When previewing Sunday's matchup between the Cowboys and Patriots, it's easy to believe that New England will have their way with Dallas.
After all New England is currently 9-1, the one seed in their conference, and has dominated just about every team they've faced this season. On the other hand, the Cowboys have been a wildly inconsistent 6-4 fighting for their playoff lives the remainder of the season.
But when you take a look at the advanced numbers, this game is a lot closer than the naked eye would indicate.
The Cowboys come into Foxborough with the league's best offense by DVOA, top three both in the run and pass game. While their defense ranks just 20th by DVOA, their offense has been so incredible that they sit as a top five overall team by the same metric.
On the other side sit the Patriots – far and away the best defense in the NFL, while their offense has been uncharacteristically average.
Yes, a Tom Brady-led offense is quite average.
Dallas and New England are sort of the inverse of one another. Whereas Dallas' offense was vastly underrated coming into the year while their defense garnered the headlines and hype before disappointing, New England's offense has been the disappointing of their team's two units.
Still, the Patriots offense has the star-powered names which can scare you. Tom Brady, James White, Sony Michel, Julian Edelman – each are talented and accomplished during their time in the league. And each can break you at any point in the game.
Dallas' defense has that star-power too – Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones – each also has the talent to be among the best in the league at what they do. And, each can make that single play which can turn a game at any moment.
Dallas' offense against New England's defense is the marquee matchup on Sunday. Best vs. Best. But it's the chess match between the two more average units which may likely decide Sunday's outcome.
The Cowboys defense has yet to put it fully together this season, but if this unit can play to their preseason standards on Sunday, the Cowboys could pull off the meaningful upset.