In our first part of this series, we took a look at the defenses that have dates with the Cowboys this upcoming season. By looking at their statistics from last season, we were able to determine that the Cowboys have some heavy-hitting defenses to contend with in 2017. With that said, the Cowboys will be equally challenging to those defenses with the problems their elite offense can create.
Today, we’re going to do the same but we’re going to be looking at the opposing offenses the Cowboys’ defense will have to contend with. Again, we’re going to be looking at total yards, rushing production, pass production, and points per game.
[Disclaimer: Green represents the teams ranking in Top 10, Yellow are for the middle of the pack (11-15), Orange is for those teams that are flirting with the bottom half of the league, and Red is for teams that find themselves struggling in that area. The average rank at the end of the chart is just that, an average of their run offense, pass offense, and points per game scored.)
[We added the Cowboys’ offensive production for measure as well.]
|Opponent||Total Yards||Rushing||Passing||PPG||Avg. Rank|
|Giants||25th (330.7)||29th (88.2)||17th (242.4)||26th (19.4)||24|
|Broncos||27th (323.1)||27th (92.8)||21st (230.3)||22nd (20.8)||23.3|
|Cardinals||9th (366.8)||18th (108.2)||9th (258.5)||6th (26.1)||11|
|Rams||32nd (262.7)||31st (78.2)||31st (184.4)||32nd (14)||31.3|
|Packers||8th (368.8)||20th (106.3)||7th (262.4)||4th (27)||10.3|
|49ers||31st (308.1)||4th (126.2)||32nd (181.9)||27th (19.3)||21|
|Redskins||3rd (403.4)||21st (106.0)||2nd (297.4)||12th (24.8)||11.6|
|Chiefs||20th (343.0)||15th (109.2)||19th (233.8)||13th (24.3)||15.6|
|Falcons||2nd (415.8)||5th (120.5)||3rd (295.3)||1st (33.8)||3|
|Eagles||22nd (337.4)||11th (113.4)||24th (224.1)||16th (22.9)||17|
|Chargers||14th (356.8)||26th (94.4)||8th (262.4)||9th (25.6)||14.3|
|Raiders||6th (373.3)||6th (120.1)||13th (253.2)||7th (26.0)||8.6|
|Seahawks||12th (357.2)||25th (99.4)||10th (257.8)||18th (22.1)||17.6|
|Cowboys||5th (376.7)||2nd (149.8)||23rd (226.9)||5th (26.3)||10|
Author’s Note: So, as with the previous defensive chart, this offensive chart is pretty colorful. It’s the way of the NFL, you’ll see that even the most elite offenses struggle in one area or another, including the Cowboys. With offenses though, it’s all about identity. Some teams lean heavily in one way or the other. The average rankings can give a better idea of where these teams stand in the NFL.
Sifting through the Cowboys schedule, they start out with two games against offenses that struggled in 2016. The Giants always give the Cowboys’ fits but in two games against them last season they only scored a combined 30 points. That includes a home game in New York where they beat Dallas 10-7.
They’re rightfully leaning on their defense because they have had subpar play on the offensive line for years. This team is loaded with receiving threats: Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and now Evan Engram. New York’s lack of a running game makes them one-dimensional.
Still, the common denominator is bad offensive linemen which they added D.J. Fluker (from San Diego) who has struggled and drafted Adam Bisnowaty in the sixth round. Eli Manning is still a quick-release quarterback, in a west coast offense, but he’s also prone to mistakes (16 INTs in 2016). They won’t be put down quietly. For them to average less than 20 points per game but win 11 games last year was impressive.
The Broncos are next up and they’re similar to the Giants with a good defense and poor offensive production. They upgraded their offensive line with the Ronald Leary and Garett Bolles additions. Their issue will be at quarterback, where they currently have Trevor Siemian set to start (3,401 yards, 18 TD, 10 INT, 59.5% comp. pct.), not terrible but not exceptional either.
The Cowboys’ first big defensive test by this chart will be the Cardinals in week three. Their numbers are a bit deceiving and they’re better than they look. They show to be 18th in rushing but David Johnson had the bulk of the work with 1,239 yards on 293 carries with 16 touchdowns. Carson Palmer, at the ripe age of 37, still ripped it up for 4,233 yards and 26 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. Dallas will have to be better than the 26th rated pass defense hence all the resources spent in the offseason.
After a two-week road trip, the Cowboys return home to two polar opposite teams. First up are the Rams, who redefined bad offense last year. Then, the revenge match is underway as the Packers come to town. Rodgers is a tough match for any defense and especially one as young as the Cowboys.
After a bye week, Dallas will face another one of the league’s worst offenses in the San Francisco 49ers. The only thing they do well is run the ball and quarterbacking is a still an issue for them (Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley, and rookie C.J. Beathard).
Through seven weeks of football, Dallas will have been lucky to have faced only one truly elite offense from last season. However, the next part of the schedule gets brutal.
The Redskins are a very tough matchup and averaged 24.5 points against Dallas in two games. Though they’re not a great running team, they can really rack up the passing yards. Washington lost some key players like DeSean Jackson but gained Terrelle Pryor. They also have an emerging star in Jamison Crowder and drafted Josh Doctson in 2016.
To start November, the Cowboys face a middling offense with the Chiefs but Andy Reid is a familiar foe and has a defense that is hard to score on. Dallas will have to stop the quick feet of Alex Smith and contain him.
The following week, the Cowboys travel to the Falcons, which is by far the best offense they will face all year. This will be a riveting match between most people’s NFC Championship picks a year ago. The only positive here is that the Falcons’ defense hasn’t been able to stop teams from scoring on them giving (27th in points allowed).
Dallas closes out the month with a short week getting an improved Eagles offense on Sunday and Philip Rivers on Thanksgiving, both home games for Dallas. Then they’ll be rewarded seven days later with another primetime matchup with the Redskins on Thursday Night Football.
The Cowboys will have a nasty December having to go cross country in two weeks against the Giants and Raiders respectively. Oakland’s offense will present problems for the Cowboys but like Atlanta, the Raiders’ defense gives up lots of points at home (26.6 PPG in 2016). Still, the Raiders have one of the league’s best offensive line and they’ll be a tough offense to stop.
The Seahawks come to town on Christmas Eve, they’ve struggled with keeping Russell Wilson upright but drafted some guys to help alleviate some of the pressure. Wilson is also one of the league’s premier passers and can cause issues with his ability to take off.
Overall, the Cowboys’ defense will have plenty of tests this season as they face off against at least eight of the league’s best passers. As mentioned earlier, Dallas was 26th in pass defense last year but they were stout against the run (1st) and limited scoring (5th). This is a new defense the Cowboys will be ushering on to the field with a lot of resources spent in the offseason, especially in the secondary.
In 2017, Dallas’ best defense will still be their own offensive efficiency as the chart shows only two offenses with a better average rank. The Cowboys have improved their talent level on defense but it’s no secret that a lot of guys will be learning on the fly. Though there are only a select few of elite offenses on the docket, there are plenty of proficient quarterbacks. It’s all about offense in the NFL and 2017 will be more of the same.