The Dallas Cowboys look to rebound from their worst loss since Dak Prescott became the starting quarterback for the team. The Cowboys are facing a team that has had some early struggles of their own in the Arizona Cardinals.
As the 1-1 Dallas Cowboys travel to play the 1-1 Arizona Cardinals, there are a lot of interesting things to note in this matchup. From the series, to the players, to what is happening this season, this matchup has some great story lines.
The Amount of wins the Cowboys have against the Cardinals in the Jason Garrett coaching era.
Both the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals come into week three with a single victory in the win column. Dallas' one win came over division rival New York Giants. The Arizona Cardinals struggled to eek out an overtime win to the injury-riddled Indianapolis Colts.
DeMarcus Lawrence's ranking in sacks through two games. After having one and half in the first and two in the second, he has a good chance to get two more in this game.
Carson Palmer also is tied for first in the league with Andy Dalton and DeShone Kizer; in interceptions.
In two of the four losses since 2008, the team's backup quarterback was the starter for those games. Jon Kitna and Stephen McGee combined for a loss in 2010 and Brandon Weeden spared us all to death while filling in for Tony Romo at the tail end of the 2014 season.
The number of times Patrick Peterson has been selected to the All-Pro's first team. He's another high-level to elite cornerback that Dez Bryant will be forced to contend with.
Only four players remain in the league from that 2006 Dallas Cowboys victory. Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald, Jason Witten and L.P. Ladouceur of the Dallas Cowboys, and Minnesota Vikings cornerback, Terrance Newman.
Sitting at fourth in the league, the Arizona Cardinals only allow 2.8 yards per rush. Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas offensive line are going to have some tough sledding again this week.
The amount of sacks by both teams through two games.
Carson Palmer has also been sacked five times through two games.
Five also represents the amount of touchdowns that each team has allowed in the 2017 season. Both have allowed four passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown through the first two weeks of the season.
The average point differential during the four-game losing streak is 6. The smallest margin was a one point loss in 2010. The largest loss came in 2014.
The Cardinals rank sixth in the league in total plays run and 11th in yards/play, but struggle to turn their drives into points as they've only scored on 29% of their drives, good for 23rd in the league. Dallas' offense scores on 36% of its drives, good for 16th in the NFL. On the flip side, the Cardinals defense only allows 33% of its drives to end in points. Dallas is 9th in the league at 27%.
It's been 11 seasons since the Dallas Cowboys' last victory over the Arizona Cardinals in 2006. That game was Tony Romo's fourth start in the NFL and he played excellently. 20/29 for 308 yards, two touchdowns and a 126.8 passer rating. His two touchdowns went to Patrick Crayton--who led the team in receiving that day with 105 yards on five catches--and "That's my quarterback" Terrell Owens.
Despite his and the team's poor performance in week two, Ezekiel Elliott is 14th in the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 162 total yards.
Arizona sits 16th in the league in points at 19.5 points per game. Unfortunately they give up more points per game than they've scored at 24 points per game allowed. That bodes well for a Dallas team looking to get back on track.
The number of catches for the NFL's league leader in receptions, Jason Witten. That's nine more than Rob Gronkowski, seven more than A.J. Green and Alshon Jeffrey, eight more than Amari Cooper, 12 more than Brandin Cooks, and 15 more than 2016 tight end TD leader, Cameron Brate.
This just in; Jason Witten's still really good at football.
Sorry, sir for saying anything about your age.
Where Dak Prescott sits in the NFL in passer rating through two weeks. Definitely not a great start, but if we know anything about Dak, it's that he is the king of the bounce back. Look for him to have a good game this week.
The combined seasons for two key players in the game this week: Jason Witten and Larry Fitzgerald.
Larry Fitzgerald and Jason Witten sit at numbers three and four on the all-time receptions list, respectively. They've combined for 2,240 receptions over their careers; an average of 77 receptions per season for the two of them.
Carson Palmer's completion percentage is not good and sits at 31st in the NFL.
The amount of rushing yards the Arizona Cardinals have managed through two games in 2017.
Palmer's passer rating, which is ahead of only four players with qualifying statistics: Jacoby Brissett, Josh McCown, DeShone Kizer, and Andy Dalton. Yuck!
The number of pass attempts through two games for Carson Palmer, who ranks fifth in the NFL in attempts and yards.
