Two 4-5 teams looking to keep up in the NFC Playoff hunt kickoff Sunday in a game with huge implications towards the postseason. The Cowboys lead the all time series 14-11, but the Falcons have won 3 straight over the Cowboys.
The Cowboys defeated their division rival Eagles 27-20 on Sunday night. In week 7,they lost 20-17 to the Redskins, had a bye in week 8, and they lost 28-14 to the Titans in week 9.
The Falcons lost to the Browns 28-16 last week. In week 7, they beat the Giants 23-20, had a bye in week 8, and handled the Redskins 38-14 in week 9.
Bovada have the Falcons as 3 point favourites at home, with an O/U total of 48.
The Cowboys won a hard fought divisional game Sunday night, but I don’t know how indicative the game is of future success. They still struggle offensively when they cant run the ball, as indicated by Dak Prescott’s passing numbers. Dak is 27th in the NFL in passing yards at 1930, and has only thrown 11 TDs to 5 INTs, while averaging 7.1 yards per attempt at 64.1% completion. Amari Cooper has provided a nice bump as a route runner, catching 11 passes for 133 yards and a TD in 2 games, while Cole Beasley leads the team in receptions (40), yards (403), and TDs (tied, 2). Ezekiel Elliot has also been a fixture in the passing game, catching 35 passes for 262 yards and 2 TDs on the year. Elliot is 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards with 831 averaging 4.9 yards per carry and just 4 TDs.
The Cowboys defense has been stellar, allowing just 19 PPG which ranks 3rd best. They are top 10 defending the pass, allowing just 231.9 yards per game, and have given up just 12 TD (t-2nd). They are top 10 in defending the run, allowing just 96.7 yards per game, and have allowed just 6 TDs. They are not great at turning teams over, but have 3 interceptions and 6 fumble recoveries, and are near the top of the league in sacks with 25.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
EDGE Taco Charlton (shoulder) – questionable, OG Connor Williams (knee) – questionable, LB Sean Lee (hamstring) – out
The Falcons offense has been playing at a high level this year. Matt Ryan is putting together a season that rivals his 2016 MVP season. Ryan is 3rd in the league in passing yards with 3015, and has thrown for 21 TDs to just 3 INTs. He is averaging 8.5 yards per attempt and completing 71.1% of his passes. His top target, Julio Jones, is the first player in the NFL to reach 1000 yards this season. Jones has 67 catches for 1040 yards and 2 TDs this year, while Calvin Ridley, Austin Hooper and Mohamed Sanu all have over 30 catches, 400 yards and 3 TDs. Ito Smith and Tevin Coleman have combined for 159 carries, 631 yards, and 6 TDs on the ground.
Atlanta’s defense has not been great, but has faced a lot of adversity due to injuries, and are bottom 5 in points per game at 28.2 PPG. They are bottom 3 in passing defense, allowing 294.4 yards per game and 21 TDs. They are average defending the run, allowing 119.9 yards per game on the ground and have given up 11 TDs (t-5th worst). They also aren’t forcing turnovers at a great rate, picking off 9 passes but recovering just 1 fumble, and have struggled to rush the passer, picking up just 17 sacks this year.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
LB Deion Jones (foot) – questionable, K Matt Bryant (hamstring) – questionable
The Cowboys should be able to move the ball against a shaky Falcons defense that was gashed by the Browns last week. While the Falcons coverage has been their biggest weakness, I don’t see Dak lighting them up to a huge degree. Instead, I see Zeke having another huge game including a few receptions for big gains. The Falcons have talent on the defensive line, and they need to step up big time for them to stop the Cowboys consistently.
The Falcons offense versus the Cowboys defense will be the matchup of the game. Matt Ryan has been very good this year and the Cowboys pass defense is near the top of the league. Byron Jones on Julio Jones will be a huge internal matchup and if Ryan cant get the ball to Jones, the other options will have to step up as I don’t think the Falcons will be able to run the ball with much success against a stellar Dallas front 7. With all that said, I think the Falcons are the more viable team, with a better quarterback and better coaching staff, and will be able to exploit the Cowboys when it matters. Give us Atlanta to cover at home.
Final Pick: Falcons (-3)