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Cowboys at Cardinals: 2 stats that will tell the story in Week 3

The Cowboys are favored to win by a larger margin, but a couple of specific stats will tell the story of their game against the Cardinals.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys will take on the Arizona Cardinals in their Week 3 matchup without standout cornerback Trevon Diggs, as they look to move to 3-0. The Cowboys are 11.5 point favorites going into the game, and there are a lot of reasons why.

Let’s dive in...

On offense, the Cardinals are having, let’s say, issues. With a total offensive EPA per play of -0.083, they are 21st in the league. So on average when their offense has run a play, they have lost almost 1/10th of a point. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that with an EPA per play that low, they also have a very poor success rate, generating positive EPA on only 37.6% of their offensive plays, good for 29th in the league so far.

What might be surprising is despite the fact that journeyman Josh Dobbs is getting his first opportunity as a true starter, the Cardinals pass offense has been, passable. They are currently 18th in the league in EPA per drop back, just behind the Kansas City Chiefs. But if the passing game has netted positive EPA per play so far, the offense as a whole hasn’t, it should give you a hint, their rushing offense is 26th in EPA and 25th in Success rate.

Considering the Cowboys defense currently sits #1 or #2 in the NFL in just about every available metric, it’s a bad matchup for the Cardinals.

One interesting nugget to watch is that the Cowboys lead the NFL is sacks, sack rate (sacks per dropback), and pressure rate, but Dobbs has actually been one of the better quarterbacks in the league at preventing sacks even when he is pressured, allowing a sack on only 13.6% of the drop backs when he is pressured, despite having no scrambles. He is getting the ball out under pressure, while avoiding big time negatives. The Cowboys will want this to change in Week 3 for them to win.

On defense, the Cardinals have been middle of the pack in most areas, sitting in the mid-teens of the league in most categories, except for rushing success rate allowed, where they are 25th in the league. This could be a “get right” game for Tony Pollard and the Cowboys running game which has been in the back half of the league early this year, despite the passing offense being extremely productive.

If you’re looking at a 13-point spread, thinking there’s nothing to be watching for that will have much bearing on the future of the season, pay attention to the Cowboys ability to finish sacks on Dobbs on defense, and their ability to be more consistent in the running game on offense.

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