The number of attempts through the air for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. I think nobody would have expected this through two games. Prescott and Scott Linehan need to be better moving forward. More misdirection in the passing game and more delayed draw plays for the run game to try to soften things up.
More Game Notes
- Dak Prescott and Carson Palmer represent the two lowest passer ratings of any players in the top-10 in attempts.
- On defense, the Arizona Cardinals have allowed the third most amount of plays in 2017, but rank 9th in yards per play at 4.6. For reference, the Dallas Cowboys are 13th in y/p at 4.9.
- Looking for a week to get the passing game back on track, and this may be it. The Cardinals have allowed the 9th most passing yards in the NFL's first two weeks.
- The Cardinals have forced only two turnovers in their first two games.
- Dallas leads the all-time series with a record of 55-32-1.
- Despite his poor week two, Ezekiel Elliott sits 14th in the NFL
Two of the Greatest to Ever Play
This game will feature two players who have played every single game for more than 10 years with their respective teams. Larry Fitzgerald for the Arizona Cardinals and Jason Witten for the Dallas Cowboys.
When their careers are done, they will both find themselves enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame. Larry Fitzgerald and Jason Witten are two of the most respected players in the game. They have been pillars of the game and in their communities for more than a decade.
Whatever happens on Monday Night Football this week, take a moment to soak in these two legends being on the field with one another; perhaps for the last time.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
While Arizona hasn't played all that well, the numbers say this will be a tough matchup for your Dallas Cowboys. Arizona loves to throw the ball. Maybe even more so than Scott Linehan has these first two weeks. Nolan Carroll and Chidobe Awuzie's health will be important to watch throughout the week. Everybody will be needed in the secondary. EVERYBODY.
Be on the look out for our writer's predictions to come out later. Go Cowboys!!!
Sean’s Scout: WR Deonte Thompson A Vertical Threat for Dallas Cowboys
Finally addressing their underwhelming cast of wide receivers, the Dallas Cowboys signed journeyman Deonte Thompson yesterday. The seventh-year pro spent 2017 with both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills, hauling in 38 passes for 555 yards and two touchdowns.
Thompson was undrafted in 2012 out of Florida, making both the Cowboys' free agent signings to date former UDFAs. The Cowboys added LB Joe Thomas earlier in the week, who you can learn more about in Sean's Scout as well.
In desperate need of speed and play making ability on the outside, here is a look at what WR Deonte Thompson can bring to the Dallas Cowboys.
WR Deonte Thompson: Strengths
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Deonte Thompson plays with a great understanding of his own frame, using his length to give defensive backs problems up the field. Not a true "burner", Thompson takes some time to accelerate down the field, but can separate vertically.
Thompson runs smooth routes, using his long strides to get on DBs in a hurry. Once in position to free himself at the stem of a route, Thompson showed the ability to consistently turn his hips and complete a number of underneath and deep routes at a high level.
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Deonte Thompson may not win on many throws "above the rim", but he is above average at the catch point securing passes with his strong hands.
Snagging the ball outside of his frame is not much of an issue for Thompson, who makes the most of his run-after-the-catch opportunities by effortlessly receiving the ball in stride.
At this stage of his career, Thompson may not be an every down player, but this is a player the Cowboys can absolutely find a way to get involved in their sputtering passing offense next season - at the very least replacing the role of FA WR Brice Butler.
WR Deonte Thompson: Weaknesses
Deonte Thompson should not be expected to go over the top on many defenses for the Cowboys in 2018. While the traits are there to flash as that sort of player, Thompson simply is not at his best trying to track down deep vertical passes.
When Thompson does not create separation on his initial burst up the field, there was a tendency for him to get shoved around at the catch point. Still coming up with his fair share of passes, the degree of difficulty on these catches was often increased by his inability to truly play through contact.
This is not a player with a powerful lower body, relying on upper body flex and foot speed to free himself and create plays in space. Overall balance is a strength for Thompson, but he rarely is able to break tackles or move defenders as a blocker in the running game.
WR Deonte Thompson: Summary
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The Cowboys should know what they are getting in Deonte Thompson, who has not had the benefit of great quarterback play in recent seasons. The hope in Dallas is that a number of receivers on the bottom of the depth chart can stand out this summer to make the team out of a crowded room.
