Dallas Cowboys v Atlanta Falcons Picks & Preview

Tony Romo

Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo

When the Dallas Cowboys travel to the Georgia Dome to play the Atlanta Falcons, they will face a tough test. Not only is Atlanta undefeated at 7-0 this season but over the past few years, they have also been one of the toughest teams to get a win against at home (8.20pm ET Sunday).

Entering the season, the Cowboys had a good deal of expectations heaped on their shoulders. They had come close last year, but with the NY Giants in a bit of a rebuilding stage and the Philadelphia Eagles still struggling to put their star pieces together cohesively, many believed this was going to be Dallas’ year to win the NFC East.

As the season began, these thoughts proved not to be unwarranted as the Cowboys decisively defeated the Giants by a score of 24-17. The following week however, the inconsistencies of the Cowboys began to show. They were handedly defeated by Seattle in week two, Chicago in week four, Baltimore in week six and by the Giants in week eight. Their two wins since week two came in not very convincing fashion, as they beat Tampa Bay by six points and Carolina by five.

The Falcons on the other hand have done just about everything right this year, a testament to their 7-0 record.

Like the Cowboys, many believed this would finally be the chance for the Falcons to come up and take the NFC South from the New Orleans Saints. Now in his fifth year, quarterback Matt Ryan has been on the rise each season and no doubt has taken his opportunity to shine in full force this season. The rest of the team subsequently, has fallen behind Ryan’s leadership and on both the offensive and defensive sides have excelled.

Two Similar Offenses, Two Different Results

When looking at the offenses of the Cowboys and Falcons on paper, they really are very similar. Both teams have solid quarterbacks with the ability to stretch the field and create plays out of the pocket. Both have coaches that are focused heavily on the passing game and not so much on the running game. Both have a star wide receiver as well as an up and coming young talent. Both also have Pro-Bowl tight ends that are used effectively throughout the passing game.

With so many comparisons made between the two, it really does make you question why the Cowboys are just 3-4 while the Falcons are 7-0.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, there is an easy answer to this question and it is turnover ratio. On the season, Ryan has thrown just six interceptions while the Atlanta defense has been responsible for forcing ten interceptions and seven fumble recoveries. Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo meanwhile has thrown 13 interceptions to lead the NFL. He has only passed for nine touchdowns and the Cowboys’ defense has only forced three interceptions and five fumble recoveries.

Of teams in the top 15 of scoring like the Cowboys are, only Dallas has more turnovers than they do touchdowns. Atlanta meanwhile has a favorable touchdown to interception, no doubt a reason behind their undefeated start.

Are the Falcons Really as Good as Their Record?

NFL Odds at BetOnlineTight end Tony Gonzalez seems to think so. In fact, the future Hall-of-Famer doesn’t think the media is paying enough attention to the Falcons and their undefeated start. The stats do support this thinking but looking past some of the numbers, this is a legitimate question to ask. Are the Falcons really as good as their record says they are?

To begin to answer this question, let’s look at the teams Atlanta has faced so far this season: Kansas City (1-7), Denver (4-3), San Diego (4-4), Carolina (1-6), Washington (3-5), Oakland (3-4) and Philadelphia (3-4). Overall, the records of these teams adds up to a very unimpressive 19-33 and as can be seen, only the Denver Broncos have a better than .500 record on the season. Of all of the teams in the NFL with a .500 record, Atlanta has undoubtedly had the easiest schedule of which to do so.

That’s one reason why their undefeated start is maybe less impressive than it could be. Another reason is that the Falcons really don’t excel at any particular area, rather they are just about average in all aspects of the game.

Most teams that finish the undefeated season don’t excel at everything. When the New England Patriots did it in 2008, their running game was basically non-existent. Quarterback Tom Brady meanwhile threw 50 touchdown passes and their passing offense was near the top of every category. Such has not been the case for the Falcons this year.

Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan

Yes, Matt Ryan has been a good quarterback but their passing game is only eighth best, five places behind the Cowboys. Ryan is averaging 270.7 yards a game which is nearly 50 yards behind the league leading passing game of the Saints. They are 12th in total yards on offense, fifth in points scored with 28.7 and down near the bottom at 24th with just 95 rush yards a game. On defense, the Falcons are seventh in allowing 18.6 points a game and 20th in allowing over 350 total yards. In terms of passing defense, the Falcons are ranked just tenth and in rushing defense are ranked 26th.

While these numbers may not scream undefeated team, Gonzalez is right about something. The Falcons really aren’t getting the respect they deserve. Their defense may not be the best, but their offense is scoring 10.1 points more than the defense is giving up. Also, the Falcons have committed just six turnovers, giving them a turnover ratio of +10.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons Picks Verdict

While the Falcons are not perfect, they have done enough to go 7-0 while the Cowboys meanwhile have not shown enough for me to pick them over Atlanta on the moneyline. On the spread though, it is a different matter. Atlanta has played close games this year and Dallas should be able to best the 3.5 spread favoring the Falcons.

NFL betting lines at BetOnline