The Falcons are back home against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11 in another must win scenario. Here are three in-game matchups to watch closely.
Their backs are clearly against the wall at this point. After a humbling Week 10 loss to the Cleveland Browns on the road, the Atlanta Falcons now find themselves at a legitimate crossroads. With a 4-5 record, the margin for error is incredibly slim. A 1-4 start made every game that followed the subject of a playoff-like atmosphere and that does not change in this upcoming NFC battle with an equally desperate Dallas Cowboys. Let’s put this matchup under the microscope and pinpoint key match-ups to watch.
Falcons Front Seven vs. Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott
Last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys were able to give the defending champions a tough time while on offense thanks to the dynamic run game that is led by running back Ezekiel Elliott. On the ground, Dallas totaled 171 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 7.1 yards per carry. When able to generate consistency in the run game, not many teams are able to slow down or bottle up the Cowboys on offense.
The Falcons enter this contest ranking 21st in rushing yards allowed per game and 31st in rushing yards per carry allowed. They are fresh off an outing where they allowed 211 rushing yards to Cleveland and appear ripe for the Dallas offense. You can expect the Falcons to stack the box to attempt to eliminate the Dallas run game and the Falcons can not afford to allow the strength of the Dallas offense to set and maintain the tone.
Falcons Red Zone Offense vs. Cowboys Red Zone Defense
One of the few strength-on-strength aspects embedded within this contest. The Falcons offense has been very productive on the season in the red zone after the debacle in week one against Philadelphia. In the last 20 trips in the red zone for the Falcons, they have walked away with 15 touchdowns. As a whole, the offense is 7th in the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage at 69%. It has not been just force feeding star receiver Julio Jones once they enter this scoring territory. Quarterback Matt Ryan has done an excellent job in getting the likes of Tevin Coleman, Austin Hooper, and Calvin Ridley in the end zone in that part of the field.
But the Dallas defense has been stout themselves in keeping opponents out of the end zone. The Cowboys are sixth in the NFL in red zone scoring defense at 48%. Also keep in mind that the Dallas defense is third in the NFL in scoring defense at 19 points per game allowed. Scoring frequently against this underrated Dallas defense will be a challenge and scoring consistently in the red zone will be key in this showdown.
Falcons WR Julio Jones vs. Cowboys CBs Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie
Each level of the Cowboys defense has greatly improved from last season but the back end of the unit gets the least amount of attention. The Cowboys are eighth in the NFL in passing defense at 231.9 yards per game allowed. However, to be brutally honest, the Cowboys have not necessarily faced a legitimate passing offense this season outside of the Eagles last week, who are 10th in passing offense.
So why highlight just the likes of Jones here? Simply put, he is undoubtedly a lethal weapon that the Cowboys have not lined up against this season. Outside of Odell Beckham and DeAndre Hopkins, the caliber of talent that Jet Jones possesses can be overwhelming for a good Dallas secondary. Not to mention, the season is quite possibly on the line here and in three career games against Dallas, Jones is averaging 116 yards per game which is the second-highest yards per game total against an NFC team not within the NFC South.