The Atlanta Falcons are in need of a win in a major way this Sunday, and the Dallas Cowboys team they’ll be drawing as an opponent is down one Ezekiel Elliott. That should make the going easier, but Dallas is also not an easy opponent.
As always, though, there are reasons to feel confident and reasons to be nervous. I’ve picked one of each today, and here they are. I’ll freely admit you’re not gonna love the first one.
One reason to feel confident: The Falcons are due for some good luck
This maybe isn’t the best reason to feel confident, I’ll freely admit, but it’s the best I can do this week. Dallas is going to be able to get things going on offense and their defense is just good enough to worry about, so this one is going to hinge on whether the Falcons bring their A game or not. Fortunately, they are about eight games overdue for that.
The Falcons did not make it to the Super Bowl in 2016 by accident. I know it fits the historic narrative of these Falcons to follow an accidental Super Bowl berth with a terrible season, but the truth is that this Atlanta team is absolutely loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. They’ve been undone by poor coaching—and Steve Sarkisian’s offense has made very small but important strides the last two weeks—and atrocious execution and discipline on both sides of the ball. You can make the case that the Falcons have lost every game but the one against New England by virtue of a couple of those mistakes per game, and it would be a legitimate case.
So if a team is this talented and has shown in the past it can play terrific football, then what gives? My guess is that this team’s luck is due to turn, even if it’s not enduring, and getting home after a road swing against a Dallas team minus one of its two best offensive skill players seems like as good a time as any. Hopefully this is the game they put one together for four quarters, because they’re capable of it, and we’ve waited such a long time.
If you’re looking for a more concrete reason, the Falcons can absolutely run wild on this Dallas defense, if they so choose.
One reason to be nervous: Dallas running wild, still
You noted this earlier this week that the Falcons were on pace to allow more rushing yards than a year ago, when the run defense was pretty lousy, but like 800 fewer yards through the air. That means that I have real confidence in this team’s ability to slow down Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, and the rest of that Dallas passing attack, even if it’s juuust enough to keep them in the game.
I still worry about the ground game, though. Dallas has one of the sport’s premier offensive lines, an absolute juggernaut unit that regularly opens giant holes for Ezekiel Elliott, who barely needs them as is. Their fine work ensures that Darren McFadden and company will have some wiggle room, and against a struggling Falcons run defense, absolutely no one will be surprised if they roll up 100-plus yards and a couple of scores. Especially when Dak Prescott can also scramble when he feels like it, and do so quite effectively.
If this is one of those rare games where the Falcons can stop the run, they win. I feel pretty good about that prediction.