This group of Ryan Switzer, Lance Lenoir, Noah Brown, and KD Cannon will now include Deonte Thompson - who should have the edge over most of these names.
Thompson won't be the difference in the Cowboys' offense having a bounce back season in 2018, but his raw athleticism and effortless ability to serve as a deep threat could surely make an impact in Dak Prescott's progression.
Using Win Probabilities To Evaluate Decision Making: Cowboys Kick Vs. Raiders
The Philadelphia Eagles have surpassed the Dallas Cowboys in more ways than one, but on Super Bowl Sunday, their willingness to "be aggressive" and "take chances" shined through the most. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was congratulated by the masses for not coaching scared, and instead going for it on key fourth downs and even attempting trick plays.
When you really evaluate those decisions, however, they shouldn't even be thought of as "risky." If anything, they were simply the obvious call.
Over the last few months I have been working with win probability models, looking to validate and refine those available to the public. I can't share too much about the work as of yet (there will hopefully be a published article in the future), but the work is certainly promising.
What I can say is this. Dennis Lock and Dan Nettleton worked to utilize random forests to estimate win probabilities before each play in an NFL game. These "forests" are similar to decision tree machine learning, cycling through random trees of past data to predict future outcomes.
Brian Burke has been utilizing his model for a while now, and Pro Football Reference has a simple, yet effective model as well. For my project, I have been working to find the "best" ways to estimate those win probabilities in order to inform decision making by head coaches and coordinators.
If you aren't utilizing analytics correctly in today's NFL, you're falling behind. And if you aren't willing to take calculated risks based off of what these numbers say and mean, you are really falling behind.
How does this all relate to the Cowboys?
Well, Cowboys Nation has been pretty consistent in their main criticism of head coach Jason Garrett: he's too conservative. They say he coaches scared, and they believe he punts the ball away too often between the 40's. Numbers accumulated by writers such as Bob Sturm and Marcus Mosher back up these claims, but I wanted to examine Garrett's decision making through the win probability lens.
I took to Twitter to ask the fan base for specific scenarios in which they felt Garrett was too conservative. Then, I ran these situations through the win probability model to determine how these decisions affected the outcomes.
Over a series of posts I will detail what the model says about the Cowboys' decision making in these key moments. First, we go back to December of last season where the Cowboys had their season on the line in Oakland.
Cowboys at Raiders, 2017
One instance which was consistently brought up was ironically from a Cowboys win. Yes, a win!
The Raiders had played the Cowboys close all game long, and with their season on the line Dallas was in position to put those pesky Raiders away. Tied at 17 they entered a fourth and goal situation at the Raiders' 1 yard line. The Cowboys decided to kick the field goal and grab a 20-17 lead. While Dallas did hang on to win, this was only because of a miraculous play by Jeff Heath which resulted in a fumble and a touchback.
Many of the fans who tweeted at me seem to think the Cowboys should have went for the touchdown on fourth down, rather than take their three points. But what does the model say?
Prior to the fourth down play, the Cowboys had about an 85% chance to win the game. After kicking the field goal and kicking the ball away to Oakland, that probability went down to just above 80%. Had the Cowboys gone for it and been stuffed at the Raiders' 1 yard line, that probability would have dropped all the way to just over 57%.
But the model does believe that Garrett made the right decision. Of course, had Dallas scored a touchdown, the game would've virtually been over, but the variance in probabilities suggests that kicking the field goal and taking the sure points was a good move.
Next week, I explain where Jason Garrett and company may have gone wrong during a key 4th down decision against the Los Angeles Rams. If you have any suggestions for plays/situations you'd like evaluated, please comment below!
Cowboys en Español: Nuevas Contrataciones, ¿Podría Ser Allen Hurns la Siguiente?
La agencia libre de los Dallas Cowboys comenzó un poco tarde, siendo el último equipo en toda la liga de la NFL en realizar una contratación este offseason. Ahora, con algunas caras nuevas en el equipo, comienzan las preguntas inevitables. ¿Qué jugadores tendrán un impacto y qué jugadores serán una contratación irrelevante?
Sólo el tiempo lo dirá. Las piezas que añadieron los Cowboys no son agentes libres de gran renombre pero podrían llegar a tener algún impacto en el 2018. Sin embargo, no todas las adquisiciones de Dallas han sido por medio de la agencia libre.
