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Thursday, September 12, 2013
What does an Andy Dalton win look like?

By Coley Harvey

Every Wednesday on ESPN's NFL Nation page, we evaluate each of the league's 32 starting quarterbacks as they prepare for their next game. The feature is called "QB Watch." Be on the lookout for it if you haven't yet seen it.

While writing this week's edition of the Cincinnati Bengals' "QB Watch" that featured Andy Dalton, I started wondering just what exactly, from a statistical standpoint, an Andy Dalton win looked like?

Mind you, I haven't yet seen one in person. This week's "Monday Night Football" game between the Bengals and Steelers will only be my second game covering the Bengals for ESPN. My first didn't go so well for the guys in the orange and black. Like them, I'm 0-1.

When I sat down to write this week's "QB Watch," I looked over as many of the third-year quarterback's stats as I could. Specifically, I settled upon his less-than-stellar overall numbers against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Aside from last December's late-season win that locked up a Bengals playoff berth, Dalton hadn't looked very good against Pittsburgh through his first two seasons.

So, I started thinking. What if we took averages of some of Dalton's more common statistics and separated them out by wins and losses? Looking strictly at the wins, what would be the benchmarks he must hit against the Steelers in order to, from a purely probability-based standpoint, win Monday night's game?

Obviously, there is no right or wrong answer here. As the stats below will show, extremes exist on both ends of the spectrum. Heck, look no further than last week. Dalton played well. He might have played one of the best games of his pro career when he threw for 282 yards and completed about 79 percent of his passes in the 24-21 loss to Chicago. All of that is to say that at the end of the day, these numbers really don't mean anything. It's just fun to debate and discuss them.

In the 25 games Dalton has played thus far, including playoff games, he sports a 19-16 record. The only teams he has beaten more than once are the Cleveland Browns (three times) and Indianapolis Colts (twice). Alternatively, he has lost multiple times to the Denver Broncos (twice), Pittsburgh (three times), the Baltimore Ravens (three times) and the Houston Texans (three times; including two playoff losses).

When it comes to winning, here's what the average Dalton stat line looks like:
When it comes to losing, here's what the average Dalton stat line looks like:


When it comes to touchdowns, interceptions and completion percentage, the difference in breakdown between wins and losses probably shakes out about the way we all might expect. That is to say, naturally, on average, Dalton has more touchdowns and a higher completion percentage in victories than defeats. His interceptions are higher in losses, as well.

The two areas where there is a little intrigue, though, are in the passing attempts and yards passing. In losing efforts, Dalton, on average, attempts more passes and throws for more yards than he does in wins.

Let's use the last game to take a look at the criteria Dalton met for a loss. Against the Bears ... he threw 33 passes (which is more than the 30 he has in wins, but less than the 36 he has in losses); he also had 282 yards passing (which greatly surpasses the average for both wins and losses); he also had two touchdowns and two interceptions; and completed about 79 percent of his passes (using the law of averages, that rating should have given him a win).

Here's where the averages get tossed out the window, though. In Dalton's 19 career wins, he has actually thrown 30 or more passes in 12 games. He also has attempted fewer than 36 passes in more than half of the 16 games he has lost.

Long story short, what does Dalton really have to do Monday night? Just take his own advice:

"I'm trying to win every game that I play, and I prepare that way."