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Week 2 preview: Falcons vs. Cowboys

A must win game early in the season for the Falcons. Here is the complete preview.

Dallas Cowboys v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Falcons find themselves having to get up off the mat very early in the season to avoid a possible 0-2 hole. This time however, they find themselves traveling to Dallas to take on a Cowboys team that is also coming off a season opening defeat.

Plenty of talent will be on the field in this NFC showdown and the loser will find themselves in a tough hole to climb out of. Let’s break down the latest matchup between the Falcons and Cowboys.

About their opponent

The first game of the Mike McCarthy era yielded unfavorable results as the Cowboys fell short against the Los Angeles Rams, 20-17, on Sunday night. Going back to last season, the Cowboys were first overall in total offense and were 8-0 in games where the unit scored 31 points or more, so this was a disappointing result for them.

The Cowboys will enter this contest a little banged up as starting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is out six-to-eight weeks because of a broken collarbone. Starting tight end Blake Jarwin was also injured last week and is out for the season with a torn ACL, and Terrence Steele is starting at right tackle.

Key matchups

Falcons offensive line vs. Cowboys defensive line - If you watched the Sunday night contest between the Cowboys and the Rams, you would have noticed how active the Cowboys defensive line was. No, they did not accumulate a ton of numbers in regards to sacks and quarterback pressures but they were an athletic bunch that can be the nucleus of the Cowboys defense this season.

The Falcons for the most part fared well against Seattle’s defensive line. But this is a different unit. DeMarcus Lawrence, Aldon Smith, Everson Griffen, and Trysten Hill are all capable of being a physical group that can harass Matt Ryan and disrupt the run game.

David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Raheem Morris vs. Kellen Moore/Mike McCarthy - The season opener for the Falcons defense was one that produced many lessons. Hopefully those lessons learned against an efficient Seattle offense can carry over to a more talented offensive unit in Dallas.

A lot of that will be on the shoulders of Morris, the team’s defensive coordinator. Given that the Dallas offense can hurt in a defense in an abundant number of ways, it will be important for Morris to attack Dallas head on with blitzes, disguised pre-snap looks and a focus on winning on late downs.

Analytical outlook

It’s only one week worth of material but one thing stood out to me from last week’s Cowboys/Rams contest. According to Football Outsiders, the Cowboys are ranked 27th in average time of possession allowed per drive (3.33) and average plays allowed per drive (seven). In other words, the Rams were able to sustain drives methodically and won the overall time of possession, 35:38 to 24:22.

The Rams were able to produce 153 rushing yards with a good portion of it coming in the second half. I’m not necessarily concluding that the Falcons should rely heavily on Todd Gurley and the run game, but the Falcons will need to orchestrate drives that eat up clock and keep Ezekiel Elliott and company on the sideline.

Final thought

Despite the opponent and evident talent on the Dallas roster, this is very much a winnable game. There are a number of missed plays that were left on the field for the Falcons offense, yet they were still able to produce 506 yards and 25 points. They just have to get going sooner.

The Cowboys enter this matchup with key injuries, most notably on the defensive side where the Falcons can take advantage. The odd mistakes that were seen last week against Seattle must be absent or Dallas is all too capable of putting this away early.