Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys throws a first down pass in the second quarter against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 30, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.
The Cowboys have been notorious for racking up lots of yards but not a lot of points. In 2012, the Cowboys scored 376 points—23.5 points per game—good for just 10th in the NFC and 15th in the NFL, yet they finished sixth in the NFL in total yards. ‘Total points’ is a somewhat skewed stat because offenses that pass a lot and run a high-tempo attack will score more points, but they’ll also give up more as well. So the goal for Dallas in 2013 isn’t necessarily to score as many points as possible, but to create the biggest possible gap between their points and their opponents’ points.
Having said that, the easiest way to create that gap is through point maximization in most situations. That’s primarily because the Cowboys, we think, are an above-average team. They can increase their odds of winning simply by running more plays; the more plays in a game, the greater the chances that the favorite will win. Even with Bill Callahan potentially calling more running plays in 2013, I think the Cowboys will score a lot more points. Here are two reasons why.
Running Game Will Improve
One reason the Cowboys will score more points is that they’ll have a better running game. I base this not on the acquisition of Travis Frederick or any other personnel, but simply that the Cowboys 1) weren’t as bad as everyone thinks in 2012 and 2) are incredibly unlikely to average 3.6 YPC again in 2013 due to luck alone. The offense ran the ball a whole lot in low-upside situations—short-yardage and goal line, for example—and that naturally decreased YPC. In terms of how often they were successful, however, 40.2 percent of the Cowboys’ runs actually increased the probability of scoring—the 18th-best mark in the NFL. So while the Cowboys aren’t a great rushing team, they’re better than most stats showed, and that will be reflected on the field when they’re calling different sorts of running plays.
Superior Field Position
The primary reason that Dallas will score more points is that their defense is bound to give them more help. Last season, the Cowboys’ defense hauled in only seven interceptions and forced a turnover at the third-lowest rate in the league. That would have improved in 2013 regardless of Rob Ryan’s departure, but it’s especially likely with Monte Kiffin. If the Cowboys can acquire more short fields, they’ll be able to put points on the board much faster. They ranked seventh in the NFL in yards per drive in 2012; if their point total matches that, they’ll score in the neighborhood of 425 points in 2013.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.
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