Looking at the matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, there seem to be a lot of similarities between the teams. Both obviously have identical records coming into the game, both have quarterbacks that can dazzle with their ability and confound with boneheaded mistakes, both have suspect secondaries and both have a top-shelf pass rusher.
All of that is subjective and pretty much based on measurements taken with the Mark I eyeball meter. Is it real, though?
Instead of my weekly video review of the opponent, I thought I would take a look at the numbers for the two teams to see how they match up based on the first fifteen games of the season. Since this is the last game of the season, we have a lot of data to go on, and I think the numbers can tell us a lot about what the two teams are about.
Make the jump...
I wanted to look at the basic measures for the performances of the two teams so far. I picked what I felt were the stats that were the most indicative of how they were likely to do. The numbers are from ESPN's statistics page. I also looked at some other numbers, such as kick returns, but after mulling them over, decided they did not add much to the discussion. I will point out one thing that I was unaware of, and that is the punt and kickoff coverage for the Cowboys. Dallas is the 6th best team in the NFL at covering punts, and the 5th best at covering kickoffs. Just thought you might be interested in that. Otherwise, the special teams are kind of a wash. Neither team has scored on a kick return, and neither has given up a touchdown in the kicking game, either.
The following table has the numbers I want to delve into a bit. I have listed the raw number and the teams' respective rank in that statistic.
|Giants Offense||Dallas Offense||Giants Defense||Dallas Defense|
|Total Yds/gm||381.6 / 8th||380.1 / 9th||381.5 / 28th||336.9 / 14th|
|Pass Yds/gm||293.5 / 4th||263.3 / 8th||255.4 / 27th||238.3 / 23rd|
|Rush Yds/gm||88.1 / Last||117.2 / 15th||126.1 / 22nd||98.6 / 7th|
|Pts/gm||24.2 / 7th||23.7 / 12th||25.7 / 28th||21.1 / 10th|
|3rd down conv||39.8% / 12th||36.6% / 15th||38.5% / 17th||39.2% / 21st|
The first thing that jumps out is that there are some areas where the teams are similar, starting right at the upper left of the chart. The Cowboys and Giants are neck and neck in total offense, with only 1.5 yards per game separating them. Some of the other numbers are also very close, even though the rank may make them look wider apart than they are. The points scored per game is only a half point apart for the teams, for instance, and the entire 3rd down conversion line shows that there is not much difference at all, especially when you consider how small the total number of third downs is in a game.
Of course, I didn't do this just to come away with the conclusion that the two teams are so close that the game is likely to go either way. I did it to look for areas that the Cowboys may be able to exploit. After all, we want Dallas to win this game.
The most obvious thing that I saw was that rushing stat. The G-men are dead last in rushing yards per game. And they are going up against the number seven ranked rushing defense. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw used to be a pretty scary pair of running backs, but they are only averaging 3.9 and 3.8 yards a carry this year. (Felix Jones is putting up 4.7 yards a carry.) This doesn't just mean that New York will rely on Eli Manning and his receivers to move the ball. Those numbers would indicate that they don't stick with the run very much. If ever there was a team that Dallas could sell out on stopping the pass, the Giants look to be it.
Flipping that, Dallas has an opportunity to use its running game. Although the Cowboys are only average running the ball, they are facing a less than average run defense. If Felix and/or Sammy Morris can gouge the Giants a time or two early in the game, they may slow down that pass rush, which will give Tony Romo and the receivers more time to exploit the New York secondary.
And as bad as we think the Dallas pass defense is, the Giants are worse. Both teams have to be licking their chops at putting a top-10 passing attack against a bottom-10 pass defense, but the Cowboys may have a slight edge here as well. The Giants put up a gaudy looking yardage total per game - and give up almost exactly the same amount. As a matter of fact, while the offenses of the two teams match up pretty well when you look at the whole, Dallas is bringing a defense to the game that, statistically at least, is clearly better, and certainly has a better yards gained vs yards given up differential than the Giants. The best news? Points given up. Where the Cowboys have scored a half point less per game, they have surrendered 4.6 fewer points per game than the Giants. It may be a simplistic view, but that looks kind of like a four point margin in Dallas' favor to me. Which I would ecstatically take at the end of the game.
Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future results, or so I seem to have heard somewhere. But at this point of the season, the nature of the teams seem to be pretty well defined. A game will often turn on a big play or two, but this just looks like a good set of numbers for Dallas going into a pre-postseason playoff game.
Or, going back to that point margin I talked about, it looks kind of like a 28-24 Dallas win. Or thereabouts.