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The Cowboys have done it, securing their second NFC East title in three years and earning the second seed in the conference. Now, they’ll host the Packers in AT&T Stadium, where they haven’t lost all season, and are guaranteed at least one more home game should they win on Sunday.

The table has been set quite nicely for the Cowboys to reach their first conference championship game this century, but can they actually do it? Our last analytics roundup for the 2023 season offers the most final look at this team’s strengths and weaknesses before their quest to claim the NFL’s crown. Let’s dive in.

Cowboys Efficiency at a Glance

DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Rank Weighted DVOA Weighted DVOA Rank
DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Rank Weighted DVOA Weighted DVOA Rank
Offense 8.8% 9th 10th 11.6% 8th
Defense -8.7% 5th 5th -7.4% 6th
Special Teams 1.6% 10th 8th 2.0% 10th
Overall 19.1% 4th 6th 21.0% 4th

The Cowboys finished the year out as the fourth best team in total team DVOA. For those curious, they were seventh in total DVOA at this time last year. First and second are occupied by each conference’s top seed – the Ravens and 49ers, respectively – and third place features the other two seed, the Bills. Things don’t line up perfectly like that all the way down, but the final DVOA rankings definitely pass the sniff test.

It should be encouraging, then, to see the Packers all the way down at 13th, one spot ahead of the Eagles. Frankly, Green Bay would be a lot lower if not for their efficient offense, as the Packers are 27th in defensive DVOA and 31st in special teams DVOA. The Cowboys, on the other hand, are one of just three teams (alongside the Ravens and Chiefs) to rank in the top 10 in all three phases of the game.

2023 NFL Team Tiers, Weeks 1-18, courtesy of rbsdm.com

Shifting gears to the EPA-based team tiers, which offers a more literal interpretation of actual on-field results as opposed to DVOA’s schedule-adjusted formula, the Cowboys are still one of the top teams in the league. They’re neck-and-neck with the Ravens and 49ers for the top spot, with only the Bills and Dolphins anywhere close behind them.

You can see where the Packers are on this chart, and they’re interestingly clustered with three of the other four NFC playoff teams, while the Eagles are in their own special corner. The moral of the story: this NFC race should come down to the Cowboys and 49ers.

Offense

Cowboys Offensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Offensive DVOA 8.8% 9th
Pass DVOA 24.9% 11th
Run DVOA -4.3% 16th
EPA/Play 0.121 2nd
EPA/Dropback 0.229 2nd
EPA/Rush -0.061 11th

The big story for Dallas this year was Mike McCarthy taking over the offensive play-calling, a move that generated quite a few takes at the time. Just about all of those have turned out to be wrong, as the Cowboys offense improved in nearly every single measure. They jumped from 14th in offensive DVOA and 10th in EPA/play last year to ninth in DVOA and second in EPA/play, two big improvements.

The Cowboys offense also led the league in points scored and finished third in total yards, with only one team turning the ball over less. They finished second in both third-down conversion rate and drive success rate, which measures how often a down series results in either a first down or touchdown. The Cowboys also scored points on 50.3% of their offensive drives, which not only leads the league but makes them the only team to do so on 50% or more of their drives; San Francisco was second at 45.3%. It’s safe to say that Year 1 of the Texas Coast offense was a resounding success.

Dak Prescott’s Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
QBR 72.6 2nd
EPA/play 0.245 2nd
CPOE 3.9 6th
DVOA 18.3% 8th
DYAR 1245 5th

One of the most significant reasons for this offense’s improvements this season was the play of Dak Prescott. The changes that McCarthy made to this offense were designed around giving Prescott complete and total control, and the results speak for themselves.

Prescott finished with the league lead in completion rate and passing touchdowns, while also ranking third in passing yards. After leading the league in picks a year ago, he only threw nine this year and tied for the lowest turnover worthy play rate. He did all that while still being aggressive down the field, leading the league in big-time throw rate. His play rightfully thrust him into the MVP race, and while Lamar Jackson currently sits as the betting favorite, most sports books have Prescott with the second best odds to win the prestigious award.

