What are two things Eli Manning, Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson have in common? Well, one thing is that they are the likely opposing quarterbacks in the Cowboys' first eight games of the season. The other thing is that each one of them had a passer rating above 90.0 in his last NFL season.
The average passer rating in the NFL last year was 88.9, so all those guys had an above average passer rating in 2014 (and Bradford in 2013). As Cowboys fans, we like to make fun of the "sad face" quarterbacking the New York Giants, but we shouldn't underestimate him as an opponent, and Mr. ACL in Philly may not have lived up to his draft pedigree yet, but he could still prove to be a tough opponent.
Here's the Cowboys' 2015 schedule, including the projected starting QBs and their respective passer rating:
|2||@||Philadelphia||Sam Bradford (2013)||159||262||60.7||1,687||14||4||90.9|
|9||Philadelphia||Sam Bradford (2013)||159||262||60.7||1,687||14||4||90.9|
|10||@||Tampa Bay||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
As you look at this table, and if you disregard Tampa Bay in Week 10, you'll notice that the Cowboys won't play a QB with a passer rating below 90 until the Thanksgiving game against the Panthers in Week 12. That's a mighty long stretch for a pass defense that still struggled at times last year.
While most NFL teams are clear on who their starting QB will be this year, some aren't, so I used the listing on the ourlads.com depth charts as the final arbiter for which QB is the starter for which team. As a result, this table assumes Geno Smith (NYJ), Sam Bradford (PHI) and Matt Cassel (BUF) will be the starters for their respective teams, but that can change by the time the Cowboys play those teams, just like an injury to a starting QB somewhere else could also change the overall picture.
But from what we know today, the Cowboys play 10 games against QBs with a 90+ passer rating, the highest number in the league (together with the Panthers and Redskins). Seattle, Green Bay, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Tennessee play the lowest number of games against 90+ passer rating QBs with just six such games.
Last year, the Cowboys played against eight QBs who ended up with a 90+ passer rating in 2014, and it didn't stop them from finishing 12-4. This year's schedule may be a little tougher, but there's also a reasonable expectation that the defense will be a little better, so that may be a wash.
Anyway, once the team hits Week 12, things will ease up a little. Sure, there's Aaron Rodgers to deal with in Week 14, but the other remaining QBs on the schedule didn't exactly set the NFL on fire last year.
Last year, the Cowboys allowed a defensive passer rating of 88.5, the 13th best value in the league. With the team likely facing more quality passers than they did last year, do you expect the Cowboys to a show a better or worse defensive passer rating in 2015, and how does a potentially improved pass rush figure into that?