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Cowboys @ Falcons Staff Picks and Game Notes

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Whelp. It's here. Ezekiel Elliott is suspended. Right or wrong, it was bound to happen eventually, and now the Cowboys must face the Falcons in Atlanta without arguably the biggest piece of their offense. Are they up to the task?

Right now it's a toss-up figuring out who will be given the bulk of the carries. Alfred Morris seems to be the favorite among the coaching staff, though I have my doubts. I've said it all year, Darren McFadden has earned the second spot behind Elliott. He's answered every call for this team and stayed healthy, a big surprise considering his history. But McFadden has been inactive all season.

Rod Smith is a guy many know about, thanks to his brother Jaylon Smith and the journey he's had up to this point. He's a monster on special teams and the few times he's been given the ball during a game, he's been quite explosive. His level of energy alone is enough to say he should be given a solid chance to do something over these next six weeks.

Last week against the Kansas City Chiefs... I don't know about you but that was a fun game. Maybe it was hearing Tony Romo's play-by-play, but that whole game was just fun. So fun that the injuries during the game didn't really even register, especially not the two late injuries to Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant. Bryant says he's going to play this week, while Brian price, who was also hurt last week, is now on IR.

But perhaps the bigger injury story right now is left tackle Tyron Smith. He's been battling back issues for a couple of years now, even missing time last year, and he's out for this contest as well.

The discussion surrounding Chaz Green this season has been all about left guard, not tackle, even though he was drafted as a swing tackle and projected at that position until Ronald Leary left for Denver. Green recently lost the starting LG job to Jonathan Cooper, who seems to be an integral part of the Cowboys' surging running game of late. Now it looks as though Green will get the nod in Smith's absence.

ITS Junior Writer Mauricio Rodriguez broke down Chaz Green's play at left tackle in the NFL to give us an idea of how he'll do tomorrow. Check it out if you missed it this morning.

The Cowboys are healthy across the rest of the offense. Yes, Geoff Swaim is injured, but he isn't a big part of the game plan, even with an increased role these last few weeks. Dak Prescott, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten, Zack Martin, all healthy and ready to go. Zeke is a special runner, no doubt, but it's time for the next man up.

What about the defense? They've strung together an impressive set of performances lately, surpassing I'd imagine even the coaching staff's expectations. Are they great? Nah. But they're getting the job done. They'll need to be on top of their game to stop Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, not to mention Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

As always, I encourage you to add your own predictions for the game in our comments section below.

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No Zeke, No Problem

The Cowboys are getting ready to play their first game without Ezekiel Elliott since 2015. It's going to be a challenge. Fortunately, the Falcons are not the threat we expected at the beginning of the season and I'm confident in Dak Prescott's ability to lead the Cowboys to victory as he scores three touchdowns. Mauricio Rodriguez – @PepoR99

Cowboys 24 – Falcons 20

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Never had a chance

Bottom line? The chances of winning without Zeke and Tyron are greatly diminished and if Dez is limited at all, those odds shrink closer to zero. Goodell cackles wildly in the distance as the Cowboys are completely dominated by the Atlanta Falcons who are back on the playoff track. The combination of Freeman and Coleman wreak havoc in the second level of this Cowboys defense that stayed on the field way too long; looking as tired as us fans are of the seemingly unlimited legal proceedings and this awful CBA. Brace yourselves for panic in big D. Christopher Wätjen – @SingForTheDay

Cowboys 17 – Falcons 35

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Cowboys March Through Atlanta

It'd be easy to dismiss the Cowboys now that Ezekiel Elliott is out, but the Falcons are just 18th against the run. However the carries are distributed between Dallas' three RBs, they should be effective. Jason Garrett is a master motivator, and I predict the Cowboys will rally behind Zeke's absence. Jess Haynie – @CowboysAddicts

Cowboys 34 – Falcons 28

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Dak Prescott Carries Cowboys on His Back in Offensive Shootout

Of course, as we all know, Ezekiel Elliott will not be on the field Sunday as the Cowboys take on the Falcons. While that is an enormous blow for the offense, Dak Prescott is playing out of his mind. I’m really starting to wonder if this offense can take it to another level when Dak Prescott is running the show. I expect a huge game from Dak Prescott, maybe his career best. Connor Livesay – @connorx147

Cowboys 38 – Falcons 35

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Pass Rush Prevails, Cowboys Win Fourth Straight

The National Football League is impossible to predict. A year ago, the Dallas Cowboys were a win away from setting up an NFC Championship game against these Falcons at AT&T Stadium. I thought all along that, should they have beaten the Packers, the Cowboys would have had a very hard time beating that Falcons team. Now, they are set to face them on the road without Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith - yet I'm picking them to win against a banged up Atlanta team. I am completely sold on this pass rush being good enough to win games, and with that, Dak Prescott and Alfred Morris can score just enough to keep this momentum rolling in Dallas. Sean Martin – @SeanMartinNFL

Cowboys 21 – Falcons 17

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Cowboys Soar Over Falcons Without Ezekiel Elliott

The Atlanta Falcons aren't the same team we watched play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. They have struggled on both sides of the ball this season and I think the Dallas Cowboys can take advantage of that. Even without Ezekiel Elliott, I believe the Cowboys will lean on the running game and control time of possession. This strategy will once again lead them to victory. Brian Martin – @BrianMartinNFL

Cowboys 28 – Falcons 20

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Dak and Lee Lead the Way

When LB Sean Lee is in the game, Dallas only allows 18 points per game. If you remove the Denver game that number drops to 13. While Ezekiel Elliott's absence will be noted, Dak Prescott and the defense are the differences in this one. John Williams – @john9williams

Cowboys 28 – Falcons 17

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Feed... Alf?

