Spins are an indicator that is quite dependent on luck. It doesn’t matter how hard your corners can cover the opponent’s receivers or how hard your midfield midfielders can attack. Most of the time, revenue is nothing more than being in the right place at the right time or having a series of lucky events fall into your lap. In 2021, the Dallas Cowboys’ defense greatly benefits from the rotation they force.
The Cowboys lead the league in both interceptions (26) and total passes (34). They also top the NFL in terms of revenue differential (+14). So great! Most of the time, the teams near the top of the revenue disparity rankings tend to have consistent success from season to season. Whether it’s because of a midfielder with an uncanny ability to manage the ball, or because of a suffocating defense with great ball-receiving ability, teams that sit high up in the standings tend to perform well during the season. next prize.
In 2020, the Titans lead in that category. They were the number 1 seed of the AFC last year. In 2019, it was the Patriots. They’re an exception, because, you know, they lost someone important next season. In 2018, the Seahawks played great in 2019, one of the best teams in the league, but unfortunately were in the same division as eventual NFC champions the San Francisco 49ers. You get the idea. This Cowboys team is different, and I’m not saying this because of the loss of Amari Cooper and the injury to Michael Gallup. Those are small losses in revenue differentials. The problem is that unlike all other teams, the Cowboys’ success comes from revenue.
In 2021, Dallas leads the league in the EPA from revenue with a staggering -166,9908. That’s the ninth-highest number in the last 10 years, and it’s not sustainable.
Over the past eight years, only six teams to rank in the top-3 for yearly EPA off turnovers wound up beating their total EPA/play the following year, and only four already had a negative defensive EPA/play to begin with. Of the 18 that got worse, only eight regressed by fewer than 0.05 points per play. Maybe the Cowboys could break that mold, but I wouldn’t bet against those odds.
Basically, the Cowboys would have to rely on getting all those interceptions again in order to be as solid a defensive team as they were last year. Given the volatility of their cornerbacks, which has been well-documented, it’s hard to imagine a similar defensive EPA at all if their turnovers are halved, which is somewhat likely. Since 2017, there hasn’t been a single player to lead the NFL in interceptions and record more than half of their total the following year. The Chargers’ Casey Hayward was the last to do so as he recorded 7 interceptions in 2016 and 4 in 2017, but none since, and that’s still 3 times less INT than the year before.
Of course, the holes in the side yard can be patched with an improved rush pass. While the Cowboys have had an effective pass speed, placing fourth in pressure speed and seventh in rush speed in 2021, they haven’t done much to improve that division this season. Sure, they used a second-round pick with Sam Williams, but he’s still behind Dorance Armstrong on the Cowboys depth rankings and I don’t see that changing in the near future. Basically, the Cowboys are practically putting the same defensive unit on the field this year, and after a year of making movies about the team, it’s only natural that Micah Parsons can now be disrupted in movie theaters.
That’s not me saying Parsons won’t be elite next year. It’s ridiculous, but we shouldn’t have expected such incredible numbers that he came up with his rookie season. Not to mention, Randy Gregory is gone, and he posted a 84.4 pass the peak class from PFF last year.
I know I wouldn’t take the bold step of predicting that the Cowboys wouldn’t make it this year, so I’ll take it one step further. The Cowboys won’t be anywhere as good as the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022, and the Eagles will finish the division in Week 14. That’s my prediction, and I’m sticking to it.