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

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At ABC, I published some trends on the Vikings. Here’s one:

Blitz. A lot.

We’re not really sure who will start at quarterback for the Vikings—Josh Freeman or Christian Ponder—but both have been horrific against the blitz (five or more rushers). Using data at Pro Football Focus, I charted the passer rating for each quarterback against the blitz in 2013. Freeman’s numbers extend back to his time in Tampa Bay.

Neither Freeman nor Ponder have been able to compile a passer rating above 60.6 when defenses send more than four rushers.

The numbers are even worse when you consider their completion percentages.\

Freeman and Ponder have both completed less than 42 percent of their passes against the blitz. There’s no reason Monte Kiffin shouldn’t send blitzes early and often in Week 9.

And at Bleacher Report, I posted a Week 8 Primer:

What Must Improve: Pass Rush

If you knew the Cowboys would be starting defensive ends Kyle Wilber and George Selvie this year, you probably would have guessed they’d have trouble reaching the passer.

Selvie has been pretty good, but the Cowboys absolutely need to find a way to stop opposing quarterbacks. The Cowboys are one of only three teams to have allowed 2,200 yards passing this year, and they’ve actually given up 2,523! That’s the worst number in the NFL.

Using data from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), I charted the Cowboys’ pressure rate in every game this year.

You can see that, with 11 pressures against Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, Week 8 was the Cowboys’ second-worst outing of the year.

And how about this stat: In the games in which the Cowboys have generated a pressure on at least 30 percent of their pass-rushing snaps, they’re 3-1 and have allowed an average of 259.5 yards passing. In the games in which they’ve failed to reach the 30 percent pressure threshold, however, the ‘Boys are 1-3 and have yielded an unfathomable 371.3 yards passing per game.

Key Matchup vs. Vikings: RT Doug Free vs. DE Brian Robison

Vikings defensive end Brian Robison is perhaps the unluckiest player in the NFL through Week 8. See, Robison has just one sack on the year, suggesting he hasn’t gotten to the passer all that much. In reality, the defensive end has quietly been one of the league’s most efficient pass-rushers.

Through Week 8, Pro Football Focus has tracked only one defensive end as racking up more than 26 pressures. It’s Robison, and he has 32 of them. Of the other six defensive ends with at least 22 pressures (a group that includes Cowboys defensive end George Selvie), the average sack total is 3.67.

I’ve found that a defensive end’s sacks tend to add up to around one-quarter of his pressures. With 32 pressures, Robison’s most likely sack total at this point in the season is closer to eight than it is to one.

Robison has rushed from the left side of the Vikings defense on 99.2 percent of his snaps in 2013, per PFF. That means he’ll be matched up exclusively on right tackle Doug Free.

Although it might be tempting to double-team veteran defensive end Jared Allen, the numbers suggest the Cowboys need to worry about Robison just as much.

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