Despite a slow start to the season, the Cowboys offense seems to have found their way back to 2016 form over the last month or so.
While the offense “only” ranks eighth in the league with 369.9 yards per game, they rank fifth overall with 28.3 points per game. If you divide the offensive yards gained by points scored, you get a metric called Yards Per Point (YPP).
YPP measures how easy it is for a team to score points by looking at how many yards the offense needs to gain to score a point. On the defensive side, YPP is an indication for how hard a defense makes it for its opponent to score, as it calculates how many yards the defense gives up for each point scored. Ideally, the number on offense is as low as possible (your team scores with ease) while you want the defensive number to be as high as possible (your opponent has to work really hard to score points).
On offense, the Cowboys rank 6th in the league with a YPP of 13.1 which isn't too far behind the league-leading Houston Texans (12.0) but a long way off from the last place Browns (20.3). Unfortunately, the Cowboys’ defensive number doesn't look quite as good. Their YPP of 14.1 ranks them 23rd in the league. Compare that to the league-leading Bills (21.1) or Jaguars (19.1) and you'll understand that there's still a lot of room for improvement for the Cowboys defense.
Some in the stat community get all high and mighty when talk turns to YPP, and like to point out its inadequacies as a metric. Despite that, there are many different ways in which YPP can and is being used, and we could go off on many different tangents with this topic, but what we’re going to do today is look at one of the more common uses for YPP: a quick-and-dirty way to predict scores.
One method popular with some bettors is known as the "Dudley Method" which uses the YPP of the last four games played to predict a score for the upcoming game. What this method does is take the average yards allowed over the last four games and divide those by the opponent's YPP to arrive at a predicted score.
Today we’ll use the Dudley Method to predict the score for Sunday’s Chiefs @ Cowboys game, and we’ll do it using the stats from the last four games for each team.
Over their last four games, the Chiefs have allowed an average of 425 yards per game. The Cowboys’ YPP value on offense for the last four games is 12.4. Divide Kansas City's 425 yards allowed per game by Dallas’ 12.4 YPP and you get a predicted score for the Cowboys of 34.3 points.
And here's how much the Chiefs are projected to score by this method: The Cowboys have given up 332.3 yards per game over the last four games, while the Chiefs offense has a YPP of 12.3. Do the math and you get a predicted score of 27.0 points.
So there you have it. The Cowboys beat the Chiefs 34-27 in a shootout.
Then again, we know that even with the most sophisticated statistical analysis, nobody has gotten rich (and stayed rich) by accurately predicting game outcomes in the NFL.
How are you feeling about the Cowboys’ chances on Sunday?