Premature And Obscure Reasons For Confidence: Week 1, Cowboys @ Giants

Jason Garrett prepares to indulge in some premature prognosticating with us.

The excitement for this year's preseason lineup, and training camp in general, is unmatched by any season in recent memory. Still, I know most of us simply can't wait 'til September 5th, when the Cowboys will meet the Giants in New Jersey.

Because of this, I've indulged in a bit of premature optimism, looking at statistical nuggets that promise success for the Cowboys in the season opener. In this case, it all involved quarterback play.

After the jump, learn how the weather report, the calendar, and other factors might help lead the Cowboys to victory.

As many of you may know, passing success is very strongly correlated to winning. The most accurate way to assess that, as a team, is through Adjusted Net Yards per Passing Attempt (ANY/A or AY/A), a formula developed by pro-football-reference.com and defined here:

ANY/A - adjusted net yards per passing attempt: (pass yards + 20*(pass TD) - 45*(interceptions thrown) - sack yards)/(passing attempts + sacks). See AY/A. Note that we are now using 20 yards per TD instead of 10, because of research by Chase Stuart at the p-f-r blog.

Passer rating (also known as quarterback rating) differential is also very strongly correlated to winning.

As a result, I've looked at the split statistics available at Yahoo! Sports for Eli Manning and Tony Romo, and come up with the following observations.

The weather: MetLife Stadium is open to the air. According to Weather.com, that area of New Jersey has averaged a high of 80 and low of 59 degrees Fahrenheit (81 and 63, if you'd rather trust AccuWeather) on September 5th. On the East Coast, temperatures are relatively mild in the evening, midway through the curve between the high temperature (around 2pm) and the low (around 2am), so we can expect the temperature to be near 70 degrees when we face the Giants.

Both Eli Manning and Tony Romo average their highest passer ratings when the temperature is between 61 and 80 degrees. Eli Manning's "best," however, corresponds with an 85.0 passer rating over 33 career warm-weather games. Eli's warm weather stat line: 59.4% completion rate, 50 TDs and 32 INTs.

Tony Romo's warm weather passer rating is a respectable 102.1. This came from a 64.7% completion rate, with 46 TDs and 20 INTs in 24 career games.

For those more inclined to believe Yards per Attempt, Eli Manning's gross YPA in warm weather is 7.2, a full yard-and-a-half shy of Romo's 8.7. Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt more your thing? Eli Manning's ANY/A in warm weather is 6.05. Romo's, under the same conditions, is 7.97.

Projected stat lines for each quarterback based on the weather:
Manning: 18/31 (58%), 223 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 88.5 passer rating; 2 sacks, 12 yards; 1 fumble
Romo: 19/30 (63%), 261 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 99.4 passer rating; 2 sacks, 10 yards; 1 fumble

The day of the week: September 5th is a Wednesday, which, you can safely say, is a strange day for football. Both Romo and Manning, however, have played a fair number of games outside of the typical Sunday/Monday schedule: 12 for Romo, and 9 for Eli. How have the two played under these circumstances? Glad you asked.

Tony Romo is, again, at his best in games played on strange days. Having experience in annual Thanksgiving games, I would expect him to at least maintain his typical form Tuesday through Saturday, but Romo actually exceeds it. His passer rating is 106.2, coming on 66.4% completions, along with 27 TDs to 9 INTs.

Eli Manning, in this case, is actually at his worst. Manning has compiled a career passer rating of 78.0 over his nine strangely timed games. This comes from his 55.0% completion rate, 11 TDs and 7 INTs.

Again, for the Y/A fans, here are the comparisons. Romo's gross Y/A is 8.3 in these situations. Manning's is 6.6. ANY/A spreads even more favorably - Romo: 7.95; Manning: 5.64.

Projected stat lines for each quarterback based on the day of the game:
Manning: 17/31 (55%), 205 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 72.6 passer rating; 1 sack, 10 yards; 0 fumbles
Romo: 20/31 (65%), 257 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 98.5 passer rating; 1 sack, 10 yards; 1 fumble

The matchup: When looking at all of these stats, some may have scoffed and said, "we know Tony's not that good against the Giants," or "Eli always comes through against the Cowboys." This one's for you. Tony Romo has played 10 games against the Giants, while Eli Manning has played 15 against the Cowboys.

Eli Manning plays better than his career average against the Cowboys. He accumulates an 89.4 passer rating, from 60.5% passing with 31 TDs and 18 INTs.

Tony Romo also exceeds his averages when playing the Giants, picking up a 101.9 passer rating. 66% completions as well as 23 TDs to 11 INTs got him there.

In gross Y/A, Eli racks up 7.5 against Dallas, while Tony manages 8.3 against the Giants.

How about ANY/A? The stats show Eli recording a 6.4 against Tony's 7.3, just shy of a full yard-per-attempt advantage.

Projected stat lines head-to-head:
Manning: 21/34 (62%), 255 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 92.2 passer rating; 2 sacks, 14 yards; 0 fumbles
Romo: 20/30 (67%), 249 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 100.6 passer rating; 2 sacks, 11 yards; 0 fumbles

And everything else: When you look at the career numbers from either quarterback, there is nothing not to like about the Wednesday night matchup with the Giants on September 5th. In terms of passer rating, Romo is better in every situation applicable heading into the game.

Situation Eli Manning Tony Romo
Manning Home vs Romo Away 82.0 95.0
Games at Night 82.4 92.2
Games on Turf 81.9 98.2
Games Outdoors 80.9 92.9
First Half of the Season 87.6 96.8
September 91.3 98.1
NFC East 82.4 90.5
Career Starts 82.2 97.1

I only noted two categories in which Eli Manning is rated higher than Tony Romo: games on Mondays, and games featuring high winds. Keep an eye on the wind forecast (clearly not available yet) in the days before the game, because that could potentially turn things around.

Final thoughts: I came across a few interesting notes while researching this piece.

Late season collapses?!
Romo, games 1-8 vs games 9-16: 96.8 - 97.0
Manning, games 1-8 vs games 9-16: 87.6 - 76.6
Romo, Sep/Oct/Nov/Dec: 98.1 / 91.6 / 111.4 / 86.0
Manning, Sep/Oct/Nov/Dec: 91.3 / 86.9 / 77.7 / 74.6

Clearly, one quarterback has an obvious trend to decline as the season wears on. This was true last season as well, as Eli went from a 104.3 in September to a 76.5 in December, again declining every month.
Romo had a bad October in 2011, but improved from a 95.8 in September to a 119.1 in December.

Night games aren't the problem. Tony Romo has been accused of faltering under the bright lights of night games. The truth, though, is that night games as a whole aren't bad for him. He averages a 92.2 rating at night. The real problem is Monday night. Over 7 games on ESPN's Monday Night Football in his career, Romo has earned a dismal 73.5 rating, throwing an alarming 9 TDs to 12 INTs.

Toughest divisions. Both quarterbacks performed best against the NFC West (surprised?) and worst against the AFC North (shocking). In both situations, Romo was the better performer.

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