Nov 20, 2019
Nov 20, 2019

NFL Week 12 preview: Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots

NFL Week 12 predictions

Analysing the New England Patriots

Cowboys’ offensive identity

Dallas Cowboys vs. New England Patriots: Where is the value?

NFL Week 12 preview: Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots

The Dallas Cowboys travel to New England to take on the Patriots in Week 12 of the NFL. Looking for value in the NFL Week 12 odds? Read on to inform your NFL Week 12 predictions.

Analysing the New England Patriots

On the surface, everything is the same as it ever was in New England. They’ve moved to 9-1 for the campaign to secure a 19th consecutive winning season. The last time they failed to exceed eight wins was 2000 with Drew Bledsoe under center.

They advance to the post season in virtually every simulation of the remainder of the season, win the division almost as frequently and sit out the wildcard weekend over 90% of the time.

Only the Chiefs and the Ravens are currently outscoring Brady and Belichick and defensively, as the Patriots are the most difficult team to score against. They sit at the head of the Super Bowl betting as we enter the final stretch of the regular season.

Rather like the Patriots, the Cowboys have undertaken a change in offensive identity over recent seasons.

However, the most recent edition of the Patriots is a statistical enigma and bears little resemblance to those teams that have dominated post season football since Tom Brady replaced Bledsoe early in the 2001 season.

Offensively, the Patriots passing efficiency is well below the league average. They are producing nearly half a yard per passing attempt below their opponent adjusted average. Brady has recently turned 42, that’s two years older than Drew Brees, five years older than Ben Roethlisberger and seven years older than Aaron Rodgers.

He is certainly in a class of his own in terms of longevity, but no longer does he sit at the top table performance-wise.

The running game is even less efficient than the passing unit, they gain 0.7 fewer yards per attempt compared to an opponent adjusted average.

Statistically, New England is a below-average offense, both on the ground and through the air, that has somehow managed to outscore every other NFL teams, bar two. They are averaging nearly 29 points per game against a batch of opponents that are allowing around 24 ppg.

Much of the credit for New England’s lofty position in the 2019 regular season is down to an historically efficient passing defense and an outlandish overall turnover differential of plus 18.

The Patriots defense has taken away 19 interceptions, while Brady has reciprocated just six times. Interceptions are a more repeatable skillset than fumble recoveries, and New England has regularly posted positive turnover differentials. But we should still expect these stellar numbers to regress in time, resulting in less favourable starting positions for the misfiring New England offense and opposing drives turning into more points, with fewer turnovers.

New England has only allowed an average of 10.8 points per game, but they’ve played some very anemic offenses, who as a group are only averaging 17.5 points per game. Five games have been against sides that are ranked either 14th, 15th or rock bottom in their conference standings.

In addition, their run defense is a pale shadow of the passing side of the defensive unit. They allow 0.7 yards per attempt more yards than average on the ground.

The best team they have faced in 2019 is Baltimore, who soundly beat them 37-20. New England’s margin of victory against the only other potential playoff contenders, Buffalo and Philadelphia was just six and seven points, respectively.

Cowboys’ offensive identity

Dallas is locked in a winner takes all, divisional battle with Philadelphia in the NFC East, where they currently hold a one game lead. The present record of the wildcard teams in the NFC north and west makes this alternative playoff route highly unlikely, should the Cowboys fail to secure the divisional title.

Rather like the Patriots, the Cowboys have undertaken a change in offensive identity over recent seasons. Much of their success came from a very good ground game; they ranked in the top three in 2017, but 2019 has seen both an improvement in usage and efficiency for their fourth-year quarterback, Dak Prescott.

Prescott threw 28.5 times per game in his first season in the league, but that has steadily risen to 36.5 in 2019. Apart from a dip in 2017, his completion rate has remained impressively embedded around a middling 60% and currently his yardage per attempt is one yard above his career average.

This passing efficiency is reflected in his opponent adjusted yardage efficiency that is 1.3 yards per attempt above par and places Prescott in the top three for quarterbacks, a position traditionally reserved for his opponent on Sunday, Tom Brady.

While Dallas’ focus has switched away from a ground based running offense, they still run exceptionally well, gaining half a yard further per attempt than their opponent adjusted average.

The Cowboys are not only the NFL’s best overall offense, they have a balance between their ground and aerial routes that has become much less common in the pass-friendly NFL environment. This gives them an added flexibility that is rarely encountered by opposing defenses.

Dallas’ defense is far weaker than their offense.

They are below average both against the run and the pass, faring less well in the former discipline and they’ve allowed 19.7 points per game. This is below the general league average, but they have shared a large proportion of their schedule with New England and their opponents are averaging just 19.5 ppg as a group.

Dallas Cowboys vs. New England Patriots: Where is the value?

Purely points based matchups are bullish on New England’s chances, predicting around a 10 points average margin of victory, but doubts persist around the sustainability of the host’s offensive process, especially against more competent opponents.

Dallas’ double pronged offense has the potential to complement one another. They do not have to take on New England’s excellent pass defense head on, and instead they should be able to initially dominate on the ground.

Belichick remains an excellent strategist, but for the first time his strengths appear stacked on the defensive side of the ball, and so a reduced Pats margin of victory of five points is suggested, making Dallas on the spread the pick in a game with around 44 total points.

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