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A Different View of the Cowboys’ Defense

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Last week, I published a comparison of actual points and expected points for each NFL offense. Today, I did the same for the defense.

Points Allowed Versus EPA

Below, I charted each team’s 2012 rank in both points allowed and defensive EPA. The teams are sorted based on the difference between the two numbers.

The teams closest to the top are those that ranked a lot higher in EPA than in actual points allowed. Notice the sort of teams listed there – the Cardinals, Jets and Titans – all of whom had poor offenses. These numbers suggest that the defenses for those teams were far better than the points indicated; if they get moderately better offensive play, the defenses will be placed in better situations and should improve significantly in terms of total points allowed.

At the bottom, you see that the Falcons, Colts, and Giants’ defenses were the luckiest. All got quality offensive play, and all were lucky to allow as few points as they did. It’s also interesting to note that the Seahawks, the team with the defense that some believe the Cowboys will imitate in 2013, generated the seventh-best defensive EPA mark despite allowing the fewest points in the NFL.

And right in the middle, again, are the Cowboys. Based solely on how the players on the field played, the ’Boys overachieved just a bit. Of course, these numbers don’t take into account the massive number of injuries the Cowboys experienced on defense last year. If there’s one change that will help the Dallas defense the most, it’s not a switch in opening day starters or defensive coordinator, but simply better health.

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