The Falcons return home for the first time in almost a month to face a gliding Dallas team. The Cowboys have won their last three games, while on the flip side, the Falcons have lost four of their last five. Both teams find themselves on the brink of making the second wild card spot through nine weeks of play, as both are looking for a huge win on Sunday evening.
Coming into the season, everyone had their calendars circled for this game if they were a fan for either of these teams. We thought that this would be a game between the possibly number one and two seeds, but unfortunately it is the other way around. The Falcons (4-4) and the Cowboys (5-3) are both on the outside looking in for the second spot in the wild card race. They are both also two games back of their divisions, which is a total shocker considering what both of their schedules have looked like thus far. Both teams have been a little disappointing after receiving the top two seeds in the playoffs last season, but the season is far from over for both squads.
The Falcons are coming off of a loss last week vs Carolina where they saw a two touchdown lead disappear in front of their eyes, losing 20-17. The Cowboys recorded their biggest victory of the season so far last week, when they took care of the Chiefs 28-17 at home with a dominant defensive performance. Each team has seen through their struggles so far this season, with the Falcons currently being in a funk right now and the Cowboys who got off to a slow start, but neither team has been dominated in any game on the stat sheet. Although both teams have lost at least three games a piece, they both rank in the top ten in both, total offense and defense.
The Falcons are still questioning whether they have found their identity on offense as the blame is being put on (by the fans) offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian. The offense has been productive statistically, but it is not showing up on the scoreboard at all. Meanwhile the Cowboys offense was certainly pertaining to the same problem, but has slowly started to come along over the past couple of weeks.
The Cowboys will be missing one solid piece of the puzzle on offense this week and that is Ezekiel Elliott, who will now serve his six-game suspension after violating the sexual assault policy, and will be a huge factor in the run game for the Cowboys on Sunday. The next men up for the Cowboys back field are Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. The Falcons will have a much better chance of containing the run against the Cowboys with Elliott being out, but with that being said, Morris and McFadden have each rushed for 1,000 yards seasons before, plus the legs of Dak Prescott are nothing to lay back on either.
Offensively for the Falcons, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman are both expected to play Sunday with injuries as they are heavily relied on for the offense’s success. Matt Ryan said that the offense prepares to finally find their firepower this weekend after a good week of practice, which is a good sign except for the fact that we have probably heard that line for the past three or four weeks before this game. Matt Bryant will also be fine this week and be able to attempt most kicks for the Falcons, after being held back last weekend with a leg strain that occured midway through the game.
Dallas will of course be without running back Ezekiel Elliott due to suspension, but there are a few more injured Cowboys that will either not play or be limited in Sunday’s contest as well. Dez Bryant is questionable with a lower knee injury that could more than likely keep him sidelined during the game. Also, the Cowboys will be without one of their top offensive lineman, Tyron Smith, who was ruled out with a groin strain that has kept him out of practice all week. For the defense, Sean Lee will play after practicing on Thursday and Friday, but expect the Cowboys to have him on high notice. Finally, Dan Bailey will not play after being held out of practice all week, which the Cowboys will, once again, rely on the foot of Mike Nugent.
The Falcons are also having kicker problems with Matt Bryant, but Matt practiced Friday and was said that he should be able to kick this weekend without major problems, although he will probably not attempt anything outside of his comfort zone. Julio Jones did not practice Wednesday and Thursday, but practiced Friday and said that he felt he would be a 100% go on Sunday. Meanwhile Devonta Freeman and guard, Andy Levitre, are expected to play after practicing on Friday. On the other side of the ball, Takk Mckinley, Desmond Trufant, and Grady Jarrett all practiced Friday and are going to play certainly on Sunday. The only Falcon that was ruled out for the game was Duke Riley with a leg injury that will keep him out for the second week in a row.
-Run Defense: Cowboys
-Pass Defense: Falcons
Special Teams: Falcons
Falcons 28 Cowboys 23
I think that the loss of top offensive lineman, Tyron Smith, and the suspension of Ezekiel Elliott will impact the result of the game greatly. I also believe that the Falcons have a slight edge with the kicker situation since this is Nugent’s third game being played this season. The Falcons have a solid enough defense to hold a banged up Dez Bryant and Dak Prescott to less than 25 points. Also, the offense should start to pick up because of how long they have had to figure it out, plus they are at home for the first time in a month.
The Falcons are finally back at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, although they are 1-2 at home with a pair of losses to AFC teams. It was announced that the roof will be closed in Atlanta for the remainder of the season a few weeks ago, which will not allow the weather to have an impact at all. The stadium should not have any bright spots seeking their way into the stadium due to the time change and the game will be played at 4:05 ET. The starting time will also allow the game to be nationally broadcast on FOX. The Falcons look to get back on track with a win and are trying to avoid being below .500, while in the process jump over the Cowboys in a super tight battle for the second wild card spot in the NFC.