Falcons vs. Cowboys: 5 Key Players


Takkarist McKinley

Is it me, or are we quite a bit overdue for a Takkarist McKinley sack dance? The first-round pick got off to a lightning quick start to his sophomore campaign, recording 4.5 sacks in his first three games played. In five games since, McKinley has only come up with one sack, and that was when facing a dreadful Giants’ offensive line.

The Cowboys’ offensive line has been talked about for years as one of the best. They still have some fantastic players in the trenches, but they are nowhere near what they once were. Prescott also has an issue with holding onto the ball for too long allowing him to get sacked. The Falcons are going to have their opportunities for some pressure, and McKinley is the guy to watch out for.

Leighton Vander Esch

I admit it when the Cowboys took Leighton Vader Esch with the #19 overall pick my immediate thought was “who?” I do not think anybody who pays attention to the NFL can say that anymore. Vander Esch introduced himself to the world in the Cowboys Sunday night victory over the Eagles last week. He came up with 13 tackles, which surprisingly is not even a career high for him and he has only started in four of nine games.

The first-round pick is leading the Cowboys in tackles. No rookie has ever done that over a full season. In a couple years from now, there will not be conversations about the best middle linebacker in football without mentioning Leighton Vader Esch. He is that talented, that big and that fast. The Falcons offense is going to have their hands full blocking him and his running mate Jaylon Smith.

Robert Alford

As of today, Robert Alford is still a starting cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons. However, there is no way that will be the case for long if he doesn’t improve his play dramatically very soon. Atlanta has a capable back up behind him in Isaiah Oliver and every game has become a must-win. The Cowboys may have acquired Amari Cooper prior to the trade deadline, but this is still a group of receivers lacking explosiveness. There no reason Alford should find himself getting beat and committing penalties. If he does, this could be the last we see from him, as a starter at least.

Austin Hooper

Austin Hooper has not received enough credit for his progression in year three. You always hear all offseason how “Player A” has been putting in a ton of work in their off-time to take the next step, but often times that never translates to the field. In Hooper’s case, the results are speaking for themselves.

Just nine games into 2018, Hooper is only three receptions shy of his 2018 total. I am going to go ahead and predict he eclipses that total on Sunday because he has effectively become Matt Ryan‘s safety blanket in the middle of the field. Ryan loves having a quality tight-end, and this is the first time he’s had one since Tony Gonzalez retired back in 2013. Dallas has proven themselves to be a stingy defense but vulnerable against tight-ends at times. The Ryan to Hooper connection will continue to be at it’s best in week 11.

Dak Prescott

I hate to put quarterbacks on this list, but Prescott really has been the X-Factor for the entire team this year. If he plays well, they are going to be a really tough group to beat. The defense is among the best in the NFL and we all know about Ezekiel Elliott and their running game.

As everybody knows by now, the Falcons defense is pretty bad and has the tendency to give up a lot of yardage to opposing quarterbacks. Prescott has not had a 300-yard game in close to two years. The Falcons have not stopped a QB from throwing for 300 yards or 3 TD since week one when their defense was fully healthy. Something has to give here.

The Falcons full focus should be on slowing down Elliott and making Prescott beat them. That seems to be the recipe for success against the Cowboys. If Dallas wants to come up with a crucial win, Prescott has to play as he did in Philadelphia a week ago.

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