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Some stat trends for Cowboys, Chiefs

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My second post over at ABC Dallas takes a look at some interesting numbers on the Cowboys and Chiefs:

Cowboys vs. Chiefs Statistical Trends
I track every play in Cowboys games, so I have a substantial database of data dating back to 2009. Some of the stuff I’ll write about this year is proprietary, but most of it is very much public.
And one of the best public resources I know is Pro Football Reference’s Game Play Finder. You can sort through box scores to uncover anything you’d like in seconds. Want to know how frequently NFL teams run the ball on first down inside the opponent’s five-yard line? Easy. Prior to games, I spend a lot of time just sifting through that data to see what I can find. Here’s some of it.
  • Trend #1: The Cowboys passed on 54.5 percent of their first downs through the first three quarters last year.

    I like to analyze stats through three quarters because it does a decent job of eliminating unusual circumstances. We want to analyze stats when games are point-maximization contests for both teams, not when one is running the ball all the time and the other passing on every play because of the score.

    It might seem like this 54.5 percent pass rate is low, but the league average was just 46.8 percent. And guess what? The Cowboys’ first down pass rate should increase substantially. Defenses still usually play to stop the run on first down, so offenses see much, much greater efficiency through the air. It’s popular to say that running the ball on early downs can set up manageable third downs, but you know what’s even better than third-and-short? Not even facing third down because you didn’t blindly run the ball on first and second down.

  • Chiefs Comparison: 33.8%

    This is really a remarkably low number, and one that is going to rise with Andy Reid in town. Reid likes to use the passing game as an extension of the run, and he has a quarterback who can work the underneath passing game in Alex Smith. For what it’s worth, Phlly’s first down pass rate through three quarters was 53.2 percent in 2012.

Check it out.

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