The Cowboys are coming off yet another heartbreaking loss to themselves… err The New York Giants. The Cowboys quickly went down 23-0, but still had a chance to win it in the end. If you are down 23-0 in the first half and turn the ball over 4 times, you have no business staying in a game.
But then they dominated. Yes, they absolutely dominated the Giants from that point on. From that point on the Cowboys beat the Giants 24-6, but it still wasn’t enough. This team is mentally weak, undisciplined, unpredictable, immature, poorly prepared… but when they hit their stride, they sure are something to watch.
And that is precisely why they are going to play spoiler to the undefeated Atlanta Falcons… Maybe. There are an awful lot of ifs involved here, but I think they have a real shot. The Falcons have had near losses against the Broncos (6 points), Panthers (2), Redskins (7), and Raiders (3). The Cowboys are generally better than 3 of those 4 teams, and should be able to score on a team that gave up 24 points to the Chiefs (17.1 ppg), 28 to the Panthers (18.3 ppg), and 20 to the Raiders (19.9 ppg).
2012 Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are good. I don’t think that’s going to shock anybody, especially considering they are the only undefeated team left in the NFL. Their offense has been prolific and their defense has been OK. Their team construct is pretty similar as that of the Giants – Score a lot of points and have the defense do just enough to win the game.
- Atlanta can and will score. They’ve been held under 23 points just once. Under 27 only twice. Matt Ryan has 3 premier targets in Gonzalez, Jones, and White – making it nearly impossible to focus on any one of them.
- This offense is powered by the pass. They are 8th in Passing yards and only 24th in rushing.
- The easy analysis would be to say that you make them beat you with the run. When held under 100 yards rushing, their average margin of victory is 8 points. When they have over 100 yards of rushing, their average margin of victory is 13 points.
- When the Falcons pass for over 270 yards (their season average) their average margin of victory is 8.3 points, opposed to their 11.5 average margin of victory when they pass for less than their season average.
- I’m not saying that the Cowboys should dare the Falcons to beat them in the air – that would be pretty dumb – but I think it’s an interesting stat nonetheless.
Analysis of Shared Opponents
There is only one shared opponent between the two teams, so the sample size is small. I do think it shows on a small scale the truth of these two teams – The Falcons have an excellent and efficient offensive unit, but only a middle of the road defense. The Cowboys have an inefficient yards-to-score ratio on offense and a proficient defense.
Comparison of Season
- This analysis is pretty straight forward and easy to whittle down to: Atlanta has the superior offense and Dallas has the superior defense.
- Though Dallas gains more yards on offense and yields fewer yards on defense, they score less and give up more points. Turnovers.
- Atlanta is generally more efficient. More on that below.
- This table is a simple calculation of Yards divided by points. TY = Total Yards, PY = Passing Yards, RY= Rushing Yards
- As stated above, the Falcons are clearly more efficient on both sides of the balls.
- Because they have significantly fewer turnovers, they are able to make more of their productivity.
- Atlanta scores more points on fewer yards gained and gives up fewer points on more yards yielded.
- The biggest and most telling stat of all is that the Cowboys have a -11 Turnover ratio to Atlanta’s +10. That is a ridiculous difference of 21 turnovers.
Keys to Success
- No more Turnovers. I know this one is easier said than done, but the Cowboys have to minimize the negative plays to have any success against arguably the best team in the NFL. The Cowboys offense is actually more prolific when it comes to yards. Turnovers and penalties make their Points-To-Yards conversion inefficient.
- Prevent the big play. In the two games against the Giants, the Cowboys held the dynamic duo of Nicks and Cruz each to 4 catches for 41.25 yards and no TD’s over both games. I think that Roddy White and Julio Jones are a much more talented duo, but I think it serves as a blueprint for how to handle this aerial assault.
- Turn trips to the Red Zone to Field Goals. They very nearly did this to the Giants last week. If it hadn’t been for the early turnovers, this game would have been a win. The Giants were able to only score on 1 of 4 trips to the Red Zone, and were only able to score one Offensive TD in the whole game. The Falcons present a stiffer challenge, but one that the Cowboys must stand up to if they plan on being anything other than mediocre.
Despite being unable to run, the Cowboys will use a short ball control passing game to minimize turnovers and move the ball freely on the Falcons defense. The Cowboys defense holds Matt Ryan and company to 2 TD’s and 3 Field Goals by largely preventing the big play and making them kick in the Red Zone.
Cowboys 27, Falcons 23