This Sunday the Dallas Cowboys (5-3) will travel to the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium to take on the Atlanta Falcons (4-4) in America’s Game of the Week. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25 p.m. and the game will be televised on FOX with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on the call.
The biggest news heading into this game is the same narrative that has been plaguing the Cowboys all year: Ezekiel Elliott‘s pending suspension. In an unbelievable turn of events, Elliott’s most recent temporary injunction was dissolved on Thursday meaning his 6-game suspension starts this week. I’ve said it countless times, but I’ll say it again. The NFL should be embarrassed by the relentless witch-hunt tactics they’ve used to make sure Zeke is off the field. They have dragged his name through the mud and now the suspension comes into play during the most important stretch of the season.
Unfortunately, the show must go on without Zeke. But the good news is Dallas has been absolutely rolling, winning three straight games after their bye week. They’re going to need to ride this momentum as they travel to last year’s NFC champion this week. The Atlanta Falcons have been an interesting story as after starting 3-0, they have gone 1-4 in their last five games. It seems that without offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan, Atlanta is reverting to the usual average team that we are used to seeing. Nonetheless, they are still a high powered offense.
The Falcons 257 passing yards per game rank sixth in the league, but they have struggled to find balance in the run game. While they still rank a modest 13th in rushing yards per game, they haven’t been able to score anywhere near as many points as they put up last year, ranking 17th. In their most recent loss against the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons offense looked shockingly slow. In an even more surprising instance, Julio Jones dropped a WIDE open touchdown pass that would’ve given them the lead and probably the win. One can only assume that the frustrations are mounting in Atlanta, which bodes well for the Cowboys considering they enter this game as one of the hottest teams in the league.
The Cowboys currently rank fourth in points scored and second in rushing yards per game. Obviously the rushing attack will look completely different without Elliott, but still will be strong with the duo of Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. However, the offensive line will also be lacking with Tyron Smith listed as doubtful with a groin injury. Dallas will be forced to be creative with their rushing attack and it will certainly be interesting to see how they utilize their backs.
Despite the loss of Elliott and probably Smith, I firmly believe the Cowboys’ offense will still thrive, and the proof is in last week’s game. Last week the Cowboys prepared a game plan as if Elliott would not be available for the game. It turned out that he was able to play, but Dallas strongly focused on the passing game and Dak Prescott did not disappoint against a very good Kansas City defense. He competed 21 passes on 33 attempts for 249 yards with two touchdowns. Dak also added in a rushing touchdown to add to his impressive performance. Prescott showed unbelievable poise and pocket presence, was able to throw the deep ball with ease and displayed a strong ability to throw the ball on the run. I wrote last week that Elliott’s suspension is an unbelievable opportunity for Prescott to showcase his true ability, and now is truly the time for us to see what he’s got.
I see Dak having a huge day in Atlanta as the Falcons defense has been struggling. They rank 14th in points scored against and 18th in pass yards allowed per game. If they can get Morris and McFadden going early, Dak will be able to pull play action passes and push the corner. Prescott’s dual threat capabilities have been proving to be problematic for defenses all year. He has been surgically efficient and has one of the best touchdown to interception ratio’s in the league. I personally cannot wait to see Dak become the focal point of the offense and think this week is the perfect opportunity to show everyone he doesn’t need Zeke to thrive.
Dallas’ defensive line has become one of the most disruptive units in the league. David Irving and Demarcus Lawrence have been an absolute wrecking crew. Look for them to run through a weak Atlanta offensive line and pressure Matt Ryan from the first whistle. If Dallas is able to contain Julio, which is easier said than done, the Falcons will quickly run out of options. Dallas’ defense has gained a reputation for being the weak link of the team, but their play of recent has been extremely impressive. Sean Lee‘s return has been tremendous as it’s obvious his presence is irreplaceable. He is the backbone of Dallas’ defense, look for him to be flying around the field as he always does.
Even without Zeke I think the Cowboys have a strong chance of winning this football game. They are catching the Falcons in the midst of a huge slump, while Dallas is quickly trending upward. I think Dak will solidify himself as a top franchise quarterback by leading the Cowboys to a dominant victory in Atlanta.
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 38 Atlanta Falcons 24
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