The Falcons will take on the Dallas Cowboys on a national stage this Sunday night. The undefeated Falcons remain at the top of my own personal power rankings, based on the all-important statistics in the wins and losses columns, as well as my undeniable, shameless bias. The Cowboys are 3-4, and Tony Romo is, to put it mildly, mistake-prone. Even when the Cowboys have exhibited some fight in their losses, as they did last week in a game against the Giants that came down to Dez Bryant’s pinky finger landing out of bounds in the end zone, their offense has consistently made it difficult to overcome their own mistakes.
Let’s take a closer look at both teams’ strengths and weaknesses heading into Sunday’s game.
Dallas Offense vs. Atlanta’s Defense
Let’s start with the obvious. Tony Romo isn’t known as Romoception for nothing. Romo has thrown 13 interceptions this season, as compared to his nine passing touchdowns. The Cowboys currently have a turnover ratio of -11. Compare that with the Falcons turnover ratio of +10, and--on paper--it appears that we could be in for a really fun game on Sunday evening, Cris Collinsworth’s commentary aside.
Dallas has not established a very strong rushing game to this point of the season, and DeMarco Murray, their leading rusher this season, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday of this week with a foot injury. Felix Jones has also been limited with a knee injury. These injuries, as well as the improvements in Atlanta’s run defense that we saw last week against the Eagles, suggest that the Falcons should be able to contain Dallas on the ground.
Romo is not a bad quarterback, he’s just a mistake-prone quarterback, and he does have some very legitimate receiving threats. Jason Witten, Romo’s BFF and safety valve, is statistically comparable to our very own Tony Gonzalez this season, and Miles Austin and Dez Bryant (who did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday with a hip injury) are both physical receivers who have the potential to make Sunday a very long day if Romo can get the ball in their hands.
Sean Weatherspoon has been declared out for Sunday’s game with a low ankle sprain, and the wisest strategy for this team long-term is to get Spoon back to 100% as quickly as possible. However, the team will have to adjust to adequately cover Witten. It will be interesting to see what kind of defensive looks Mike Nolan puts on the field on Sunday, to bait Romo into turnovers, and to provide adequate pass coverage. Also, expect the Falcons to take advantage of the Dallas offensive line to keep Romo off balance. Dallas’ offensive line has collectively allowed 13 sacks, 17 hits and 66 hurries on Tony Romo this season.
Atlanta’s Offense vs. Dallas’ Defense
Dallas has one of the best pass rushers in the league in DeMarcus Ware, and their defense in general is very good. The Cowboys are ranked 13th in the league against the run, and 3rd in the league against the pass. This gets overlooked because of their record, and because of their offense’s staggering propensity for turnovers, but we can assume that Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith are fully aware of the potential the Dallas defense has to wreak havoc for the Falcons on Sunday.
Atlanta’s offensive line will need to be effective against the Cowboys. If the offensive line will adequately protect Matt and keep the pocket clean enough for him to execute, the Falcons will be fine. If they get manhandled by Ware and Jason Hatcher, things could go in an entirely different direction.
Much to the chagrin of my fantasy team, talented Dallas linebacker Sean Lee has been placed on injured reserve, and his backup, Dan Connor, is not expected to play this Sunday due to a neck injury. Although the Cowboys are collectively good against the run, these injuries at inside linebacker do provide an opportunity for the Falcons to establish the run on Sunday.
In Other News
This is fun--Star Wars connections in the NFL universe, featuring Tony Romo as Jar Jar Binks.
The Cowboys have, in the past, spoiled undefeated seasons for the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints, respectively, and it seems that many analysts expect them to do the same to the Falcons this Sunday. Well, Andy Reid had also won 13 post-bye games in a row, and analysts used that logic to predict that the Eagles would beat the Falcons, and that is not at all what actually happened. The Falcons should win on Sunday, but they are going to need to protect Matt Ryan and harass Tony Romo to get it done.
What are you looking for on Sunday? What is your bold prediction for this week’s game?