 0-3. Part of the success has come because the ‘Boys are one of only three teams that have defended more rushes than passes. Nonetheless, the efficiency has been extraordinary.

4.7: Net yards-per-attempt allowed by Cowboys’ pass defense

Year in and year out, net YPA is the most predictive stat in terms of overall team performance. Passing the football effectively and, likewise, halting the opposition’s passing attack is absolutely essential in the NFL. The Cowboys are doing it better than all but one team (Green Bay Packers).

Read the rest here.

By Jonathan Bales

Scouting the Chicago Bears

At NBC, I posted a statistical scouting report of the Chicago Bears.

The Bears bring a formidable set of skill position players to the table, led by quarterback Jay Cutler, wide receiver Brandon Marshall, and do-it-all running back Matt Forte. Despite their weapons, Chicago ranks just 28th in the NFL in passing yards. The reason is that the Bears’ offensive line has provided Cutler with absolutely no time to throw the football. They’ve yielded a sack on 10.6 percent of their pass plays—almost double the rate we’ve seen in Dallas.

Read the entire article at NBC.

By Jonathan Bales

The Sportstradamus: Week 4 NFL Game Picks

Week 3 saw a whole lot of upsets in the NFL, so I’m not too worried about my poor straight up record on the week. I consistently beat every ESPN expert every year with “boring” picks. I rarely pick an underdog unless I think the line is off. It could be a decade before you see me pick an underdog of more than a touchdown to win a game outright. You’d have to assume that Vegas is legitimately off by more than seven points, which doesn’t happen.

Anyway, my record on the season still sucks: 27-21 straight up, 16-30-2 against the spread, and 28-19-1 on totals. Here are my Week 4 picks. . .

@Baltimore 24 Cleveland 17 (+12) (UNDER 44)

New England 21 @Buffalo 20 (+4) (UNDER 51)

@Detroit 24 Minnesota 20 (+5) (UNDER 46)

@Atlanta 24 Carolina 20 (+7) (UNDER 48.5)

San Francisco 23 @New York Jets 20 (+4) (OVER 40)

@Kansas City 27 (-1) San Diego 24 (OVER 44)

Houston 28 (-12) @Tennessee 14 (UNDER 44.5)

Seattle 21 @St. Louis 20 (+3) (OVER 37.5)

@Arizona 24 (-5.5) Miami 17 (OVER 39)

@Denver 28 (-6.5) Oakland 20 (UNDER 48.5)

@Jacksonville 23 (+2.5) Cincinnati 17 (UNDER 42.5)

@Green Bay 30 (-7.5) New Orleans 20 (UNDER 53.5)

@Tampa Bay 21 (-3) Washington 17 (UNDER 47.5)

@Philadelphia 28 (-1.5) New York Giants 20 (OVER 46.5)

@Dallas 23 (-3) Chicago 14 (UNDER 41.5)

By Jonathan Bales

Fantasy Football: Waiver Wire Pickup Strategy

At RotoWire, I published a study on historic waiver wire pickups:

Since 2008, no position has been more productive than quarterback. Of the most-added Week 1 free agent quarterbacks over the past four seasons, more than one-in-three turns into a top 12 player at the position. Right around one-in-six finishes in the top five among all signal-callers. That’s serious upside. We see similar production from the tight ends. Just under one-in-three of Week 1 pickups have turned into top 12 players.

One of the reasons free agent quarterbacks and tight ends have been able to produce is there are simply better options left on waivers. In many leagues, there are a handful of owners with just a single quarterback or tight end on their rosters. That leaves players like the 2010 version of Marcedes Lewis on the free agent pile.

Head to RotoWire for the full article.

By Jonathan Bales

Running the Numbers: Interesting Stats on Chicago Bears

At DallasCowboys.com, I posted a breakdown of the Chicago Bears by the numbers.

Offense

5.4: The Bears’ net yards-per-attempt on passing plays.

The Bears have a quality quarterback in Jay Cutler and some weapons on the outside, but the offensive line hasn’t been able to provide Cutler with proper protection. Chicago has posted the sixth-worst net YPA in the NFL through three weeks.

10.6: The percentage of Jay Cutler’s dropbacks that have resulted in a sack.

If the Cowboys can force the Bears into a lot of obvious passing situations, they’re going to get to him. If you think the Cowboys’ offensive line has been poor this season, consider that the Bears’ line has allowed a sack at nearly twice the rate.

3.5: Chicago’s yards-per-carry through three games – the same number as Dallas.

Neither the Bears nor Cowboys have been able to get much going on the ground thus far in 2012. Nonetheless, both teams rely on the run to set up the pass, which is why the lack of rushing success is reflected in the passing stats for both squads.

Check out more here.

By Jonathan Bales

Analysis of Tony Romo’s Audibles

I’ve been tracking Tony Romo’s audibles for over three years. Today, I compared the quarterback’s 2012 audibles to those since 2009. . .

Whereas almost every audible Romo made in past years was a “Kill” call, only half of his 16 checks in 2012 have been of that variety. On the other audibles, Romo has changed the play himself at the line of scrimmage.

Interestingly, it is the “Kill” calls that have been the most fruitful for Dallas through three games. While it’s a small sample size, three of Romo’s eight “Kill” calls have resulted in touchdowns (DeMarco Murray’s 11-yard score last week was on a “Kill” call). Of Romo’s eight manual checks, two have been runs good for 19 total yards. Romo is 4-for-6 for 34 yards and an interception on the six passes.

Head over to NBC for the full story.