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6 Advanced stats predict Week 4 Cowboys-Lions winner

In last week’s advanced stats notebook, we looked at five metrics which mostly favored the Cowboys, save for two of the most important: passer rating differential and third-down conversion differential. The former is the metric most correlated to victory, outside of scoring and sure enough, it favored the Seattle Seahawks.

Third-down efficiency, also known as the ability to stay on the field and sustain drives until the big plays happened, was dominated by Seattle. Together, the passing game difference and ability to maintain (and conversely snub) attacks were too much for the Cowboys to overcome.

Will the same story be foretold when Dallas returns home to host the Detroit Lions?

Here’s our Week 4 Notebook.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

DVOA is a metric, devised by Football Outsiders, which measures success on each play as compared to league average based on “a number of variables including down, distance, location on field, current score gap, quarter, and opponent quality.” The metric is outputted in “percentage points better than average”.

On both offense and special teams the higher a number, the better that team performs than the average team would in a compilation of every single down, distance and game situation they ran a play in.

On defense, the values are reversed. A more negative score (meaning how well the opposing offense did) is better.

Week 4 Matchup

TEAM Offensive DVOA Defensive DVOA Special Teams DVOA Overall Rank
DALLAS -9.3% (23) -3.4 (13) -2.5% (19) -8.8% (21)
LIONS -10.0% (24) 8.3% (20) -12% (30) -30.4% (30)

Dallas plummeted in their offensive rankings, which is a common swing with such a small sample size of games. They were No. 11 heading into Seattle and left the Pacific Northwest down to No. 23.

Their defense also showed major holes for the first time. Word has spread the Seahawks eventually became aware of Dallas’ defensive hand signals, and they exploited holes in zone coverage for two touchdowns through the air. Still, the play of DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones and the linebacker groups make this a formidable unit still.

Advantage: Cowboys

Our favorite advanced metric of them all. First noted by Super Bowl winning head coach Brian Billick, Toxic differential initially included pass plays longer than 20 yards, run plays longer than 10 yards and turnovers. Data gathered by Sharp Football Stats.

Week 4 Matchup

> 20 yds
Run Play > 10 Yds Turnover Total
DALLAS 3 14 -4 +13
LIONS 11 9 -7 +13
> 20 yds
Run Play > 10 Yds Opp Turnover Total
DALLAS 3 8 -2 -9
LIONS 5 11 -2 -14

The Dallas offense is embarrassing when it comes to producing big passing plays, with just three on the year. If they are embarrassing though, then the pass defense has to be considered elite, only giving up three of their own.

Entering the game the talk is about the Lions’ top-ranked passing defense based on yardage, but Dallas is giving up less big plays.

The Lions propensity to turn the ball over negates their big-play advantage on offense.

With a wash in the offensive comparison, the Cowboys stingier defense (similar low turnover totals, but giving up less explosive plays) gives them an advantage coming into this game.

Advantage: Cowboys

Continue for more telling stats…

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