Giants-Cowboys Week 2 Preview

Can the Giants keep the Cowboys from celebrating again?

Can the Giants keep the Cowboys from celebrating again?

Looking forward to the upcoming NFL week, it looks to me like the most anticipated game nationally will be the Sunday Night Football matchup between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. This should be an exciting matchup of marquis quarterbacks and two of the more accomplished teams in the NFL, with a combined 8 Super Bowl championships. In some ways it may be considered a clashing of styles, with the historically smash mouth Giants going to Dallas to visit the more flashy Cowboys. You can find a complete traditional preview at this ESPN article. But for me, like I did in my recent statistical review posts, I wanted to look at this game from a statistical standpoint rather than discussing how this or that player looked in the last game.

My method of previewing this game is not too complicated. I pulled the statistics for each team so far in the season (I know, it’s only one game so far), and the 2008 averages for their Week 1 opponents. The reason that I chose to use the Cowboys’ and Giants’ 2009 numbers was that I wanted to look at how these teams as currently constituted had performed so far. I also thought about using the 2009 numbers for their opponents, but that seemed like it would be sort of circular logic. Did their opponents have the numbers they did because of the Giants/Cowboys play? Or, had they improved or declined in certain areas in the offseason? It would require more than just one game for a decent baseline. So, I decided to use the opponents’ 2008 averages as that baseline for this analysis. This would help give context to the Giants’ and Cowboys’ week 1 numbers. We’ll see if it actually helps predict who may have an advantage.

First, let’s take a look at the Cowboys’ and Giants’ numbers from week one, side by side (all stats taken from Pro-Football-Reference.com).

  New York Giants Dallas Cowboys
Offense    
Points 23 34
Yards 351 462
Passing Yds 248 344
Passing TD 1 3
INTs 1 0
Rushing Yds 103 118
Rushing TD 0 1
Rush Y/A 3.3 4.9
Fmb Lost 1 0
Turnovers 2 0
Defense    
Points 17 21
Yards 272 450
Passing Yds 187 276
Passing TD 1 1
INTs 1 0
Rushing Yds 85 174
Rushing TD 1 2
Rush Y/A 4 5.6
Fmb Rec 1 0
Turnovers 2 0

At first glance, it looks like this will be a battle of Dallas’ offense versus the Giants’ defense. I know, that sounds self-evident, but what I mean by that is that the Cowboys’ offense gained over 100 more yards in week one than the Giants’ offense. However, the Giants’ defense gave up over 150 fewer yards than the Cowboys’ defense. So, the dominant units on each team, respectively, appear to be the Cowboys’ offense and the Giants’ defense.

That’s where the opponents’ 2008 averages help in this analysis. Below, in a table similar to that above, I have 2008 averages for the Giants’ and Cowboys’ Week 1 opponents, again side by side.

Week 1 Opponents’ 2008 Averages
  New York Giants Dallas Cowboys
Offense    
Points 16.56 22.56
Yards 320 341
Passing Yds 189.06 226.19
Passing TD 0.88 1.13
INTs 0.38 0.81
Rushing Yds 130.94 114.81
Rushing TD 0.75 0.81
Rush Y/A 4.4 4.1
Fmb Lost 0.75 0.81
Turnovers 1.13 1.63
Defense    
Points 18.5 20.19
Yards 288.81 306.13
Passing Yds 193.44 187.31
Passing TD 1 1.44
INTs 0.81 1.38
Rushing Yds 95.38 118.81
Rushing TD 0.75 0.5
Rush Y/A 3.8 4.3
Fmb Rec 0.31 0.5
Turnovers 1.13 1.88

This table shows that the Giants’ opponent (the Redskins) had a better defense and worse offense than the Cowboys’ opponent (the Buccaneers). But, it’s kind of hard to compare the numbers between the two tables. So, I created a third table that shows the Giants/Cowboys’ percentage difference compared to the Redskins/Buccaneers’ 2008 averages. For example, this shows what percentage more points the Giants and Cowboys scored than their opponents’ defenses averaged allowing in 2008.

Team vs. Opponents’ 2008 Average
  New York Giants Dallas Cowboys
Offense vs. Opp Def vs. Opp Def
Points 38.87% 50.69%
Yards 9.69% 35.48%
Passing Yds 31.17% 52.09%
Passing TD 14.29% 166.67%
INTs 166.67% -100.00%
Rushing Yds -21.34% 2.78%
Rushing TD -100.00% 23.08%
Rush Y/A -25.00% 19.51%
Fmb Lost 33.33% -100.00%
Turnovers 77.78% -100.00%
Defense vs. Opp Off vs. Opp Off
Points 2.64% -6.93%
Yards -15.00% 31.96%
Passing Yds -1.09% 22.02%
Passing TD 14.29% -11.11%
INTs 166.67% -100.00%
Rushing Yds -35.08% 51.55%
Rushing TD 33.33% 146.15%
Rush Y/A -9.09% 36.59%
Fmb Rec 33.33% -100.00%
Turnovers 77.78% -100.00%

In this case, the Giants’ offense scored 38.87% more points than their opponents’ defense average allowing in 2008. The Cowboys’ offense scored 50.69% more. On the whole, the Cowboys’ offense outperformed Giants’ offense when compared to their opponents’ defensive stats. However, when we look at the defensive numbers, the story is reversed. While both teams held their opponents to nearly the same point total as their 2008 averages, the Cowboys allowed nearly 32% more total yards than the Bucs averaged gaining last year. The Giants held the Redskins to 15% fewer yards than their 2008 average. The real concern for Dallas has to be the rushing defensive numbers. They allowed the Bucs to rush for 51% more than their 2008 averages (146% more rushing TDs). Given that the Giants are a run first team, this may be the story in week 2. The turnover numbers may favor Dallas, since the Giants turned the ball over twice last week and Dallas not at all. However, the Giants’ defense also forced 2 turnovers, while the Cowboys’ forced 0.

With most of the rest of the numbers appearing to be a wash, the most significant appears to me to be the rushing numbers. If the Cowboys can’t shore up their run defense this week, then Sunday night could be a long night for Cowboys fans. If New York gets their running game going that could quiet the crowd in Dallas and keep the Cowboys’ explosive offense off the field.

I guess we’ll find out in two days. Thoughts?

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