Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cowboys-Steelers Preview

Howdy Football Fans,

Normally this content is exclusive to The Cowboys Pre-game Show at

but today you are getting some premium content free of charge. You know, because it is the Holiday Season and all. So here it is:

Inside The Numbers

by @sportsnarrative

Alright Cowboys fans, as you may know I was one of the few analysts in all of America that predicted a narrow Cowboys victory last week after some intense film and statistically work. And while the Boys did manage to make it a bit closer than even I expected, a last second Dan Bailey FG proved my hypothesis and thus my genius. (HA!) With all that being said, I feel like I've got as good a grasp on this team as can be had in this crazy league we call the NFL. However, this week's news is not as favorable as last week and the Bold Predictions (patent-pending) section may even be more discouraging. Let's go to the numbers:
On Offense:
By the rankings, the Cowboys are 10th in total offense, 3rd in passing, 31st in rushing and 15th and points scored.
The Steelers are 19th in total offense, 11th in passing, 25th in rushing and 21st in points scored.
Here's a few more numbers in the Cowboys favor: TO margin Dal - 27th (-10) Pitt 31st (-13)
Yards per play: Dal - 12th Pitt - 23rd
So the Cowboys are clearly much more proficient at moving the football. However, there's a few numbers that are concerning for Dallas:
QB Rating Dal - 89.6 Pitt - 87.7 Time of Possession Dal - 7th Pitt - 2nd Sacks All Dal 31 Pitt 27
These numbers point to a much closer battle than the rankings would indicate and show two teams that like to posses the ball. Usually that means running the ball and not turning it over, both big factors for the game today.
On Defense:
By the ranking, the Cowboys are 11th in total defense, 8th in passing, 16th in rushing and 22nd in points allowed.
The Steelers are 1st in total defense, 1st in passing, 5th in rushing and 7th in points allowed.
While the yardage number for the Dallas D looks good, some interior numbers reveal a soft underbelly on that side of the ball due to the major injuries at NT, ILB and S.
Yard per play allowed Dal 23rd (5.7) Pitt 2nd (4.5) Comp % allowed Dal - 62.5 Pitt - 54.7
QB Rating against Dal - 93.4 Pitt - 77.4
20+ yard pass plays allowed Dal - 43 Pitt - 23
The Steelers, despite some impressive stats, are much more vanilla than in years past. They don't allow you to hit big plays, but they also don't turn the ball over like they normally do. The Steelers seek to grind you down with Time of Possession, a punishing yet unspectacular running attack and relying on Big Ben to fend off sacks and make plays.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys are allowing teams to drive the field especially in the first 2 quarters, and then rely on Romo and his weapons to rally back from a deficit. This is a strategy I don't think will work today.
Keys to Victory:
1. Establish the Run:
Both teams will seek to establish the run early, and I look for a slow grind to the first half of football.
2. Injuries at CB:
With Claiborne questionable and Ike Taylor out, both teams are missing their top duo of corners so the ability to isolate and get the ball to the WRs will play a big factor in today's outcome.
3. Get to the QB:
Both teams have a major weakness in the offensive line, so protecting their signal callers is a big deal. The Cowboys must have more than just DeMarcus Ware pressuring the QB as Big Ben is rarely brought down by only 1 tackler. The Cowboys O-Line also must gel and act with one mind to block the exotic blitz scheme of the Steelers 3-4, something they really haven't done all year.
Bold Predictions:
1. Kyle Orton will take at least 1 snap in this game, as I think Romo is going to take a beating. After what Cincinnati did to the Cowboys QB last week, this week could be much much worse.
2. The crowd will be louder for Steelers TDs than Cowboys TDs. A large amount of apathy in the Cowboys fandom means that many transplanted Steelers fans should be in attendance and will be quite vocal.
3. Final Score: Pittsburgh 23 Dallas 13
For all the good feelings I had about a Dallas victory last week, I have equally bad feelings for the Cowboys this week. I think this game will end the Cowboys pursuit of the playoffs, end the season's of a few injured players (Dez, Claiborne and maybe Romo) and overall be a grinding and boring game. Sorry, Cowboys fans. It just doesn't look good for you this Sunday.

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