Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 9:04 AM
After suffering through Indianapolis-New Orleans and Baltimore-Jacksonville last week, NFL fans are excited that Dallas-Philadelphia will be the showcase game this week on NBC's Sunday Night Football. We've had some good matchups this year (like Green Bay-Atlanta). We've had some divisional showdowns (like Chicago-Minnesota). But, now…it's a divisional showdown matching good teams!
Well, as long as you're talking about Power Ratings and championship potential. If you're only looking at won-lost records, the hype about tonight's game doesn't make any sense.
The Eagles have had turnover troubles vs. a tough schedule, and are certainly better than that record would suggest. They really crushed Washington in the numbers the last time they took the field. Dallas handed away games to the Jets and Lions that should have been wins. They strike the naked eye much more like a 5-1 team than a 3-3 team. Well, a scatterbrained 5-1 team with a stubborn quarterback.
Clearly this is a game where it will be helpful to crunch some numbers. Maybe this ISN'T all that great a game given the turnover tendencies. Neither team currently has a record that's on pace to reach the playoffs. It's not like Tony Romo and Michael Vick are going to change their stripes overnight. Those stripes are part of the turnover issues that have plagued both teams. If the consensus Power Ratings floating through cyberspace are correct (some have Dallas in the top five even with their .500 record), then this is a potential playoff preview.
We took a week off from our traditional preview indicator numbers last Sunday because they just weren't going to matter in a matchup like Indy/New Orleans. We bring them back now for Dallas-Philadelphia.
DRIVE POINTS PER GAME (scored and allowed on 60 yards or more)
Dallas: 14.0 on offense, 10.3 on defense
Philadelphia: 15.5 on offense, 14.0 on defense
Both teams have played tough schedules, so those are good differentials. One reason some computers LOVE Dallas is that they're putting up numbers like that against a slate that included New England, the NY Jets, San Francisco, and Detroit. When they stepped down in class last week vs. the Rams, they won long distance scoring 21-7. The Cowboys are clearly playoff caliber in this stat…and this is our single most favorite stat in all of sports for defining quality in a team.
Philadelphia's defense has been surprisingly soft given all the Preseason hype. It's worth noting though that they beat St. Louis 21-3 in this stat when they were stepping down in class. Other opponents have included San Francisco, Buffalo, Atlanta, and Washington.
Frankly…the Dallas schedule is more impressive (scary for Eagles fans that New England and the Jets are still ahead!). This Dallas defense under its new 'Ryan influence' is something that handicappers really need to pay attention to. Big edge to the Cowboys in this stat in our view. They're about two points better in differential vs. a tougher schedule (USA Today ranks the Dallas schedule as 3rd toughest in the league so far).
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
Dallas: 35% on offense, 42% on defense
Philadelphia: 43% on offense, 34% on defense
This is where the Eagles make their move. Dallas has been making big plays, but has failed badly at driving the field in consistent fashion. That's mattered in some of their losses, and will almost always matter in your biggest games. You can't rely on big plays to bail you out time and time again. And, going for those big plays often leads to turnovers. This is an important weakness for the Cowboys that has to be addressed going forward.
Philadelphia has the differential of a champion, which grades out even stronger vs. a schedule that's been above league average. Michael Vick can scramble for conversions when needed. The defense has been consistently strong when it's time to force a punt. Now, there have been breakdowns elsewhere…and some fourth quarters where the defense seemed to fade. But…that's a strong grading for the Eagles.
Dallas: -1 (12 takeways, 13 giveaways)
Philadelphia: -8 (9 takeways, 17 giveaways)
This is why you have to be skeptical about Super Bowl possibilities for both of these teams. The quarterbacks haven't mastered the risk reward ratio. The offensive braintrusts behind them haven't either. Both teams look great on the highlight shows…and do look like Super Bowl material in the games where turnovers don't happen. Come playoff time, pressure increases, defensive intensity increases, and outdoor weather doesn't help you (and the Cowboys will have trouble earning home field thanks to their 3-3 start).
Philadelphia in particular has been a disaster with those 17 giveaways. But, neither of these teams is as consistently sharp as Green Bay. Neither of these teams could be trusted to play mistake-free football on the road at New Orleans in January. Each has already played potential playoff foe San Francisco, and they combined to lose the turnover category 5-2 to the 49ers.
The bottom line is this…both of these teams have the raw talent to post 12-4 or 13-3 type records in an NFL season. Recurring turnover problems from high risk attacks make something like 10-6 or 11-5 much more likely. Those likely records drop further in seasons with a tough strength of schedule. As a result, Sunday Night's LOSER might have trouble reaching the playoffs this year. And, if you have a record below .500 after seven games, the local media in a big time NFL city is going to be all over your case. Should Philly win tonight, BOTH teams will be under .500 through seven games.
*In the NFC South: Tampa Bay and Atlanta are both 4-3, trailing first place New Orleans.
*In the NFC North: Chicago is a Wildcard contender at 4-3, as is Detroit with an even better record.
There's some work to do for Dallas and Philadelphia in terms of chasing down the NY Giants for first place in the NFC East, AND in the race for the two Wildcard spots that are up for grabs amidst a half dozen teams.
JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK has been working very hard to find a side or total winner in this big NBC game for you. Game day weather forecasts will obviously be factored in too. Check out our purchase page for the latest news on what's available on the Sunday slate. We're definitely keying on New England-Pittsburgh in the big TV window, as well as matchups like Washington-Buffalo, Detroit-Denver, and Cleveland-San Francisco.
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We'll be back with your Monday to preview San Diego at Kansas City in the ESPN game. That matchup has suddenly gotten VERY interesting with Kansas City's resurgence from an 0-2 start, and San Diego's loss last week against the Jets. So far, the Chargers aren't playing to expectations in terms of division-winning form…and Kansas City is poised once again to be a surprise winner in the AFC West. We'll run our indicator stats for you to help you do-it-yourselfers make an informed decision. Of course, the MOST informed decision you can make is to purchase BIG JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!
Note that we'll have weeknight football every night again this week…with action on Tuesday and Wednesday joining the regular Thursday and Friday slates. What a great way to lead up to the LSU-Alabama game on Saturday in college football that the whole sports world is waiting for. Who cares that the NBA isn't playing. JIM HURLEY IS GOING TO MAKE SURE YOU WIN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK!