Don’t look now but the Atlanta Falcons are still undefeated going into week 9. Matt Ryan and the Falcons have taken their game to another level in 2012, posting a 7-0 record. It hasn’t been easy but they have gotten the job done. This isn’t the Patriots 16-0 or team or even the Packers team that flirted with perfection a couple years ago, but they are still a dangerous team. The Falcons downed the Eagles in dominant fashion on the road, 30-17. The Falcons are notoriously bad in Philadelphia, and Andy Reid is a master of playing off of byes, so it was an impressive feat. The Cowboys are fresh off of a heart breaking loss against the Giants at home. It appeared Dez Bryant hauled in the game winning ball with seconds dwindling down, but it was reversed as his hand landed out of bounds on the reception. The win would have been a turning point in the Cowboys’ season I believe, but instead Tony Romo and his fellow Cowboys walked off the field with their heads hanging low. They will have a marvellous chance to shake off that loss with a win over the undefeated Falcons in Atlanta.
The Cowboys, believe it or not, sport one of the NFL’s best defenses. The stellar defensive play of the Cowboys has gotten forgotten in their 3-4 start. There is absolutely no one to blame but Romo and the offense for their struggles. The defense has earned their pay cheque, but the offense should be playing for free. It was painful to watch at times last week, with players barking at each other on the sidelines, eyes rolling, and heads shaking. Of course receiver Dez Bryant was the one doing most of the talk following senseless interceptions and boneheaded plays. There is reason to be frustrated, but there is no leader on this team, no one to keep the team together when things are going south. Romo with his head down looking at the ground cursing is not what this team needs. The team is still 7th in the NFL in total yardage per game, so they are moving the ball. Cashing in on those yards is a different story, however, as they only average 19.6 points per game. Romo has thrown 13 interceptions and two fumbles this season, so it’s no secret to why they aren’t scoring points. Romo has accounted for 15 of the teams 19 turnovers. He has a 78.8 quarterback rating, passing for 2073 yards and 9 TDs to go with the 13 picks; just not a good enough effort for them to win ball games.
They’ll be playing against a pretty decent Falcons defense, they aren’t great, but they can sneak up on you once in awhile and surprise. They rank 11th in the NFL in total team defense and 10th against the pass, but what scared me if their ability to defend the run. They are 26th in the league, allowing 136 yards on the ground per game. Nevertheless, the number one stat defenses should be proud about is points allowed and they are pretty good in that regard, giving up only 18.6 points a game.
The defense is average but the offense is where this team shines. Matt Ryan combined with receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones has been gold. Ryan has passed for 2018 yards with 17 TDs and only 6 INTs, certainly having his best season as a pro. The offense ranks 12th in terms of total team offense, but they score 28.7 points a game, so that 12 spot is a little misleading.
Cowboys vs. Falcons Spread and Betting Odds:
Dallas Cowboys +4 (-115)
@Atlanta Falcons -4 (-105)
Over 47.5 (-110)
Under 47.5 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Cowboys vs. Falcons Pick:
I’m not going to knock the Falcons too much, because after all, they are 7-0 and have the best record in the NFL. The Falcons didn’t create the schedule so you can’t blame them, but if you take a glimpse at the teams they’ve beaten, 7-0 doesn’t seem all that impressive: Chiefs, Broncos, Chargers, Panthers, Redskins, Raiders, and Eagles. The only impressive win I see there is against the Broncos, some may argue the Eagles, but they are a complete mess. In two of those games, they barely got by against the Panthers and Raiders at home. A penalty here or there, a dropped ball, and the Falcons are not 7-0.
The Cowboys on the flip side could have a couple more victories then their record indicates. I think this is more of an evenly matched game than people are giving it credit for. The Cowboys thrive as underdogs, as they are 7-0 ATS in their last seven games as an underdog of 3.5-10 points. They are also 5-0 in their last five as an underdog of 3.5-10 on the road. I like the Cowboys to keep it close here on SNF.
PICK = Cowboys +4