Cowboys analytics roundup: Three straight games in Dallas went very well

Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Is anyone hotter than the Cowboys right now?

Another week, another Cowboys blowout victory. It’s very clear that this team likes playing in AT&T Stadium right now. After a two-point loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay and a three-point win over the Chargers in Los Angeles, the Cowboys swept their three-game home stand by a total margin of 121-69.

They’re now 4-1 overall, and 2-0 in the division, as they travel to Foxborough to take on the Patriots. With each passing week, we’re starting to get a better idea of what each team really is, and so far the results are looking pretty good for America’s Team.

According to overall DVOA, the Cowboys are the second-best team in the NFL behind only the Bills. Right now, the adjustment for quality opponent in DVOA figures is at 50% strength, so it’s not like their numbers are being inflated by the fact that the Cowboys have played two very poor NFC East teams. In other words, it’s time to celebrate the Cowboys having both a top five offense and top ten defense.

It’s also encouraging to see the Dallas special teams unit continue their upward trend, and John Fassel’s group has been playing well ever since their terrible first outing in the season opener. Their ascension to the 12th-best unit now means the Cowboys are outperforming their DAVE ranking – currently made up of 65% preseason expectations and 35% actual results – in all three phases of the game.

Seahawks on early downs by EPA/play through 5 weeks:

Offense: No. 1
Defense: No. 31

They are who we thought they were pic.twitter.com/YTB6I1If6m

— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) October 11, 2021

Ben Baldwin’s EPA-based tiers back that up, as only the Bills, Browns, and Buccaneers are ahead of the Cowboys right now. Dallas ranks eighth in offensive EPA/play and surprisingly third in defensive EPA/play. Their combination of efficient offense and defense is making them a dangerous team right now.

Offense

To absolutely no one’s surprise, the Cowboys offense is every bit as good as advertised. Their numbers even decreased this week because of the poor start to the game on Sunday, and they’re still one of the very best in the NFL.

What’s most impressive about this offense is how both their passing and rushing attack are top five units in the NFL right now. The Chiefs are the only other offense that can say the same, but Kansas City is being let down by their defense. Somehow, the Cowboys can’t relate. What they can relate to, however, is their offense being led by a quarterback playing at an elite level.

Dak Prescott himself admitted that he was in a fog at the start of the game, due to it being the one-year anniversary of his brutal ankle injury against this same team. The interception and fumbled snap Prescott had early on reflected that, but once he got things going he was lights out.

Prescott’s QBR and EPA numbers were negatively impacted by the very inefficient turnovers, but he’s still right on the cusp of the top ten in those categories. Prescott is also third in completion percentage over expectation (CPOE) and his value per play (DVOA) and overall (DYAR) are equally high. In other words, Dak is dealing right now.

The Cowboys only have one more game left until La’el Collins’ suspension ends, but Terence Steele has been doing a bang-up job in his place. The Cowboys have had the best run-blocking unit in the NFL for a few weeks now, and Steele has been a big part of that. He was also one of three Cowboys linemen to not surrender a single pressure this week, alongside Tyron Smith and Tyler Biadasz.

For Biadasz, that’s a very encouraging trend, as it’s his second straight game without giving up a pressure. After struggling mightily in pass protection the first three weeks of the year, Biadasz seems to be improving there. That’s a great sign, since he’s still ranking eighth among all centers in run block win rate. However, bad snaps have been an issue the last two weeks, so Biadasz still has some things to clean up.

As a unit, the Cowboys’ pass protection is still developing. Their adjusted sack rate isn’t quite where offensive line coach Joe Philbin would undoubtedly like it to be, and their pass block win rate continues to be one of the worst in the NFL, even with Zack Martin sitting at tenth among guards in individual pass block win rate. Prescott and Kellen Moore have done a good job of scheming around this, but it’s still a lurking issue to be fixed.

Defense

Well, hello top ten defense! Not only are the Cowboys ranked sixth in overall defensive efficiency, but their pass and run defense is also in the top ten. It’s quite the surprise, and speaks to just how much Dan Quinn and these new players have changed things. A large chunk of their high efficiency marks have come from all the takeaways – Dallas added two more Sunday – and history tells us that won’t last forever. But for now, the defense is an asset for the Cowboys.

Arguably more encouraging is the run defense. This defense has yet to allow 100 rushing yards to running backs in a game, and their eighth place finish in run defense DVOA reflects that. They did slip considerably in run stop win rate, which is somewhat concerning, but they had consistently been in the top tier the last few weeks.

Ladies and gentlemen, Trevon Diggs. There’s really not much else to say. Diggs is just playing at a level Cowboys fans haven’t seen in a while. Even Byron Jones and Terence Newman’s best years don’t compare to what we’re witnessing.

Lowest passer rating allowed this season:

1. Trevon Diggs – 38.9

— Spiking the ball every play 39.6 —

2. Jaylon Johnson – 41.4
3. Anthony Averett – 41.7 pic.twitter.com/7lx1T4bRMV

— PFF (@PFF) October 11, 2021

Eventually, teams will stop throwing the ball in Diggs’ direction, and that’s when this defense may run into some trouble. Despite some of the criticisms out there, many of which are fueled by a particularly bad Week 1 performance, Anthony Brown has been playing at an average level. So, too, has Jourdan Lewis. Which is to say that neither of them are especially bad, but neither are they playing well enough for the Cowboys to not be at least somewhat concerned about what happens when Diggs’ targets go down.

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