It is officially here, the first team game of the year without Ezekiel Elliott. I know we were all concerned about this day and we should be. BUT, this is a different Cowboys team compared to last year. Let’s take a look at some keys for both teams, and what I think will happen for this exciting week 10 matchup.
Overall Matchup: Dallas leads 14-10. 2-0 in the playoffs. During the last meeting between these teams, the Cowboys jumped out to an early 21-7 lead but lost. Atlanta held Dallas scoreless in the second half en route to a 39-28 victory. Below I’ve added a chart of some head to head statistics up to this week, for this year.
Falcons Keys to Win
- Feed Julio Jones: Mr. Jones has been a nightmare to the Cowboys. In only two games, he’s racked up 17 receptions for 293 yards and 2 touchdowns. Matt Ryan needs to find his guy to win this game.
- Pressure Dallas Offense: These Falcons aren’t the same as last year. This always happens to a team that went to the Super Bowl (unless it’s the Patriots). For some reason (and we know why) the Falcons offense has been out of sync all year. This, paired with a defense that loves putting pressure on the QB has left the defense gassed. Atlanta will have to continue to pressure the offense this week, as Dak and company are going to show up without Elliott.
- Time of Possession: Matt Ryan has continued to hover around elite for many years. Some years he’s a monster some years he’s not. Well, this game is one where he will have to show he can control the clock. Freeman and Coleman might be the necessary or primary options to do this. Last time Atlanta used a heavy dose of Freeman and won the game. This time they might want to rinse, wash, and repeat.
Dallas Keys to Win
- Establish the Run: Hard to do when your #1 back and a top 3 rusher in the league is not active. This will be a formidable test for the Dallas offense but one I believe they can pass. Morris and McFadden (M&M boys?) will have there work cut out for them. For one, we will have to see how rusty McFadden is, and how well conditioned Morris is. They also can use this as a tryout for when they become free agents.
- Neutralize Julio: Easier said than done. If the Cowboys can keep Julio in check then they can easily win this game. Yes, Matt Ryan has other weapons but he has failed to utilize them all year. The only other threats are Coleman and Freeman, but General Lee and Co. have looked better up front as the season has continued.
- Score Points: Simple and basic but against these Falcons we might have a shootout. Dak will have to lead the troops down the field and put up points to hold Atlanta at bay. A combination of field goals and touchdowns will do it.
Prediction: Dallas struggles in there first game without Elliott and lose 33-27.