The Atlanta Falcons made a deafening statement with last week’s domination of the Philadelphia Eagles. With the win, the Falcons moved to 7-0 and remained the lone unbeaten team in the NFL.
On Sunday night, the Falcons look to improve to 8-0 as they host the Dallas Cowboys (3-4). A win would subdue the Falcons’ naysayers for another week; a loss would get those naysayers chirping again.
History is on the Cowboys’ side for this game. Since 1991, 16 teams have started the season with a 7-0 record. The Cowboys have faced three of those teams – the 1991 Washington Redskins (11-0), the 2006 Indianapolis Colts (9-0), and the 2009 New Orleans Saints (13-0) – and beat all three.
However, there is good news for the Falcons if they fall to the Cowboys: the Colts, Redskins, and Saints all went on to win the Super Bowl in their respective years.
Dallas is coming off a roller coaster loss that saw them go down 23-0 to the New York Giants almost immediately after the game started. The Cowboys clawed their way back to take a 24-23 lead but ended up losing the game 29-24. Wide receiver Dez Bryant had a chance to win the game, but his fingertips were out on bounds on the thought-to-be touchdown catch.
The Cowboys put themselves in the 23-0 deficit largely from the turnovers of quarterback Tony Romo. While Romo ended up throwing for a career-high 437 yards, he also threw four interceptions. On the season, he has 13 interceptions – good for first in the league – to just nine touchdowns.
Atlanta should be able to capitalize on the turnover-prone Romo, although they failed to generate a turnover versus Michael Vick last week (linebacker Stephen Nicholas did drop a sure-fire pick-six).
Matt Ryan has been playing at an MVP-level this season. He will help his campaign immensely if he performs well against the Cowboys’ third-ranked passing defense, led by cornerbacks Brandon Carr (a high-priced free agent acquisition) and Morris Claiborne (a rookie drafted sixth overall out of LSU).
In fact, Dallas’ defense is ranked fourth overall…but that’s in yards allowed. The Cowboys allow 23.1 points per game, which ranks them 18th in the league. Their rankings on offense follow a similar route: they’re ranked seventh in yards per game, but 23rd in points per game. The discrepancy in points and yards can largely be attributed to the aforementioned turnovers.
The Falcons could have trouble containing Jason, who caught 18 passes last week – an NFL-record for tight ends. The Falcons linebacker likely to cover Witten is Sean Weatherspoon, but he’s dealing with a low ankle sprain suffered last week against the Eagles. Weatherspoon was held out of practice yesterday, and his status for Sunday is unclear. If he can’t go, it would be disastrous for the Falcons.
Atlanta’s run game came alive last week. They rushed for a season-high 146 yards, and Jacquizz Rodgers had the team’s longest run on the season of 43 yards.
The last time Dallas came to the Georgia Dome was in 2006, and they left with a 38-28 victory. The Falcons faced the Cowboys in Dallas in 2009 and were blown out 37-21. If history wants to repeat itself for a fourth straight time, the Cowboys will give the Falcons their first loss on the season. However, it would also mean the Falcons would bring home the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history.
Before the season started, I predicted the Falcons would defeat the Cowboys. I’m sticking by that prediction.
Points Scored: 28.7 (5th)
Total Offense: 365.7 (13th)
Passing Offense: 270.7 (8th)
Rushing Offense: 95.0 (24th)
Points Allowed: 18.6 (7th)
Total Defense: 353.3 (20th)
Passing Defense: 216.9 (10th)
Rushing Defense: 136.4 (26th)
Points Scored: 19.6 (23rd)
Total Offense: 383.3 (7th)
Passing Offense: 297.3 (3rd)
Rushing Offense: 86.0 (28th)
Points Allowed: 23.1 (18th)
Total Defense: 292.4 (4th)
Passing Defense: 187.7 (3rd)
Rushing Defense: 104.7 (13th)