The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys need high-risk/high-reward strategy to make playoffs

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At DMN, I just published an article on why the Cowboys need to adopt a different strategy in all three phases of their team. Sitting at 5-6, the ‘Boys are basically in a “must-win” situation from here on out. It starts this week against a downtrodden Philadelphia Eagles team in a game that Dallas really has no business losing. Sportsbetting.ag currently has the Cowboys as 10-point favorites.

In Week 10, the Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-23, riding their defense and special teams to victory. The win probability graph from the game tells the story.

Above, I marked three critical plays that took place in a three-minute span from the end of the third quarter to the beginning of the fourth.

1: Dez Bryant 30-yard Touchdown Reception

Down 17-10 late in the third quarter, the ‘Boys faced a 3rd and 4 at the Eagles’ 30-yard line. Tony Romo found Bryant on a ‘go’ route for the score, tying the game and increasing the Cowboys’ chances of winning from 30 percent to 54 percent.

2: Dwayne Harris 78-Yard Punt Return Touchdown

After forcing a three-and-out, the Cowboys sent Harris back to receive the punt. Catching the ball at the 22-yard line, Harris took the ball 78 yards for the score, giving the Cowboys a seven-point lead. The Cowboys’ win probability increased from an even coin flip to 80 percent—the biggest jump of the day.

3: Brandon Carr Pick-Six

On a 2nd and 7 at their own 37-yard line, the Eagles dropped back to pass. Nick Foles threw behind DeSean Jackson on a slant and the pass was deflected. Carr snagged the ball and took it 47 yards for the score, providing the Cowboys’ with a 14-point lead and 96 percent chance of winning.

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The reason that coaches preach the importance of doing the “little things” is that they lead to big plays. A single blown coverage, one great block on a punt return, and a batted pass were the differences between a Cowboys blowout win and a nail-biter. The incredible increases in win probability following such big plays exemplify perfectly why the Cowboys have struggled in 2012; they’ve been forced to continually beat teams again and again because they haven’t secured many of the 20 and 30 percent jumps in win probability that characterize winning teams.

Check out the rest of the analysis at Dallas Morning News.

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