What a difference a week makes huh? Just 2 weeks ago it looked like the Falcons were falling back to earth and perhaps being exposed for being the biggest frauds in the NFL outside of Arizona.
After completely outcoaching, outplaying and destroying the Philadelphia Eagles on the road in Week 8, the Falcons now prepare for a tough home test against the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas looked dysfunctional in their week 8 home 29-24 loss to the New York Giants, and after losing three of their last four games, they are desperate and dangerous as they come in the NFC. Currently tied with the Eagles at 3-4, this game is a must win for Dallas if they want to remain relevant in the NFC.
The Cowboys are hungry and desperate coming into this game with a lot of question marks and the Falcons are on cruise control. Perfect recipe for a trap game if I’ve ever seen one.
It’s hard to get a good read on this team, mostly because their quarterback Tony Romo is so wildly inconsistent from week to week. While I’m no fan of Romo, he is extremely talented but also prone to turning the ball over with fervent aplomb as evidenced by his 10 interceptions over just the last four games.
Much of this can be attributed to the lack of apparent trust between Romo and Dez Bryant, which could be another reason why Witten hauled in 18 passes for 167 yards in the Week 8 loss.
Falcons nickel linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has a low ankle sprain and is listed as probable. They are going to need him if they want to match up well against Witten, but the Cowboys have linebacker issues as well with Sean Lee out for the year. His replacement, Dan Connor who should be familiar to Falcon fans, is also nicked up and may miss the game with nerve damage to his neck.
If Connor cannot go for the ‘Boys (did not practice Wednesday) they would be looking at Orie Lemon as his replacement in the base 3-4 alignment. Against a Hall of Famer in Tony Gonzalez, the Cowboys will need to help Lemon if they want to contain the middle of the field.
The problem is, their secondary will have their hands full against the trio of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas, who may return after missing Week 8. Cowboys corners Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr have done well this season, and their secondary is third in passing yards allowed (187.7), but they have yet to face an attack as diverse as Atlanta’s this year.
Demarco Murray returned to practice this week for Dallas, and they will need to get him going as Felix Jones has struggled to provide balance for the Dallas offense.
The Falcons run game has been a mix of good and bad this year, mostly bad but with the emergence of Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta may have a two-headed running back attack thing going. Against a talented front seven in the Cowboys the Falcons will need to maintain balance to prevent Demarcus Ware from teeing off on Matt Ryan.
Things to watch for :
“THE BIG THREE” – No, I’m not talking about Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Jones / Gonzalez. I am talking about the tackles Jonathan Babineaux, Vance Walker and Peria Jerry, who formed a unique defensive line against the Eagles on running downs.
The Falcons entered the game giving up 143.8 yards rushing per game, but held the Eagles to 92 yards rushing on 24 carries (3.8 yards per carry) in their 30-17 victory. Most of the 92 yards rushing came in garbage time, as the Falcons stuck to prevent defense.
Is this a sign of things to come as the Falcons truly do not have the big nose tackle that Nolan desires in his defense?
“BEER MAN “ Falcons DE/LB Kroy Biermann played a pivotal role against the Eagles, both in “spying” Michael Vick and as a zone dropback defender on Brent Celek. His diverse skillset is being used by Mike Nolan to tremendous success, as ‘Beerman’ had seven tackles and one sack, and limited Vick to 42 yards on the ground
Julio Jones vs…. well anybody : I soundly disliked the draft day trade for Julio Jones, but he is making me eat my words ( happily I might add ) He is a dynamic force for this offense, and his impact is felt even when he doesn’t get the ball as evidenced by the 2 first Atlanta touchdowns in Philly. He also managed to make a very good man cover cornerback look the complete fool last week, as Matt Ryan had a passer rating of 158.3 when targeting Nnamdi Asomugha, according to Pro Football Focus…. yikes
It’s going to be a tough game, but one that should fall right into the Falcons wheelhouse at home.
31-10 Dirty Birds for win number 8