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Is the defense keeping the Cowboys from contending?

Eight of the last twelve teams that have played in the Super Bowl have finished in the top 5 in Passer Rating Differential. The notable exceptions have been Chicago (in 2006, the Bears finished 10th), Arizona (in 2008), and the Giants (twice).

The Passer Rating Differential (termed the Differential in this post) is simply the difference between the team's Offensive Passer Rating, and the team's Defensive Passer Rating. In other words, subtracting the Defensive Passer Rating from the Offensive Passer Rating yields the Differential.

There have been three teams that have ranked first in the Differential and made the Super Bowl. With the exception of the undefeated (during the regular season) Patriots, the other two teams have won their respective Super Bowls. An argument could be made that New England was the best team that year and should have won, but that is a post for a different day to annoy Giants fans.

Year

Rank

Team

Offensive Passer Rating

Defensive Passer Rating

Differential

2010

1

Green Bay

98.9

67.2

31.7

2009

1

New Orleans

106.0

68.6

37.4

2007

1

New England

116.0

78.1

37.9

Of the relevant teams that have made the Super Bowl, the following statistics demonstrate the determination of those teams' average Differential of 26.4. The 2007 Patriots had the highest Offensive Passer Rating, 116.0, while the 2008 Steelers boasted a Defensive Passer Rating of 63.4, lowest of the Super Bowl participants recorded.

Unit

Attempts

Completions

Yards

Touchdowns

Interceptions

Passer rating

Offense

4,426

2,900

34,019

260

98

99.1

Defense

4,370

2,628

26,507

142

164

72.7

Throughout the last seven seasons, Dallas ranges from -4.1 (so far this season) to a high of 22.0 in 2007. The only season the Cowboys failed to qualify for the playoffs when posting a positive differential was in 2011, when Dallas missed the playoffs by one game. Notice that the 2011 Cowboys were also the only Cowboys team that finished in the top 12 in the NFL in Differential without making the playoffs.

Year

Rank

Team

Offensive Passer Rating

Defensive Passer Rating

Differential

2012

19

Dallas

90.9

95.0

-4.1

2011

9

Dallas

100.1

88.4

11.7

2010

15

Dallas

90.4

92.8

-2.4

2009

9

Dallas

97.6

83.5

14.1*

2008

19

Dallas

84.9

86.2

-1.3

2007

4

Dallas

97.1

75.1

22.0*

2006

12

Dallas

86.5

83.2

3.3*

*Indicates a playoff season

During this time, the Cowboys have an average Differential of just 7.3. While the Super Bowl teams have accumulated 164 interceptions, Dallas' defense has only generated a little over 58.5% of that total. The Cowboys offense has only thrown just over 76.5% of the touchdown passes the Super Bowl teams have generated.

Unit

Attempts

Completions

Yards

Touchdowns

Interceptions

Passer rating

Offense

3,773

2,415

27,820

199

115

91.0

Defense

3,624

2,209

23,966

155

96

83.7

While the greatest discrepancy between the Cowboys and the average Super Bowl teams in Passer Rating is on the defensive side of the ball, the Dallas Offensive Passer Rating is also significantly lower than the Super Bowl average. Neither side of the ball is currently performing at a level necessary for the Cowboys to be considered a Super Bowl contender.

Offensively, Dallas posted a Passer Rating sufficiently high enough to be considered a Super Bowl contender in 2007, 2009, and 2011. Numerology would suggest Cowboys fans should expect big things from Tony Romo in 2013.

The Dallas Defensive Passer Rating approximated Super Bowl level in 2007. Since Wade's first season, the best Defensive Passer Rating posted by the Cowboys has been 83.5 in 2009, slightly better than average for Dallas during this time.

Considering that neither the Dallas offense nor the defense is performing at a level commensurate with the average Super Bowl teams used in the study, perhaps upgrades on both sides of the ball are required. Considering the tremendous season Romo had least season when the Cowboys offense had four legitimate receiving options in Witten, Austin, Bryant, and Robinson, another quality wide receiver should be added during the off season in addition to offensive linemen.

In 2010 and 2012 the Dallas defense had a Defensive Passer Rating above 90. The Cowboys were ranked 16th in 2010 and are currently ranked 22nd in sacks this season. The only other season when Dallas struggled to generate sacks during this time was in 2006, during Bill Parcells' final season.

As many have stated, a better pass rush may be necessary for the defense to improve its production. It is obvious that the Dallas defense needs to generate more interceptions.

It seems this team still needs more playmakers on both sides of the ball to seriously compete at the level necessary to win a Championship game. Of course, Jerry could hope to be lucky enough to post a -10.4 in Differential and still win a Super Bowl over a team that had a 37.9.

Like the 2007 New York team did. You know, the New York ANOMALIES.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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