Advanced Stat Notebook: Week 9 metrics show Cowboys should saddle Broncos

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The Dallas Cowboys will host the Denver Broncos on Sunday for an early afternoon showdown. The Cowboys are riding a six game winning streak and are expected to have quarterback Dak Prescott back from injury. Prescott missed the Vikings game last week with a groin injury suffered against the New England Patriots.

The Broncos come to town in a bit of a slump, dropping four of their last five games. They were able to end their losing skid with a 17-10 win against the Washington Football Team last week. The Broncos found themselves in the news with a big trade, sending pass rusher Von Miller to the Los Angeles Rams for two Day-2 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Let’s open up the Advanced Stat Notebook to see how both teams have performed this season using advanced analytics.

Here’s a review of four key metrics to see if DVOA, ANY/A, Toxicity and EPA give the Cowboys reasons to feel confident about picking up win No. 7 on the season.

DVOA- Football Outsiders

DVOA is a metric which measures the success of each play as compared to league average using percentage points above or below average. The metric measures down, distance, field location, quarter and quality of opponent.

With DVOA, teams are looking for a higher percentage offensively and a lower percentage defensively. On offense and special teams, the objective is to perform above league average while defenses are looking to force their opponents to perform below league average.

Information via Football Outsiders.

From an offensive standpoint the Cowboys have the edge in all three categories. The Cowboys finished in the top 15 in each category with top-three performances in passing DVOA and overall DVOA. The Broncos ranked in the top 15 in passing DVOA and overall DVOA and 17th in run DVOA. The largest gap comes in passing DVOA where the Cowboys score 28.2% higher and 11 spots further in the rankings.

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has a DVOA of 37.2% which ranks second overall and Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater has a DVOA of 5.6%, 14th overall.

As a brief reminder, teams are targeting a positive number for offense and a negative number defensively.

This may come as a surprise to some, the defensive metrics for DVOA show that the Broncos are quite a bit behind the Cowboys this year. The Cowboys rank in the top 11 in each category with the 6th overall defensive DVOA and 7th ranked passing DVOA.

The Broncos rank 21st in passing, 27th in rushing and 25th in overall DVOA. The largest gap between the two teams comes in overall defensive DVOA where the Cowboys rank 19 spots higher.

With the Cowboys sweeping all 6 categories, the advantage goes to Dallas.

Advantage: Cowboys

ANY/A

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Adjusted Net Yards Per Pass Attempt, or ANY/A, is a formula which incorporates passing yardage, touchdowns, sacks and interceptions into a per-throw average. ANY/A has a direct correlation to scoring points and as such ranks third in win predictability.

Both teams have a positive ANY/A differential but the Cowboys have the larger overall margin.

The Cowboys passers have combined for an ANY/A for of 8.35 and the defense has allowed opponents an ANY/A of 6.2 for an overall difference of +2.15.

The Broncos are basically a neutral; their passers have combined for an ANY/A of 6.16 while the defense has allowed opposing QB’s an ANY/A of 6.0 this season for a net difference of +.16.

The Cowboys have the edge in this metric but it’s worth pointing out that both teams have performed similarly in ANY/A against, with the overall difference coming down to quarterback play.

Advantage: Cowboys

Toxicity

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Toxic differential (also referred to as Toxicity) is a statistic created by then Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick. Billick realized that adding the number of explosive plays an offense generates and subtracting the number of explosive plays a defense allows, then adding the turnover margin, was a key barometer of team success.

Under Billick’s formula, explosive plays are defined as passing plays over 20 yards and rushing plays over 10 yards. These figures were gathered by Sharp Football Stats.

Offense

The Cowboys have the overall edge in offensive toxicity by a large margin. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s unit has produced 59 explosive plays in seven games ( 8.42/game) while only turning the ball over nine times this season. The Cowboys rank eighth in explosive passes and fourth in runs. The Cowboys’ offensive toxicity score is 50.

The Broncos offense has combined for 43 explosive plays through eight games (6.43/game) and have 10 turnovers on the season. Their offense ranks 22nd in explosive passes and 15th in runs of 10+ yards. The Broncos offensive toxicity score is 33.

The offensive edge goes to the Cowboys with a +17 score in their favor.

Defense

In contrast to what we look for on the offensive side of the ball, the defense is looking to limit big plays, create takeaways and prevent scoring plays. With that in mind, a lower score is better for defensive toxicity.

The Cowboys have allowed more explosive passing plays than the Broncos despite playing one less game but have also allowed five fewer explosive runs. The Cowboys have allowed the ninth-most explosive passing plays but the 28th fewest explosive runs. The biggest difference for the Cowboys this season has been their ability to generate takeaways, averaging two a game with 14 for the season.

The Broncos have fared slightly better in explosive passing plays allowed with 29 for the season, 11th most in the league. Their run defense has performed slightly worse than the Cowboys, as they rank 24th in explosive runs allowed.

The edge on defense goes to Dallas with a toxicity score of 30.

The overall difference is: +20 for Dallas an -7 for the Broncos.

Advantage: Cowboys

Expected Points Added-EPA

EPA measures the impact that a play has on scoring. With EPA yardage, field position, down and distance all weigh in on what the expected net points would be for the situation. As an example, a first and goal at the one-yard line would represent a higher EP-Expected Points than a third and 10 on your own 20 yard line.

EPA is the difference between the Expected Points (EP) at the beginning of the play compared to the end of the play. It measures the plays impact on the score of the game.

Success rate is a measure of how often teams get 40% of the needed yards on 1st down, 60% on 2nd down and 100% on third down or fourth down.

EPA figures gathered by rbsdm.

The Cowboys offense ranks in the top 10 in all four categories with three in the top 4. The overall EPA/play generated by the Cowboy offense is .132, 4th highest in the league. They’ve also had great success running and passing with top 10 finishes in each of these metrics as well. The offense has a success rate of 51.4% which is No.2 in the league.

The Broncos offense has performed finished in the top 15 in three of the four categories. The best metric for Denver has been passing EPA/play where the rank 11th overall. Their overall EPA/play of .069 ranks 12th in the league. They find themselves in the middle of the pack in success rate at 45.1%, No.16 overall.

Overall, the offense edge goes to Dallas by a large margin.

On the defensive side of the ball the objective is to have a negative EPA. This means that each snap would reduce the total expected points for your opponent.

The Cowboys defense ranks ahead of the Broncos in all four metrics. The Cowboys have the 5th best EPA/play allowed with opposing offenses scoring .56 below the expected points per play. They rank 6th in passing EPA/play but 19th in rushing EPA/play. Opponents have an overall success rate of 43.8% against the Cowboys, 10th overall.

The Broncos defense ranks 13th in overall EPA/play allowed at .017, meaning opposing offenses are scoring slightly more points than expected against them. Their defense ranks 12th in passing EPA/play allowed and 22nd in rushing EPA/play. The Broncos rank fairly close to the Cowboys in success rate at 44.6%, good for 13th in the league.

The defensive edge goes to the Cowboys.

With the Cowboys taking all 8 categories, EPA and success rate are in their favor.

Advantage: Cowboys

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