Look, basically every week you could make a solid case for the Falcons’ offense being something to feel confident about and the defense being a huge cause for concern. You can do that because with maybe 2-3 exceptions, it has been true all year.
Against the Dallas Cowboys, things may very well go the same way. But I also feel strangely confident and/or nervous about things I didn’t expect to feel that way about. Here’s what’s on my mind for Dallas tomorrow.
Feel confident about: Stopping the Dallas passing attack
This seems like a joke and may well prove to be, given Atlanta’s intermittent pass rush and well-chronicled struggles in the secondary. But I also think the Falcons may actually be able to actually put the brakes on this Cowboys passing attack, and if they can at least somewhat hold Ezekiel Elliott in check, that may be enough to win this one.
The reason for my confidence is what Dak Prescott and company have managed to do this year, even if I’m casting a wary eye in the direction of Amari Cooper. Dallas has thrown for 250 yards (and exactly 250 yards) just once this season, and have been held under 200 yards passing five times. Prescott simply does not look like one of the NFL’s top-shelf passers at the moment, and even with the addition of Cooper, this passing attack is not exactly stacked with weapons. Prescott’s been sacked 25 times, some by pretty weak pass rushes, and has managed just 11 touchdown passes in nine games. Besides Washington and Arizona, that’s about as good as it’s going to get for Atlanta all year.
The Falcons are also a bit due for a solid game. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford have taken a lot of abuse, and we’ve wondered aloud whether the Falcons should consider a shakeup at the cornerback position, but the lack of a pass rush and changes at safety have also done them no favors. They have a track record of quality performance, Takkarist McKinley has been mired in a sack drought, and Grady Jarrett is always lurking. I like Atlanta’s chances of preventing Prescott from killing them.
Of course, if he just throws short passes to Elliott all day, things could get ugly and I will deny I ever said this.
Worry about: Scoring enough points to win
At home, pretty healthy on offense, and facing a Dallas Cowboys defense that wasn’t all that special a year ago, it’s tempting to think the Falcons are going to blow the doors off Dallas. But it’s not a given.
While I have the Falcons scoring 30 in my own prediction, I do have to acknowledge that it’s based on my faith in this offense more than anything else. They just turned in a disappointing performance against the Browns a week ago, and the Browns blueprint of staying disciplined and keeping everything the Falcons wanted to do in the air in front of them is something Dallas can passably match too. The Cowboys have allowed 400 yards just twice and have been pretty damn stingy for a 4-5 team, with the season high scored against them clocking in at just 28 points, which happened just once. Just five of their opponents have even mustered 20 points in a game this season.
Dallas hasn’t faced an offense as good as Atlanta’s all season, so this is still one you shouldn’t be panicking over. But putting up points might still be more of a struggle than we’d like.