Cowboys Offensive Line Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Pressure Rate 17.0% 6th
Adjusted Sack Rate 6.8% 12th
Blown Block Rate 2.44% 12th
Pass Block Win Rate 58% 16th
Run Block Win Rate 72% 4th
Adjusted Line Yards 4.23 13th

One of the most commonly cited areas for improvement that McCarthy and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer cited in the offseason was their pass protection, with the belief that Prescott got hit too much last year which, in turn, led to a higher amount of interceptions.

Whether or not that’s the reason Prescott’s interception total dipped is up for debate, but the pass protection was objectively better. It still hasn’t been perfect, but the Cowboys were 15th in pressure rate a year ago and finish this season sixth. And after a rough start to the year, the run blocking performance has gradually improved each week, offering some confidence in this unit heading into the postseason.

Defense

Cowboys Defensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Defensive DVOA -8.7% 5th
Pass Defense DVOA -3.3% 7th
Run Defense DVOA -15.4% 5th
Pass Rush Win Rate 59% 1st
Run Stop Win Rate 29% 27th
EPA/Play -0.085 4th
EPA/Dropback Allowed -0.060 5th
EPA/Rush Allowed -0.124 10th

Statistically speaking, this is the worst defense we’ve seen in the Dan Quinn era. Each of Quinn’s first two years in Dallas saw the Cowboys finish fourth in defensive DVOA and top three in EPA/play allowed. This year, they’re fifth in DVOA and fourth in EPA/play. That’s a great problem to have when Quinn’s worst Dallas defense is still one of the best in the league.

Of course, the Cowboys dealt with quite a few injuries on the defensive side this year, most notably losing Trevon Diggs for the season after just two games. For the most part, the defense has survived those injuries and remained lethal. Micah Parsons remains one of the best pass rushers in the league, leading all defenders in pressures for the second straight season. If anything, this pass rush around Parsons has gotten even better, too.

Cowboys Pass Coverage

Targets Completions Completion Rate Passer Rating Allowed ADOT When Targeted Air Yards Allowed Yards After Catch
Targets Completions Completion Rate Passer Rating Allowed ADOT When Targeted Air Yards Allowed Yards After Catch
Trevon Diggs 8 2 25.0% 1.0 15.9 6 20
Stephon Gilmore 91 50 54.9% 83.3 11.0 453 200
DaRon Bland 89 48 53.9% 50.9 12.4 432 257
Jourdan Lewis 69 48 69.6% 106.4 7.3 285 263
Jayron Kearse 41 34 82.9% 102.3 6.8 216 155
Malik Hooker 10 8 80.0% 118.8 9.8 76 84
Donovan Wilson 26 19 73.1% 85.7 6.2 70 112
Juanyeh Thomas 14 8 57.1% 94.9 3.4 2 70
Leighton Vander Esch 7 5 71.4% 87.2 0.4 -1 44
Markquese Bell 50 35 70.0% 94.4 2.9 37 291
Damone Clark 34 28 82.4% 100.2 2.4 26 168

One of the outcomes of the Diggs injury was the breakout campaign for DaRon Bland, who led the league with nine interceptions while also breaking NFL history for most pick-sixes in a single season. That wasn’t all, though, as Bland finished with the fourth best passer rating allowed among qualifying corners. His season was truly one for the record books.

With Bland moving outside to replace Diggs, though, Jourdan Lewis was pushed back into the starting slot role. That came after he made a recovery from a Lisfranc injury suffered last year that, at one point, threatened to end his career. Lewis endured some struggles early on this season, as should be expected, but the veteran has rebounded nicely and played some of his best football these last three weeks, giving the Cowboys a formidable secondary ahead of their playoff journey.



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