The Atlanta Falcons are back up to 4-4 after an upset win over their hated rivals, the New Orleans Saints. That means Week 10 presents another chance for the team to get their first winning record since the 2017 season, but the opponent isn’t any easier. This week’s matchup is the Dallas Cowboys, who are sitting at 6-2 as one of the most dominant teams in the NFC this season.
Dallas showed some cracks last week after getting dominated on the ground by the Denver Broncos, and health could be an issue as LT Tyron Smith has not practiced this week and EDGE Randy Gregory was just placed on IR.
Can the Falcons show some consistency, and perhaps even secure another upset on the road in Week 10? Let’s take a closer look at the offensive and defensive stats to find out.
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 shocked the NFL by putting on an offense show against the vaunted Saints defense on the road, but their offensive statistics are still fairly average overall. Atlanta is 21st in scoring, 20th in total yardage, and T-22nd in yards per play. Their strength is undoubtedly the passing game, where the team has improved to 12th in yardage and T-18th in yards per attempt. Atlanta’s pass protection has been surprisingly good (4.4% sack rate, 8th), and Arthur Smith’s offense has continued to be efficient on third down (43.5% conversion rate, 10th) and in the red zone (63.0% TD rate, 12th).
It hasn’t all been pretty for the Falcons, as they’ve continued to put forth one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL. Atlanta is averaging just 80.4 rushing yards per game (29th) at a pitiful 3.4 yards per carry (31st). While far from being considered weaknesses, the team has been fairly mediocre in terms of turnovers (11.5% TO rate, T-18th) and in overall scoring efficiency (37.9%, 19th).
The Cowboys are one of the NFL’s very best offenses, and have been on a dominant pace over the first 10 weeks of the 2021 season. Dallas is currently 3rd in scoring, 1st in total yardage, and 1st in yards per play. They’ve been a truly balanced attack and are equally good passing—4th in yardage, T-5th in yards per attempt—and running the football (3rd in yardage, T-4th in yards per carry). The team has also been excellent on third down, converting 46.1% of opportunities (4th).
Dallas doesn’t really have any notable weaknesses on offense, but they’ve been fairly average in a few areas. The pass protection has been good (4.5% sack rate, 9th), but not as great as in years past. Turnovers have been a bit of an issue (11.5% TO rate, T-18th), as has the red zone offense (58.6% TD rate, 16th).
Offensive Advantage: Cowboys
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)|
Atlanta’s defense has been far from good, but their overall statistics are better than expected through the first 10 weeks of the season. The Falcons are 28th in scoring defense, 17th in total yardage allowed, and T-17th in yards per play. In a complete turnaround from last season, the team is actually pretty solid defending the pass: 13th in yardage allowed and T-10th in yards per attempt. They’ve also been relatively solid in the red zone, allowing just a 66.7% TD rate (T-21st).
The Falcons do have some notable weaknesses on defense, starting with the major one: the pass rush, or lack thereof. Atlanta is 31st in the league with a pathetic 18.6% pressure rate. As expected, this has led to major struggles on third down, where the team is allowing a 47.9% conversion rate (30th). The Falcons have been poor at stopping the run thus far, as they’re 24th in rushing yardage allowed and T-19th in yards per carry.
Dan Quinn’s defense was garnering accolades early in the season, but they’ve settled in as a largely below-average unit since then. The Cowboys are currently T-18th in scoring defense, 21st in total yards allowed, and T-27th in yards per play. Their biggest strength lies in creating turnovers: Dallas has been exceptionally opportunistic, with a 15.2% TO rate (6th) and 14 turnovers in just 8 games. They’ve also been good on third down, allowing just a 34.7% conversion rate (7th).
The weakness of the defense is against the pass, where the Cowboys have given up plenty of yardage thus far. Dallas is 25th in passing yardage allowed and T-22nd in yards per attempt. The pass rush has been fairly average with a 25.1% pressure rate (16th). Red zone defense has been an issue, as the Cowboys are allowing a 68.0% TD rate. While the rushing stats have been solid overall (10th in yardage allowed, T-14th in yards per carry), Dallas was blasted on the ground by the Broncos last week to the tune of 190 yards.
Defensive Advantage: Cowboys, slightly
The numbers tell a clear story: the Cowboys deserve to be favored in this one. They’ve been one of the elite offenses in the NFL this season, and are one of just three teams averaging over 30 points per game. Dallas has a major strength in that they’re equally good running the ball and passing it, which allows them to take advantage of opponents weaknesses. The Falcons have been steadily improving on offense and certainly would have a chance in a shootout, but it’s hard to outgun the Cowboys offense.
On defense, things are much murkier. The Cowboys are slightly favored due to their scoring defense, pass rush, and third down defense—but there isn’t very much actually separating these two units. I don’t expect Atlanta’s defense to have nearly as much success as they did against the Saints, but they’ll need to make at least a few plays for the offense to stand a chance. Just how big will the loss of Randy Gregory be for Dallas, and will the Falcons get a key contributor in Dante Fowler back this week?
Overall Projection: Cowboys favored
What are your thoughts on the Falcons’ Week 10 matchup with the Cowboys? Can Atlanta pull off the upset win and get back to a winning record on Sunday?