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Stat Pack: Cowboys underachieving

Pro Football Focus

Pro Football Focus uses a complex system to analyze every NFL player involved in every snap in every game and assigns a grade based on how he performed on that play, with each position having its own set of grading guidelines. Plus/minus scores are given in 0.5 increments and a small normalization factor is applied to make 0.0 the average grade for a game or season. To learn more, visit www.profootballfocus.com.

Three statistical takeaways from the Cowboys’ season to date:

1. The Cowboys statistically are much better than their 4-8 record would indicate. In PFF’s team rankings, Dallas ranks 16th with an overall grade of +30.3. By comparison, the Packers rank 10th with a grade of +88.7; the Patriots (+222.8) and Panthers (+210.6) are the only teams with grades above 200. The Cowboys’ grade ranks them ahead of several teams with better records, including the Bills (6-6 record, -19.5 grade), Jets (7-5, -20.5) and Buccaneers (6-6, -62.3).

2. Dez Bryant’s return from a foot injury has injected some life into the Cowboys’ passing game. Bryant (+2.0) has helped take some pressure off Terrance Williams, who has struggled (-2.2) while being asked to handle No. 1 receiver duties for much of this season. Tight end Jason Witten (-13.3) has the lowest grade of any Cowboys pass catcher, but much of that is due to his deficiencies in run blocking (a team-worst -8.7).

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) catches a pass as Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis (58) defends during the second half of an NFL football game Nov. 26, 2015, in Arlington, Texas.

3. On defense, linebacker Sean Lee is having an excellent season (+15.6 overall grade, +12 in pass coverage, both team highs). Cornerback Morris Claiborne (-11.2 overall, -6.7 in pass coverage, both team worsts) and linebacker Anthony Hitchens (-10.3 overall, team-worst -9.2 in run defense) have been disappointments.