The Dallas Cowboys enter Week 17 with an 11-4 record on the heels of a Christmas Eve win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys have won three of their first four games in December and will look for their fourth victory of the month on the road against the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans are 7-8 on the season so far and have had a brutal December, losing all four games they’ve played this month and are on a five-game losing streak. The Titans are opting to rest players in this matchup, as they prepare for a Week 18 showdown with the Jacksonville Jaguars with the division title up for grabs. That includes rookie QB Malik Willis, who will sit in favor of Josh Dobbs.
Each week we open up the Advanced Stat Notebook to analyze how each team ranks in EPA, DVOA, ANY/A and Toxic Differential. These four key metrics have a high correlation to win probability.
Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) - Football Outsiders
Dec 24, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) hands off to Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) during the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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.
The Cowboys have the advantage in passing DVOA, ranking five spots higher than the Titans. The Cowboys passing DVOA of 14.6% ranks 13th overall.
Dak Prescott’s DVOA of 13.9% ranks sixth overall. The Titans rookie quarterback, Malik Willis, does not have enough attempts to qualify for a ranking but has a DVOA of -71.7%.
Rushing DVOA favors the Cowboys who rank sixth overall at 5.1%. The Titans rank 18th with a rushing DVOA of -4.3%.
Tony Pollard ranks 14th in rushing DVOA at 4.5% and Ezekiel Elliott ranks 16th at 1.6%. Titans star RB Derrick Henry ranks 27th with a DVOA of -4.2%
The advantage in overall offensive DVOA goes to the Cowboys, ranking 13th with a DVOA of 5%, the Titans rank 20th with a DVOA of -5%.
Offensive Advantage: Cowboys (3 of 3)
The Cowboys have a massive edge in passing DVOA allowed, holding opposing QB’s to -12.7%, the second best rate in the league. The Titans find themselves on the opposite side of the spectrum, ranking 27th with a 15.2% DVOA.
The Titans have the advantage in defensive rushing DVOA, ranking second overall, with an impressive -22.8%. The Cowboys rank three spots lower with a -14.9% DVOA. This could be tough sledding for the Cowboys rushing attack.
Overall DVOA goes to the Cowboys who rank second overall at -13.7%. The Titans rank 17th with a DVOA of 1.7%.
Defensive Advantage: Cowboys (2 of 3)
Overall Advantage: Cowboys (5 of 6)
Expected Points Added and Success Rate
Dec 24, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) runs with the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
EPA measures the impact a play has on the likelihood of scoring. With EPA, yardage, field position, and 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 7th in expected points added per play, averaging .062/play. The Titans rank 25th and are failing to meet the expected point total with a -.054/play
The Cowboys are averaging .094/EPA per dropback, ninth overall. The Titans rank 23rd with a -.023/EPA per passing attempt.
The Cowboys rushing attack ranks fourth with an EPA of .024/carry, twenty spots higher than the Titans who are averaging an EPA of -.092/carry.
Success rate also goes to the Cowboys who rank seventh with a success rate of 46.4%. The Titans rank 22nd with a success rate of 42%.
Offensive Advantage: Cowboys
The Cowboys defense has been one of the best units overall this season, ranking third in EPA/play allowed at -.078/play. The Titans defense ranks 18th allowing an EPA/play of .013.
There is a large advantage in the Cowboys favor in passing EPA/play allowed. The Cowboys rank fifth at -.051/dropback while the Titans rank 26th, allowing .093/dropback. This could be the are that the Cowboys exploit offensively.
The Titans run defense has been very stingy, holding opposing rushing offenses to -.161 EPA/carry, the second best in the league. The Cowboys defense is not far behind them, ranking sixth overall.
The Titans have very narrow edge in success rate, ranking seventh overall with a success rate of 42.5%, just .1% better than the Cowboys.
Defensive Advantage: Cowboys
Overall Advantage: Cowboys ( 6 of 8 EPA categories)
Dec 24, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse (27) and cornerback DaRon Bland (26) and cornerback Trevon Diggs (7) and safety Malik Hooker (28) celebrate after Bland recovers a Philadelphia Eagles fumble during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Toxic differential (also referred to as Toxicity) adds the number of explosive plays an offense generates and subtracts the number of explosive plays a defense allows, then adds the turnover margin.
Under Brian Billick’s formula, explosive plays are defined as passing plays over 20 yards and rushing plays over 10 yards.
Toxic Differential: Offense
Dec 24, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (16) reacts after making a catch during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The Cowboys have generated 48 explosive passing plays of 20+ yards this season, averaging 3.2/game. The Titans have 36 explosive passing plays, 2.4/game.
The Cowboys rushing attack has 61 explosive runs of 10+ yards this season, 4.06/game. The Titans have generated 43 explosive runs.
Both teams have done a pretty good job of limiting turnovers with the Cowboys with a difference of just 1 turnover.
Cowboys: 48 explosive passes+ 61 explosive runs= 109 explosive plays.
109 explosive plays – 18 turnovers= Offensive Toxicity score of 91.
Titans: 36 explosive passes+ 43 explosive runs= 79 explosive plays.
79 explosive plays – 19 turnovers= Offensive Toxicity score of 60.
Offensive Advantage: Cowboys
Toxic Differential: Defense
Nov 24, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) celebrates after he sacks New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) during the second half of the game between the Cowboys and the Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Cowboys defense has done a phenomenal job against the pass, allowing just 35 explosive passing plays of 20+ yards this season. The Titan have allowed 16 more big passing plays.
The Titans defense has been terrific against the run, allowing just 30 big rushing plays this year, an average of 2.0/game. The Cowboys have allowed twice as many big runs.
The Cowboys have a significant edge in takeaways, with a league-leading 30 on the season. The Titans have 14 fewer.
Cowboys: 35 explosive passes+ 60 explosive runs= 95 explosive plays.
95 explosive plays – 30 takeaways= Defensive Toxicity score of 65.
Titans:51 explosive passes+ 30 explosive runs= 81 explosive plays.
81 explosive plays –16 takeaways= Defensive Toxicity score of 65.
Defensive Advantage: PUSH
Overall Toxicity is determined by subtracting the defensive total from the offensive total.
Cowboys Toxicity: Offense 91 – Defense 65 = Overall Toxicity +26
Titans Toxicity: Offense 60 – Defense 65= Overall Toxicity -5
Overall Advantage: Cowboys
Nov 24, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) warms up before the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-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.
The Cowboys lead in ANY/A for by .73 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott’s ANY/A is 6.59 yards while Malik Willis’ ANY/A is 1.3 yards. This gives a huge advantage to the Cowboys.
The Cowboys defense has held opposing QB’s to an ANY/A of 5.2 yards, 1.4 yards fewer per attempt than the Titans.
The Cowboys lead in ANY/A differential with a positive 1.11 differential while the Titans have a -1.02/attempt deficit.
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (20) runs the ball as Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan (52) and Christian Wilkins (94) give chase in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Toxicity: Cowboys ( 6 out of 8)
DVOA: Cowboys (5 out of 6)
EPA: Cowboys (6 out of 8)
ANY/A: Cowboys (3 out of 3)
Overall: Cowboys (lead 20 of 25 metrics)