Football is a game of four quarters, save for the occasional overtime thriller.
A football season can be looked at through a similar lens. As there are 16 games in a season, that means that there are four quarters with four games apiece. Yay math!
The Dallas Cowboys have handicapped themselves for the first quarter of the season with two of their star defensive players suspended for them. No, that isn’t a line from a year ago. This isn’t deja vu. It’s the same story, just a different year. 365 days ago we were preparing for a first quarter sans Rolando McClain and Greg Hardy. This time around it’s Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence. Hooray.
Two years ago after the first quarter finale, an emphatic win at home over the New Orleans Saints, Jason Witten said that the goal was to win each quarter of the season. Winning is defined as going at least 3-1, 4-0 is winning with style. That year the Cowboys won the first two quarters, drew the second, and won the fourth in style. Last year? Dallas barely drew the first quarter and lost the final three.
How The 1st Quarter Relates To A Playoff Berth
How important are these “quarters” though, really? As discussed the Cowboys will be down two men to start, but with eyes set on the playoffs will that really make a difference?
I went back and assessed the playoffs teams of the last three seasons. Three years is a pretty significant chunk of time, and that gives us 36 total teams – 36 total first quarters – to look at.
|1st Quarter Record||4-0||3-1||2-2||1-3||0-4|
|Total||10 (28%)||9 (25%)||13 (36%)||4 (11%)||0 (0%)|
It appears that the most common route taken by playoff teams over the last three seasons has been via a 2-2 start. Second is the super popular undefeated stance, third 3-1, and last is the 1-3 variety. As you can see no team that has participated in the playoffs during the last three seasons has started off winless in the first quarter.
The Cowboys first four games of the 2016 seasons are against the Giants, in Washington, against the Bears, and in San Francisco. Considering that the first two of those are division games they are even more important. Dallas started off their season with two NFC East games last year and won them both, so they’re experienced in this regard.
You can view the 2016 Dallas Cowboys Schedule right here. If you’d like an iPhone or Android schedule wallpaper you can get one here! For my official breakdown of the schedule you can head right here.
The 1st Quarter Pass Rush – Will There Be Any?
The primary issue that will be plaguing the Cowboys in the early hours of the 2016 season will be the pass rush, or really the lack of one. According to Pro Football Reference’s 2015 Offensive Line Grades the Cowboys first four opponents graded:
- New York Giants – 24th in Pass-Blocking, 16th in Run-Blocking, 4th in Penalties, T-20th Overall.
- Washington Redskins – 13th in Pass-Blocking, 15th in Run-Blocking, 12th in Penalties, 11th Overall.
- Chicago Bears – 17th in Pass-Blocking, 5th in Run-Blocking, 20th in Penalties, 16th Overall.
- San Francisco 49ers – 14th in Pass-Blocking, 30th in Run-Blocking, 6th in Penalties, 27th Overall.
Thankfully the Cowboys won’t be facing any supremely stout offensive lines when they are without their most lethal weapons. This bodes well for the talent that is currently on the roster which has a lot of potential, but is ultimately unproven.
Recent history suggests that if the Cowboys can walk out of the 1st Quarter of the season 2-2 then they’ll be well in contention. Given the returning offensive talent, including the newly drafted Ezekiel Elliott, defensive prowess won’t be as necessary. Nevertheless it is another point of optimism that the lines they’ll be attacking aren’t too intimidating.