FRISCO, Texas – Here's my weekly look at the two factors I think will decide this weekend's game between the Cowboys and Browns.
Dallas Cowboys win if:
Fans tend to focus on time of possession as the most important stat when it comes to the success or failure of a team. Though holding the ball is an indicator of how well a team is playing, it is what you do with the ball that's really the most important.
Dallas offensively is one of the best in the league when it comes to taking the ball and finding ways to score points. Through seven games this season, they have started 72 drives, with 21 of those ending up in touchdowns. That's 29 percent of the time, this offense has put the ball in the end zone. There have been 14 other drives that have ended up in field goals for a total of 19 percent of the time. Combining the two, the Cowboys have had 35 drives that have ended up in points. Which means their scoring efficiency is right at 48 percent, which is second-best in the league.
The Cleveland Browns, on the other hand, are scoring at a rate of just 29 percent overall -- which only matches what the Cowboys do when finishing drives with touchdowns. Dallas wins this game not by winning the time of possession battle, but by putting too much pressure on this Cleveland offense to have to score right along with them. That's an area that they are not comfortable playing in.
Cleveland Browns win if:
As much as the Browns have had their troubles finishing drives with scores, they have been able to create those explosive plays that Jason Garrett and this coaching staff like to track. The Browns currently rank 10th in the NFL when it comes to those plays of 20 or more yards.
To date, they've had six runs in this category, and two of those runs have ended up in the end zone. On average, the Browns' big running plays come at a 33-yard per carry clip. When it comes to throwing the ball, they've had 25 of those big plays -- but only one of those passes has resulted in a touchdown. On average, those pass plays come out to 31 yards per completion.
For the Cleveland Browns to win this game, they're going to have to take advantage of their ability to create those big plays. The Cowboys will have a different look in the secondary in this game with no Morris Claiborne and Barry Church, who have been two of their better defenders in both the run and pass. It will be interesting to see how the extended playing time affects J.J. WIlcox, Jeff Heath and rookie Kavon Frazier in limiting these Browns big plays.