Hace unos días, los Raiders y los Cowboys acordaron un trade por el fullback Jamize Olawale. Días después de perder a Keith Smith (quien fue contratado por... los Raiders), Dallas no quiso echarse todavía otra necesidad encima, así que solucionó rápidamente su hueco en la posición que le abrirá camino a Ezekiel Elliott.
Además de enviar a Olawale a los Cowboys, los Raiders consiguieron una selección de quinta ronda de parte de Dallas y ellos entregaron su sexta ronda. En otras palabras, los Cowboys sólo renunciaron 19 turnos en las rondas tardías del Draft por un fullback que será de ayuda constante para esta ofensiva.
A pesar de ser tres años más grande que Keith Smith, Olawale le brinda a los Cowboys potencial para participar en el juego aéreo así como en el terrestre.
Por la agencia libre, los Cowboys obtuvieron ayuda ofensiva y defensiva.
Joe Thomas, (no, no el que todos conocemos como uno de los mejores tackles de la historia) el linebacker que viene de los Green Bay Packers, usará la estrella este 2018. Mi compañero y escritor de Staff Sean Martin escribió una excelente pieza analizando a detalle al nuevo defensivo.
Thomas definitivamente no será un titular, pero sin duda ayudará a un grupo de equipos especiales que necesitan bastante apoyo esta temporada. Además, es un linebacker rápido y atlético que podrá brillar como un jugador de rotación en una defensiva que incluye a Sean Lee y a Jaylon Smith.
Esta contratación no hace que los Cowboys dejen de tener una gran necesidad por un LB, pero da una profundidad que urgía a la posición.
El último movimiento y quizá el más discutido por los aficionados de los Cowboys es la adquisición de Deonte Thompson. Un receptor abierto que ha batallado para conseguir una casa en la NFL llega a un equipo que cuenta con nombres como Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams y Cole Beasley, pero que aún necesita mucho más producción.
¿Acaso la adición de Thompson al roster hace que WR deje de ser una necesidad para el equipo de los Cowboys? Claro que no, pero añade un talento que quizá pueda ayudar al equipo en ciertos aspectos.
Thompson es un jugador muy rápido, lo cual es algo que esta ofensiva necesita para abrir el campo un poco más. Un corredor de rutas bastante sólido con manos seguras. Thompson viene probablemente a ser una versión mejorada de Brice Butler por $2.5M.
Quizá fue un error de parte de la administración garantizarle un millón de su contrato. ¿Por qué garantizarle dinero a un jugador que ni siquiera debería tener un lugar asegurado en el equipo? Sin embargo, Thompson parece ser un contribuidor a la ofensiva.
Pero no fue el WR en la agencia libre del que se ha hablado esta semana en el mundo de los Dallas Cowboys. De hecho, aún después de firmar su contrato, no es el más discutido entre los aficionados.
Allen Hurns, receptor que fue cortado de Jacksonville, es un jugador que podría llegar a hacer un impacto inmediato en la ofensiva de Dak Prescott y proveerle al QB un potencial mejor amigo. A pesar de que muchos esperarían que conseguir a Hurns significaría decirle adiós a Dez Bryant, la verdad es que no sería necesario.
Hurns podría tomar el rol que Terrance Williams posee ahora como receptor "Z" y llevar a esta ofensiva a otro nivel. Todd Archer de ESPN reportó que la reciente adquisición de Deonte Thompson no significa que la posibilidad de ver a Hurns usando la estrella ha acabado.
Todos queremos ver acción en la agencia libre, aunque a veces lo sensato sea ser conservadores. Así como muchos aficionados de los Cowboys se quejan de la falta de movimientos, muchos aficionados de los Steelers y los Patriots agradecen que sus equipos tengan esta filosofía de no gastar mucho en agencia libre.
La diferencia son los resultados en el campo.
Sin embargo, Allen Hurns definitivamente parece como una opción muy viable para los Cowboys, y una adición que simplemente tendría mucho sentido. Sólo queda esperar si lograrán firmarlo o si un equipo (como los Jets, quienes han mostrado mucho interés y tienen bastante espacio en el tope salarial) logra convencerlo de no regresar a Dallas.
Por ahora, esperamos. Quizá hasta que los Cowboys firmen a alguien más. O quizá hasta la llegada del NFL Draft.
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