Dave Choate: Obviously, the injury bug has been biting Dallas hard. What's your outlook minus Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, in particular, and how will the offense adjust in their absence?
David Halprin: No doubt, this is going to be a very tough stretch for the Dallas Cowboys. They probably won't change much about their offense, but they will probably be a more conservative team. They will want to rely on their running game to control the ball, the clock, and keep Brandon Weeden from too much pressure. They won't be a downfield passing team as much without Dez, even though Weeden has the arm to go deep. I would expect a lot of the running game, then slants, curls, dumps to the running backs, etc. until Weeden starts to feel comfortable. Of course the score of the game will dictate a lot of that, but the Cowboys will likely be a more conservative team on offense.
Dave Choate: The defense is clearly talented. Who do Falcons fans need to know about the unit, who are the key players, and what can we expect from them Sunday?
David Halprin: The main guy is Sean Lee. He's back, he's healthy and he's been moved to weakside linebacker, the prime position in this defensive scheme. So far this year, he's been excellent and was just named the NFC Defensive Player of the week. It's hard to run on Dallas when he's patrolling the second level. Surprisingly, the Cowboys cornerback trio of Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Tyler Patmon have been playing well. There have been issues in past seasons with the coverage but so far this year they've done an excellent job at limiting big plays from the opposition. Dallas is not heavy blitzing team, but they are an attacking defense. They like to get penetration from the front four and then let the linebackers run to the ball carrier. They haven't gotten a lot of sacks so far, but they have been getting penetration.
Dave Choate: The offensive line gets a ton of love. Have they lived up to the hype thus far, and can your stable of backs put in a year that approximates DeMarco Murray's value last year?
David Halprin: As I've told many people lately, last year's running game was a magical, once-in-a-decade type season. So no, I don't expect things to be that good again, even if DeMarco Murray had stayed. But now without Romo and Dez, teams are going to stack the box and dare Dallas to throw. So the question is can this talented offensive line do the job? They are certainly capable, they are definitely worth their hype. They need to be effective enough to run even if teams stack the box, something they were able to do last year. I don't think the running backs are the problem, I think the o-line is getting it going and having Ron Leary back for this game should help.
David Halprin: I don't think the Cowboys will switch up their defense much, they usually don't for star receivers. Like many teams I'm sure they'll roll a safety in that direction when they can, and they'll try to make sure short passes don't turn into long gains. What they really need to do is get a decent pass rush, that will help slow down the Ryan-to-Jones connection.
Dave Choate: What are your expectations (and your score prediction, while we're at it) for this game?
David Halprin: If the Cowboys are going to win this game, I'm guessing it won't be a shootout. The Cowboys want to control the ball, the clock and let their defense help dictate things. So I'm going with a Cowboys victory at 20-17.