With a disappointing Week 1 loss to the Seahawks behind us, Falcons fans can now look forward to a difficult game against the Cowboys on Sunday. Atlanta must travel to take on a Dallas squad that was considered a Super Bowl contender heading into the season. That’s not an easy ask, particularly for a team who fell completely flat on opening day for the third time in three seasons.
The good news is that Dan Quinn has never lost a Week 2 game as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. If random statistics mean anything to you, then the Falcons should have this one in the bag! In reality, these two teams are probably matched up more closely than you might think based on their Week 1 performances. While Dallas certainly wasn’t the train wreck the Falcons were, they put forth a disappointing showing against the Rams—a game that most pundits expected them to win handily.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Falcons and the Cowboys match up statistically on offense and defense. Keep in mind that these stats are based on Week 1 only, so they could change drastically over the coming weeks.
OFFENSE - WEEK 10
|Points/game||21.9 (21st)||30.1 (3rd)|
|Total yards/game||338.0 (20th)||434.3 (1st)|
|Yards per play||5.3 (T-22nd)||6.4 (1st)|
|Passing yards/game||257.6 (12th)||291.5 (4th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||7.1 (T-18th)||8.2 (T-5th)|
|Sack Percentage||4.4% (8th)||4.5% (9th)|
|Rushing yards/game||80.4 (29th)||142.8 (3rd)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||3.4 (31st)||4.9 (T-4th)|
|Scoring Efficiency||37.9% (19th)||46.0% (4th)|
|Red Zone Efficiency||63.0% (12th)||58.6% (16th)|
|Turnover Percentage||11.5% (T-18th)||11.5% (T-18th)|
|Third Down Efficiency||43.5% (10th)||46.1% (4th)|
The Falcons offense was a big of an enigma in Week 1: strong yardage numbers coupled with very average scoring. If this sounds familiar, that’s because the team had the same problem in 2019. Atlanta is currently 14th in scoring offense, but 2nd in total yardage and T-3rd in yards per play. They’ve been among the league’s best in the passing game, and are currently 1st in yardage, T-6th in yards per attempt, and T-8th in passing TDs. On the ground, the Falcons were pretty bad. Atlanta is 29th in yardage, 25th in yards per carry, and T-10th in rushing TDs (with 1). The offense was effective on third down, converting 50% of their opportunities, and protected Matt Ryan well with only a 3.6% sack rate (13th).
The Cowboys offense—thought to be one of the best in the NFL—struggled a bit in Week 1 against the Rams. Dallas is currently T-23rd in scoring, 12th in total yardage, and T-15th in yards per play. In the passing game, the Cowboys were fairly average: 13th in yardage, T-17th in yards per attempt, and T-17th in passing TDs. Dallas was more effective on the ground, as the team is currently 11th in rushing yardage, T-6th in yards per carry, and T-10th in rushing TDs. The Cowboys had big issues on third down, converting just 25% of their opportunities. Dallas’ offensive line was also an issue, with Dak Prescott under significant pressure (7.1% sack rate, T-20th).
Offensive Advantage: Falcons
DEFENSE - WEEK 10
|Points/game||27.5 (28th)||24.0 (T-18th)|
|Total yards/game||360.5 (17th)||371.5 (21st)|
|Yards per play||5.6 (T-17th)||6.0 (T-27th)|
|Passing yards/game||237.4 (13th)||270.5 (25th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||7.1 (T-10th)||7.8 (T-22nd)|
|Pressure Rate||18.6% (31st)||25.1% (16th)|
|Rushing yards/game||123.1 (24th)||101.0 (10th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.4 (T-19th)||4.3 (T-14th)|
|Scoring Efficiency||43.9% (25th)||35.9% (13th)|
|Red Zone Efficiency||66.7% (T-21st)||68.0% (25th)|
|Turnover Percentage||8.5% (24th)||15.2% (6th)|
|Third Down Efficiency||47.9% (30th)||34.7% (7th)|
The Falcons kicked off the 2020 season with an atrocious defensive performance, ranking near the bottom of the league in most statistics. Atlanta is currently T-30th in scoring defense, 24th in total yardage allowed, and T-28th in yards per play allowed. The Falcons were abysmal against the pass: 28th in passing yardage allowed, 30th in yards per attempt allowed, and tied for worst in passing TDs allowed with 4. However, the team was better against the run: 7th in rushing yardage allowed, 17th in yards per carry allowed, and T-9th in rushing TDs allowed. Despite what you may think, the Falcons were actually good on third down, allowing only a 33.3% conversion rate. Much of that had to do with putting consistent pressure on Wilson, and Atlanta is currently 4th in pressure rate (30.8%) as a result.
The Cowboys defense also had its fair share of difficulties in Week 1. Dallas is currently T-11th in scoring defense, 28th in total yardage allowed, and T-21st in yards per play allowed. Against the pass, the Cowboys are 25th in yardage allowed, 29th in yards per attempt allowed, and T-1st in passing TDs (0 allowed thus far). On the ground, the Dallas defense struggled mightily. The team is currently 27th in rushing yardage allowed, T-11th in yards per carry allowed, and T-24th in rushing TDs allowed. Third down was an issue for the Cowboys, as the defense allowed a 52.9% conversion rate. The team struggled to apply consistent pressure on Jared Goff as well, with just an 11.8% pressure rate (28th).
Defensive Advantage: Cowboys
Despite the very bad Week 1 performance by the Falcons—and the hype train still being largely behind the Cowboys—the stats show a fairly evenly matched game on Sunday. Atlanta’s offense, despite its scoring issues, is still comfortably ahead of Dallas’ overall. The Falcons’ passing attack is among the best in the NFL, and they could take advantage of a Cowboys defense that struggled to stop Jared Goff and the Rams in Week 1. The combination of a young secondary and a pass rush that couldn’t produce consistent pressure could lead to a high scoring total for Atlanta. Todd Gurley could also have more success this week against a defense that allowed 156 rushing yards against Los Angeles.
On the other side of the ball, the Falcons defense clearly isn’t good but has been able to do one thing consistently well: stop the run. That appears to have carried over to 2020, as minus a single Russell Wilson scramble the Falcons allowed just 56 yards on the ground (2.95 YPC) to one of the NFL’s best rushing attacks. Despite the Cowboys’ WR talent, they had more consistent success on the ground than through the air in Week 1. I wouldn’t expect Atlanta’s defense to make major strides this week—and Dallas’ passing game is probably better than they appeared against Los Angeles—but this isn’t as lopsided a matchup as you might think at first glance.
Overall Projection: Evenly matched
What are your thoughts on Atlanta’s Week 2 matchup with Dallas? Can the Falcons improve their scoring numbers against a vulnerable Cowboys defense? Is there any hope at all for Atlanta’s defense to put the clamps on Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott?