Sunday, the Colts (7-6) and Cowboys (8-5) will meet at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Wednesday, I noticed that there wasn’t a line for the game and it kind of triggered my brain into wanting more information. How good is the Dallas Cowboy defense?
TL:DR They’re really good.
Dallas’ defense 2nd in points against (Colts are 15th), 4th in yards against (Colts are 10th), 18th in turnovers (Colts are 9th), 3rd in rushing yards against (Colts are 8th), 29th in completion percentage against (Colts are 31st), 2nd in yards per rush attempt (Colts are 5th), 18th in percentage of drives resulting in an offensive turnover (Colts are 7th), and interestingly, the Colts and Cowboys are virtually and identically bad on 3rd down (27th and 26th).
Is points per average drive a relevant statistic? If so, Dallas is 6th and the Colts are 13th.
If you read my colleagues’ work, Dallas runs a similar defensive scheme to Indy with better talent. Dallas rushes 4 and drops 7 into coverage. Both allow passes to be completed and rely on limiting YAC (big plays after the catch). Both focus on shutting down the running game.
There are some significant differences between the teams. For example, the Cowboys defense is the least penalized defense in the league, while the Colts are the most penalized defense in the league.
Special teams is a little different story, though. The Colts are 2nd in yards per punt return against and the Cowboys are 20th. The Colts are 10th in yards per kick return and the Cowboys are 27th.
On offense, the Colts are 8th in scoring offense (Cowboys are 23rd). The Colts are 2nd in 3rd down conversion (Cowboys are 13th). The Colts are 7th in red zone scoring percentage (Cowboys are 30th).
Dak is the most sacked QB in the league (48) and Andrew is the least sacked QB in the league. Luck may be without T.Y. Hilton and Prescott has a new weapon in Amari Cooper. If one plays and the other doesn’t or one performs and the other doesn’t, this could very well be the difference in the game. For the Colts, if they can neutralize Cooper and Elliott on defense and leverage a matchup nightmare like Eric Ebron presents on offense if Hilton isn’t available, they may be able to squeak this one out.
Here’s a tidbit to chew on: Dak has thrown 78.8% of the number of passes that Luck has so far this year, but has half the touchdowns. Is this a relevant statistic or is the difference really what happens when these teams get in scoring position? You decide!
Given the data available, the Colts are going to have to leverage field position via special teams, take advantage of scoring opportunities on offense and generate an effective pass rush on defense to mitigate a near certainty that they’ll get called for more penalties in order to win what appears to be a very close contest (on paper).
Any given Sunday, right?