The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

Evidence that both offense, defense will improve for Cowboys

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At Dallas Morning News, I’ve spent some time comparing yards per play to success rate. Yesterday, I analyzed NFL offenses:

Usually, the best offenses in terms of YPP also have the highest success rate. But not always, and sometimes the differences can tell us something. Below, I ranked every NFL team in terms of both YPP and success rate. The third column is the difference between the two ranks.

You can see that teams that ranked much better in YPP than success rate are ranked near the top, and vice versa at the bottom. The Cowboys, who finished 11th in YPP but third in success rate, have one of the biggest differences.

And today, I looked at the defenses:

Below, I’ve charted the ranks in defensive YPP and success rate for each team in 2012. The third column shows the difference between the two ranks.

The teams listed at the top of the chart are those that ranked a lot higher in success rate than YPP. Many of the teams played consistently well, but gave up a few big plays that skewed their YPP average (and total points allowed). The teams listed at the bottom are those that ranked higher in YPP than success rate. Many of those defenses limited big plays, but didn’t necessarily perform as consistently well.

You can see that the Cowboys ranked 25th in the NFL in allowing 5.8 YPP. They were better in success rate, though, ranking 20th by allowing a successful offensive play on 47.8 percent of their defensive snaps. In comparison, the best defense in the league—the Texans—yielded a successful play 40.7 percent of the time.

The fact that the Cowboys’ offense and defense both rank higher in success rate than YPP suggests they’ve been better than traditional stats show. Since success rate is more repeatable than YPP, Dallas should be able to improve their YPP gained and allowed in 2013, even if they perform equally as well as they did in 2012.

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