This Monday, the Chicago Bears (6-6) take on the Dallas Cowboys (7-5) under the bright lights of a national telecast. The Bears suffered a horrible defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings in Week 13, leaving analysts, experts, and fans scratching their respective heads. The Cowboys barely held on to victory on Thanksgiving day against a largely mediocre Oakland squad, retaining first place atop the NFC East nonetheless. Chicago and Dallas mirror each other in more ways than one. Let’s go inside the numbers, thanks to the analytics from Pro Football Focus.
The Dallas Cowboys have the league’s 10th best overall offense, with a (44.2) grade. Much of the offensive success can and should be attributed to Tony Romo, who has posted a top ten PFF QB Rating with a (90.72) grade. Ironically, Romo ranks just behind Jay Cutler (91.11) and four spots behind Josh McCown (96.01). Clearly, then, quarterback play has not hampered either team, yet both squads experienced wild variations in their overall performances. Romo enjoys throwing to the enigmatic Dez Bryant, as seen by Tony’s 106.0 directional QB rating. Bryant, like the Bears’ Brandon Marshall does not represent so much as a deep threat, but an elite possession receiver instead. The Cowboys hope that Dez can develop into a player of Marshall’s caliber with another year of experience and maturity. The two receivers seem to have similar career trajectories.
Romo has benefited from improved offensive line play, primarily from left tackle Tyron Smith. The ninth overall pick in 2011, Smith has cemented himself as one of the premier blindside protectors, which is astonishing given the fact that he will turn 23 years old in Week 15. Smith owns a (16.5) overall grade, good enough to place him in the top ten at his position. Right tackle Doug Free, a Northern Illinois University alum, has been outstanding as well with an overall (12.1) grade. At center, rookie Travis Frederick (7.2) has also amassed a top ten positional grade thus far. The line keeps Romo upright and opens fairly substantial holes for running back Demarco Murray who has posted yet another top ten positional grade with his (12.1) rating. “America’s Team” certainly does not lack offensive talent. Big D’s defense, however, has been anything but big.