Nobody would have thought after the Falcons hot 3-0 start that the talk around Atlanta heading into their week 10 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys would be whether or not this game is a must-win. But after dropping four of their last five games, including two at home to the Bills and Dolphins, this is a legitimate conversation heading into this weeks matchup.
Taking a look at the Falcons next five games:
Falcons next five games:
It is going to be a grind
— SportsTalkATL.com (@SportsTalkATL) November 5, 2017
It is likely four out of five of those teams will be in the NFC Playoffs, and the fifth is still a division rival. The good news for Atlanta is four out of five of these games will take place at home, with the only road game taking place in two weeks against Seattle.
The cream of the crop is beginning to rise to the top in the NFC, and Atlanta is starting to fall behind fast. The current sixth seed in the playoffs is the 5-3 Cowboys. The Falcons are a game out of a wild card berth and full two games back of the division leading Saints. Even worse news for Atlanta is a lot of these playoff teams are beginning to play their best football, while the same cannot be said for the Falcons. With 10-6 not even a guarantee to make the NFC playoffs, it is reasonable to say the Falcons have to split the two contests against the Cowboys and Seahawks to keep their playoff hopes alive. Considering Seattle is arguably the toughest place in the NFL to get a win, that makes this matchup with the Cowboys of the utmost importance.
In order to save their season and keep their playoff hopes alive, Atlanta is going to have to find a way to win this coming Sunday, which is a tall task facing a scorching hot Cowboys squad that has won three straight and looked great doing it. Beyond the record, the matchup looks like a tough one too. Atlanta has shown a tendency over the past few years to give up rushing yards and nobody runs the ball better than Dallas. The Cowboys, who should still have Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield will look to keep the ball on the ground early and often, control the clock, and come home with a victory. Dak Prescott has also played like an MVP-candidate this entire season. Even if the Falcons can stop Elliott, Prescott has thrown on nearly everyone and can also hurt defenses with his legs, something that tends to plague the Atlanta defense.
It is going to take a different Falcons team than the one that has shown up in recent weeks to beat an outstanding Cowboys team. However, if there was ever a tailor-made time for the Falcons to pull off a surprising upset, this would be it. The Cowboys are fresh off their biggest victory of the season at home against the Kansas City Chiefs, and it would be easy for them to come into this one a bit over-confident. Meanwhile, the Falcons are returning home after three consecutive games on the road with their backs against the wall. They know how important winning this game is in the playoff picture, and how hard the road will be to reach their goals if they lose this one. This is an Atlanta team that crushed Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers earlier in the season at home, and has the talent to do the same thing to Dallas this Sunday.
Matt Ryan said, “They don’t give out the trophy at this time of year,” and he is right, they do not. But they do eliminate teams from playoff contention this time of year, and the Falcons are really beginning to flirt with that line. Several teams around the NFC are looking much stronger than expected, and if the Falcons cannot turn it around beginning with this week, it is just a matter of time before they will be officially eliminated from playoff contention.