Every week during the season, we’ll scout out the Cowboys next opponent. This weekend, that opponent is the Atlanta Falcons.
The Opponent: The Atlanta Falcons, aka the Dirty Birds, aka the Team With A Handful Of Fans Who Still Adore Michael Vick For Reasons Unknown
The Line: Cowboys by 4. This continues Dallas’ run of being favored in every single game they’ve played this year. It will come to an end when they travel to Philly on Nov. 8.
Last Game: A 21-14 win over Chicago in which the Falcons turned away the Bears at the 6-yard line in the waning moments.
The Coach: Mike Smith. Smith was named Coach of the Year for turning the Falcons around in 2008, and that success has continued on into this year, when many expected the Falcons to take a step back. Smith desperately needs a nickname, given that his real name is so painfully bland. It’s the kind of name you’re given when you enter Witness Protection. In fact, it’s the alias Matthew Modine used in Married to the Mob. “So, this is Mike Smith. From… DOOBOOK.” I suggest nicknaming Smith “Silver,” on account of his slicked-back hairdo.
The Offense: Led by Matt Ryan, the Falcons offense boasts playmakers all over the place, including Roddy White and new acquisition Tony Gonzalez. Michael Turner is warming up after a slow start, but is only rushing for 3.5 yards a carry thus far. Turner gives way to the perennially underutilized Jerious Norwood. In fact, the Falcons have plenty of skill position depth beyond their big names. Michael Jenkins is good for a big play or two every now and again. This is easily the best offense the Cowboys have faced since the Giants came to town, and they won’t get away with playing the lax defense they’ve exhibited thus far. Atlanta’s good enough to kill them for it.
The Defense: No. 21 against the pass, No. 23 against the run, this defense remains, at least statistically, as inconsistent as it was last year. But look deeper. This is the fourth best scoring defense in football. And they proved quite stingy in the red zone last week against Chicago. Granted, the Bears didn’t exactly help themselves there.
Key Matchup: Miles Austin vs. Brent Grimes. Grimes started for Atlanta last week and got picked on by Jay Cutler early and often in a 300-yard day. This is a defense the Cowboys can most certainly exploit, given their top-ranked offense. The question will be if guys like Austin can again shine when it matters. Or if the Cowboys will again make the same kind of glaring mental mistakes that doomed the Bears last week. The Falcons offense will get theirs. Romo and company will have to top them. This one’s gonna be good.