A lot has been made of the upcoming matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the playoffs. It’s got me thinking about the tangibles for each defense.
I’m of the mind that numbers matter in any contest. To quote Winston Churchill, “The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward.”
While I doubt the intended significance was toward such triviality as football, it does have a very relevant meaning.
That’s why we keep stats—to look back and see what has been done.
I like statistics because I can look back and see what was done in order to better gauge what will be done.
I’m also of the mindset that a particular stat—the QB rating—is somewhat useless when it comes to gauging a quarterback’s play. It has become something we look at often to see how a QB did in a game, but it being high or low has never correlated directly with winning football games.
For instance, look at Week 13 between the Cowboys and the New York Giants. The Giants won the game, but Tony Romo had a QB rating of 112.1.
For those that do not know, the QB rating is calculated based on completions, attempts, yards, touchdowns and interceptions. It’s essentially a measure of efficiency and nothing more.
But as I stated, I believe it to be rather useless for determining a quarterback’s level of play. It is, however, a viable stat when trying to figure out what a defense can do and has done.
Consider my logic. A few good ways of labeling a successful defense are to look at yards per game allowed, third down conversions, yards per play, touchdowns allowed and interceptions. Most of this is factored into a QB rating calculation.
So I like to look at a team's schedule and see what kind of QB ratings they’ve allowed to opposing quarterbacks. The truth is that while an efficient QB is great—Brett Favre only throwing for seven interceptions this season—I’d much rather have an effective QB. That’s what this method is based on.
In the 2009 season, the Vikings defense has allowed an average opposing QB rating of 90.8. That’s six games out of 16 allowing a QB rating of over 100.
The Cowboys, in contrast, have allowed an average opposing QB rating of 82.8. That’s only two games of 17, including the wild card round, in which they allowed a rating over 100.
Both defenses are highly ranked against the run (Vikings second, Cowboys fourth). Both offenses rank well running the ball (Vikings 13th, Cowboys 7th).
It basically shows me that the Vikings are going to be in a tough spot trying to run against Dallas more so than Dallas will be stuffed by Minnesota. It’s a fair conclusion even considering that Adrian Peterson is a future Hall of Fame running back.
Everyone likes to say how versatile he is, and there’s been references made that the Cowboys have to have three backs to equal what Minnesota has in just one, but it’s overlooked what impact that really has on the players.
Sure, Peterson is allowed to find a rhythm, ride it out being the primary back and get 20-plus carries a game. But that kind of running takes its toll. By the end of a game, he’s tired. Even if he’s in a rhythm, he’s worn down from either running up and down the field or fighting a tough defense for every yard. He does lead the league in no gain and negative-yard runs this year.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys have a better-ranked rushing attack—perhaps lending credit to the fact they have three guys who stay fresher during the course of a game.
What does it mean? The Vikings are going to have to rely on Favre long before the Cowboys will be relying on Romo. That is when Romo is at his best—as a game manager, as opposed to a game winner.
History has shown that Favre struggles against Dallas anyway. History has shown that the Vikings struggle in home playoff games against Dallas. History has shown that teams on a late-season winning streak go farther than teams wrapping up regulation under .500.
The Cowboys went 3-0 the final three games of the season, while the Vikings only went 1-2.
Since I predict the game will come down to how the quarterbacks play, I’ll let you know how each defense has done.
Minnesota allowed a higher QB rating, completion percentage and average yards per completion. Over an extra game, the Cowboys defense had one fewer sack and one fewer interception.
It’s a game of numbers that these men play, and the numbers show that the Vikings will have their work cut out for them.
Finally, consider this. The Vikings are 8-0 at home this year and definitely have an advantage. Obviously, they play better at home, but the Cowboys have played better on the road.
To read more from Bryson Treece, visit Dallas Cowboys Nation