Falcons vs Cowboys are underdogs again, but they were in a similar situation last Sunday and they were able to pull off a nice road upset. Can they do it again this week?
A key game in the NFC wild-card race takes place Sunday at 1 p.m. ET when the Atlanta Falcons host the Dallas Cowboys. Both clubs are one game behind Green Bay in the NFC wild-card standings, and the winner will get a leg up in the battle for a coveted postseason spot. The Falcons (4-5) were considered a favorite to win the NFC South, but now sit a seemingly insurmountable four games behind the Saints. Atlanta is looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance in a 28-16 loss to the Browns. Meanwhile, Dallas (4-5) climbed into a tie for second place in the NFC East with its upset of Philadelphia, but remains two games behind the Redskins.
Pro Football Focus provides their weekly matchup preview, highlighting some key factors to keep an eye on, including how a change of scenery is helping the Cowboys newest receiver
Falcons 17 – Cowboys 24
I egregiously missed my Browns prediction last week, and failed to do the only thing that has made the Falcons win this year: pick the Falcons to lose. If the Falcons can overlook the Browns, they certainly can overlook the Cowboys with the Saints rematch only days away.
Falcons 30 – Cowboys 27
As unpredictable as the Falcons tend to be, the Cowboys are even more difficult to figure out. It’s clear they have an abundance of talent on their roster. How the front office has built their entire defense through the draft is extremely impressive. The lack of progression from Dak Prescott and poor coaching continues to limit them, especially in close games. Will both problems be solved for at least one week by the Falcons’ porous defense? Not getting Deion Jones back is a blow, while their most reliable players aren’t playing up to their usual standards. This is a massive game for Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. If they can’t elevate their game, it’s difficult to see how the defense slows down Dallas. It will take another sensational home performance from Matt Ryan to keep their fading playoff hopes alive. The former MVP will do just enough to get back to .500.
Falcons 31 – Dallas 27
Not having Deion Jones back out there this week, and the minor injuries at linebacker, hurt the team as they try to slow down Ezekiel Elliott. But this team slowed down Saquon Barkley earlier this season with this roster the way that it was, so I think they can succeed with Elliott, too. Though, it’ll be a lot closer than I suspected without Debo back in action. The offense will get its points at home; they’ve been doing that all season, averaging 32.2 points at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in five games. Though, two out of those five games were, somehow, losses, so the defense will have to get some stops to make sure Dallas doesn’t keep pace. It’ll be a nail-biter, but Atlanta gets a needed win and back to .500 on the season (at least until Thursday).
Falcons 28 – Cowboys 24
The Falcons’ defense showed they could limit a top-flight, dual-threat back in Saquon Barkley, and they’ll need a repeat of that performance against Ezekiel Elliott. Dak Prescott has been dreadful this season, so all of the attention should be focused on shutting down Elliott. If the Falcons can do that — and I believe they can — they win the football game. Expect the offense to get back on track at home.
Facons 34 – Cowboys 27
I’ve liked Atlanta’s chances in virtually every game against those against the Eagles and Steelers this year, and yet they’ve lost five of them. The reasons to feel truly confident continue to dwindle as this team squanders a terrific offense (and occasionally does not, you know, look terrific), play generally horrible defense, and occasionally fail to show up entirely.
Yet I still look at this team and find reasons to think they can and will get the job done. This week, it’s because they’re playing yet another NFC East team riddled with question marks, and they’re home and coming off a crushing loss that means there’s absolutely no way they should be taking this one lightly. They’re too good to screw up badly for a second week in a row, no matter how injured or annoying they’ve been this year, and thus they will put the pedal to the floor and pull this one out. Please.