After two preseason games, the Dallas Cowboys lead all NFL defenses in yards allowed and passing yards allowed. You find that hard to believe? Here is the visual evidence, straight from the stats section of NFL.com:
Odds are, a significant part of the people reading this post right now are thinking, "No way, Jose, that's got to be a mistake. After all, didn't the Cowboys just get clobbered for the second straight preseason game?"
It is true that the Cowboys lost their first two games by a combined 40-13. It is also true that the Cowboys have the best defense in the league (as measured by yards allowed) and the best pass defense in the league (as measured by passing yards allowed).
Still finding that hard to believe? Let me walk you through it.
The Chargers passed for a total of 75 yards against the Cowboys a week ago. They were sacked three times for 11 combined yards, which leaves the Chargers with 64 net passing yards against the Cowboys.
The 49ers passed for just 71 yards last night. The Cowboys notched three sacks for a combined 21 yards, wich resulted in exactly 50 net passing yards for the 49ers.
Chargers for 64, 49ers for 50. That's 114 net passing yards over two games or 57 passing per game, the exact number NFL.com is showing for the Cowboys.
So there you have it. Same thing hold true for total yards allowed. Of course, this is the preseason, so what does any of this mean?
- It means that if you're going to complain about the offensive performance, you had better be bragging about the Cowboys' league-leading defense.
- It means if you're going to talk about how the Eagles offense is going to dominate the league this year, you had better point out how we're seeing the rebirth of the Doomsday Defense in Dallas.
- It also means that if you're going to talk about the dominant Cowboys pass defense, you'll need to talk about how the Cowboys rank 31st in the league with a -5 turnover differential after just two games. And you'll also have to point out that the vaunted Cowboys offense is dead last in the league with just 6.5 points scored per game.
The point is, you can't just cherry-pick your stats to fit your narrative, especially not in the preseason.
Essentially, the preseason is a cracked and murky crystal ball from which everybody is trying to divine some meaning, even though making any type of predicions based on preseason results is largely a hit-and-miss affair. Depending on your persuasion, you might worry about the fact that the Cowboys are 0-2 so far this season, you might be excited by the potential of the defensive line, you might be indifferent to the umpteenth retelling of the concerns surrounding the running back depth chart, you might show some concern for the listless performance of special teams, pray for the continued health of every single Dallas Cowboys defender, and fervently hope that the stats at the top of this post aren't just some stat nerd messing with you.
Regardless of where each of us stands, we're probably reading too much into the preseason. We all know that preseason performance isn't any indicator of regular season performance. The 2008 Lions are the best example of that, going 4-0 in the preseason and ending up 0-16 in the regular season. Last year, the Cowboys famously went 0-4 in the preseason and ended up tied for the best record in the league with 12-4.
But hey, the best defense in the league?