Pregame Analysis: Can Cowboys Pick up a Win in Atlanta?

We are near the mid-point of the NFL season and these two teams couldn’t be much farther apart at this point. You have the high flying Falcons undefeated 7-0 and talking about securing home field through out the playoffs while the Cowboys on the other hand, are a team struggling with a 3-4 record and looking to just win a game.

The Cowboys have been hit hard by injuries and they have a QB that is bipolar in his on field play. Good at times and very bad at times. Never know which one will show up. The depressing Romo showed up early last week against the Giants throwing 4 INTs but then the happy Romo returned to lead a remarkable comeback that fell a little short.

Do the Cowboys have any chance of winning this game in the Georgia Dome?

Yes, of course they do. It’s the NFL. Getting a win as a visiting team in the Georgia Dome will not be easy to say the least. The Falcons do have a significant home field advantage and they happen to have a pretty darn good team in 2012 too. But like all teams in the NFL, they aren’t without a weakness or two.

Let’s look at the matchups and see where Dallas just may have a chance at winning the game. Not a big chance but an opportunity at least.

Falcons Offense and Cowboys Defense:

QB Matt Ryan is having a great season with an NFL 3rd best QB rating of 103. WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White have combined for over 1,000 yards receiving so far in 2012. The strength of the Falcons offense is their passing game but that just happens to be where the Cowboys are strongest on defense.

The Falcons are 8th in the NFL in passing yards with 270/game while the Dallas defense is 3rd best in the NFL in fewest yards passing allowed at 187/game. Something will have to give here. I actually like how the Cowboys secondary matches up with the Falcons WRs.

In playing Eli and the Giants twice this year, which is a pretty good offense by the way, the Cowboys kept the Giants passing game in check.  In both games, the Cowboys defense held the Giants passing attack well under their normal 282 yards/game (actually higher than Falcons).

My Take: The Falcons have an outstanding passing game but this is an area where the Cowboys have performed well this year and they are healthy.

Cowboys Offense and Falcons Defense:

Looking at this match up, I can’t help but think of the Ravens game. The Falcons defense in many ways remind me of the Ravens defense who don’t allow a lot of points but are not particularly strong against the run.

So far in 2012 the Falcons defense has allowed 136 yards/game which ranks 26th in the NFL. This would be a very good time for the Cowboys to get their injured stud RB DeMarco Murray back but he hasn’t practiced so far this week and it looks unlikely he will play Sunday.

Against the Ravens, the Cowboys rushed for over 200 yards in a game they dominated TOP (time of possession) but still manged to lose in the end with some poor clock management and a missed FG. It was a game where the Cowboys offense limited Romo’s passing and pounded the ball. That may be the way to attack the Falcons as well.

Passing: As pointed out earlier, the Cowboys passing game has been up and down and flat out ugly at times. Romo has thrown 13 INTs already this season which is the most of any NFC QBs. The Falcons defense happens to be one of the best teams in the NFL at picking off passes too. They have 10 INTs this year which ranks them 3rd best in the NFL and only behind the Bears and the Giants, two teams that intercepted Romo more often than I care to think about.

My Take: The Dallas offense will need to pound the ball and run effectively against the Falcons defense even if they are without Murray. It is the weakness of the Falcons defense.

If the Cowboys ask Romo to pass on nearly every down, the Falcons will no doubt add some INTs to their already impressive totals.  Can’t see the Cowboys having a chance in this game if they throw 62 times again this week and abandon the run. Approach it more like the Ravens game.

KEYS:

  • Cowboys absolutely can not afford to get down by a lot early on the road. Avoid playing from behind and throwing every down.
  • Falcons passing game is impossible to shut down but Dallas can contain them to where they are in the game much like they did against the Giants.
  • Cowboys must run the ball at least 20 times in the game to think about getting a win. Commit to the run and stick with it. Give Dunbar some carries.
  • The Cowboys have been terrible in the take away/give away category this season.
  • The offense (ROMO) must take care of the ball and the defense must come up with a turnover or two.
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