Offense or Defense -- on which side will Dallas be better in 2013?

In 2012, Dallas's offense was 6th in yards, but only 15th in points per game, at 23.5. Total points: 376.

Dallas's defense was 19th in yards, but 25th in points allowed, at 25 PPG. Total points: 400.

What do you think is likely to happen in 2013? Which unit will rank higher at the end of the year? And where do you think they will rank?

Here's the 2013 schedule, with each teams offensive PPG rank from 2012, followed by the actual PPG scored. This is followed by the same numbers on the defensive side.

  1. NYG - O 6th, 26.8; D 12th, 21.5
  2. @ KC - O 32nd, 13.2, D 25th, 26.6
  3. St. L. - O 25th, 18.7; D 14th (tie) 21.8
  4. @ SD - O 20th, 21.9; D 16, 21.9
  5. Den - O 2nd, 30.1; D 4th, 18.1
  6. Wash - O 4th, 27.3; D 22nd, 24.3
  7. @ Philly - O 29th, 17.5; D 29th, 27.8
  8. @ Det - O 17th, 23.3; D 27th, 27.3
  9. Minn - O 14th, 23.7; D 14th (tie), 21.8
  10. @ NO - O 3rd, 28.8; D 31st, 28.4
  11. Bye
  12. @ NYG - O 6th, 26.8; D 12th, 21.5
  13. (Thanksgiving) Oak - O 26th, 18.1; D 28th, 27.7
  14. @ Chi - O 16th, 23.4; D 3rd, 17.3
  15. GB - O 5th, 27.1; D 11th, 21.0
  16. @ Wash - O 4th, 27.3; D 22nd, 24.3
  17. Philly - O 29th, 17.5; D 29th, 27.8

Totals ranking and points averaged by our opponents:

Offense ranking average 14.5 Offensive points per game overall 371.5 Offensive points per game average 23.2
Defensive ranking average 18.6 Defensive points per game overall 379.1 Defensive points per game average 23.6
So that's some raw data to chew on. You are welcome to look at anything else you would like to to come to your conclusions, but please make a prediction in the following areas:

  1. Dallas PPG scored on average. -- Offense
  2. Dallas PPG offensive NFL rank.
  3. Dallas PPG surrendered on average -- Defense.
  4. Dallas PPG defensive NFL rank.


My own analysis.

Overall, barring changes to the teams we play, and there will be plenty of those, it would appear that Dallas's defense has the worst of it this season. We play 7 games against teams that ranked in the top 6 in points scored last year -- 2 each against NYG and Wash, plus Denver, New Orleans, and Green Bay -- while we play only 2 games against teams that ranked in the top 10 in points allowed -- Denver and Chicago.

Moreover, our defense ranked worse than our offense last year -- we were 24th, with 25 PPG, and 400 overall points on D, while on O we were 15th, with 23.5 PPG and 376 overall points.

To make it into the top ten in 2012, we would have had to average 24.9 PPG on offense (1.5 PPG more than we did). On defense, we would have had to hold opponents to 20.7 PPG (4.3 PPG fewer than we did).

All of these signs point to the offense ranking better than the defense in 2013. If the defense generates more turnovers, as it is very likely to do, this will reduce the points against, but it will also likely give the offense shorter fields and help it convert the yards it typically racks up into more points. The same effect will be true if Romo throws fewer picks. It will cut down on points against, but it will also allow Dallas to finish more drives with scores.

One big reason to think the defense will emerge on top is having Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli as coaches on that side. In 13 years in Tampa Bay, Kiffin's Ds were in the top 10 in scoring defense 12 times, which makes me think he can do it again. Marinelli's Bear teams ranked 4th, 14th, and 3rd in points allowed in his three seasons as D-coordinator there (plus he was with Kiffin for 10 years in Tampa).

Plus, the defense is the side with the most to gain from injured starters returning -- Sean Lee (missed 10 games); Bruce Carter (missed 5-1/2 games); Jay Ratliff (missed 10 games); DeMarcus Ware (banged up); Barry Church (missed 13 games); Orlando Scandrick (missed 5-1/2 games). We've also added a new starting safety and strong side linebacker.

On the offensive side, the offensive line will almost certainly be better, allowing us to run the ball more effectively. Dez Bryant will be prepared to dominate from the opening game, not just the second half of the season. We have much better WR, TE, and RB depth than last year. And on special teams, Dwayne Harris is likely to bring his second-ranked punt return skills from the opening game. Plus, Bill Callahan calling plays may have a real positive effect. As offensive coordinator and then head coach in Oakland from 1999 to 2003, Oakland had offenses ranked 22, 8, 3, 4, 2, 26 in points scored.

My picks?

  1. Dallas PPG scored: 26.8 -- same as the Giants averaged last year
  2. Dallas PPG offensive rank: 6th -- same as YPG rank from last year
  3. Dallas PPG surrendered: 20.0 -- same as Cincinnati last year
  4. Dallas PPG defensive rank: 8th

When I started to write this post, I thought I was going to pick the defense to rank higher on the season. The evidence has swayed me to go the other way. I believe the biggest overall difference in Dallas's fortunes will come through improving the turnover ratio. But this may help the offense almost as much as the defense. And the offense has less distance to travel in improved PPG to rank in the top-10. Plus, our opponents have better Os than Ds, which may force us into several shootout games.

As you can see, I've swallowed the Kool Aid completely for 2013. My main reasons are twofold:

  1. Dallas is Primed for Success in 2013 -- this post argues that our older best guys can still play at a high level, while we have emerging studs, and enough quality youth that can contribute now.
  2. Dallas is likely to improve its turnover differential by 20-25 in 2013 -- this post argues that the effects of Kiffin/Marinelli, plus returning towards the mean on D and O (fewer picks by Romo) will have dramatic effects in the turnover department.

Time to make your own picks.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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