I think this is going to be an important game for the Cowboys going forward. If they can compete, and potentially win on the road against the Falcons, it will do wonders for their confidence without Ezekiel Elliott. It's going to be a tall task, but I think the Cowboys are just a better team than Atlanta. Kevin Brady – @KevinBrady88

Cowboys 30 – Falcons 27

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Leave Alf in the 90s, Where He Belongs

Nothing would please me more than watching the Cowboys ball out without offensive centerpiece, Ezekiel Elliott, nothing. I just don't like what I've been seeing behind Zeke. I have zero confidence in Alfred Morris to get the job done, and yet I know he'll be the lead back tomorrow. Dak looks good right now, but Alf is going to be too much for him to overcome. Players before scheme, Dallas. Bryson Treece – @BrysonTreece

Cowboys 20 – Falcons 23

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So we're mostly behind the Cowboys, going 7-2 for the win. Whatever happens tomorrow, the only thing I know for certain is that it won't go exactly as any of us expect. We've never seen this team execute a game plan without Zeke. Last time it happened, Elliott was still at Ohio State. So we've got to wait and see.

Share your game picks below and, as always, Go Cowboys!



This is the General Staff account for Inside The Star, a blog for Dallas Cowboys news, scores, schedule, rumors, and analysis. We are the official home for @CowboysNation on Twitter. Follow us today for new content updates straight from our timeline. To learn more about our staff, please visit our Staff listing.

Game Notes

#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone

Kevin Brady

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Fantasy Football - Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings - Week 2 2
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.

This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.

In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.

There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.

For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.

Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.

Bob Sturm on Twitter

I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.

Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.

Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.



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Game Notes

#INDvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady

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Has RB Rod Smith Emerged As Ezekiel Elliott's Primary Backup? 2
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

For once, the Cowboys are not playing what feels like a do-or-die game on Sunday, needing just 1 win over their final 3 to win the NFC East. This week the 8-5 Cowboys go on the road to face the 7-6 Colts, with each times vying for playoff spots in their respective conferences.

Both the Cowboys and Colts have turned around what looked like dead seasons, but there is no doubt the Colts need this one more than the Cowboys do to keep pace for the 6th seed in the AFC.

The Line

Cowboys +3, O/U 47 points. 

Dallas Cowboys

The once 3-5 Cowboys are now head and shoulders above the rest of their division, after winning their fifth straight in thrilling fashion over the Eagles last Sunday. The team which seemed so disjointed and inconsistent through 8 games has found their identity, and is playing complete team football as of late.

Dak Prescott is coming off a career-best game in terms of yardage, and despite some poor turnovers is still playing some of the best football of his career. This is due in large part to two stars in Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott, who have shouldered the production load of this offense the last 5 weeks.

And, of course, there is the defense which continues to make life a living hell for opposing offenses. Randy Gregory is coming into his own as a pass rusher, getting another sack last week and getting flagged for what should have been his second sack of the day.

Dallas is playing the brand of football they told us they would before the season, and are beginning to make their front office and decision makers look very smart in the process.

Indianapolis Colts

At 7-6 and fighting for the final AFC playoff spot, the Colts need this one more than the Cowboys do. Getting shut out by the lowly Jaguars two weeks ago may ultimately keep the Colts out of the playoffs, but a win this Sunday and a little help elsewhere could set them up nicely down the stretch.

Indy has quietly one of the best passing offenses in all of the NFL, with star quarterback Andrew Luck playing his best football in quite some time. Luck is healthy and looks like himself again, and the selection of Quenton Nelson to sure-up the offensive line has gone a long way to improving this offense as well.

Defensively the Colts have been even more impressive lately. Though they have a roster comprised of no-names nationally, the Colts defense is 11th in DVOA. Darius Leonard has been a revelation for the Colts at linebacker, and their young defense seems to be improving by the week.

The Colts are coming off of a big road victory over the Houston Texans a week ago, and will look to defeat the Texans' in-state rivals on Sunday to improve to 8-6.

Trends

  • The Cowboys are 5-0 against the spread their last 5 games, and have won all 5 straight up.
  • The score total has hit the over 4 of the Cowboys' last 6 games.
  • But the score total has gone under 4 of the Colts' last 5 games.
  • The Colts are 4-1 straight up their last 5 home games.
  • Dallas is 6-3 their last 9 games against the Colts.

Prediction

The Cowboys' winning streak has to end at some point, right?

Well, unlike Vegas, I don't expect that ending to happen on Sunday. The Cowboys have been playing desperate football over the last 5 games and they are well aware what a win over Indianapolis would mean.

A victory would clinch them a division title for the third time in five years, and just as they did in 2014, I expect the Cowboys to get that clinching victory over the Colts. Give me the Cowboys and the points this week.



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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Randy Gregory is a Big Time Player

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Randy Gregory, Eagles

It was a dramatic win for the Dallas Cowboys but a win nonetheless. The Philadelphia Eagles gave the Cowboys one hell of a fight at AT&T Stadium in a great rivalry game. It was undoubtedly one of the most exciting games this season has seen as it ended with a walk-off touchdown that gave the home team the victory.

Here is this week's Takeaway Tuesday on what we learned from such a thrilling match!

Amari Cooper Trade Shouldn't Even Be a Discussion

Once a complicated debate, the Amari Cooper trade has a clear winner. It's simple, really. If it wasn't for Amari Cooper, the Cowboys would not be 8-5 en route to the NFC East title. Cooper has literally saved the 2018 season for the once 3-5 Cowboys team.

Since becoming a part of the Cowboys, the former Oakland Raider has accounted for 40 catches, 642 yards and six touchdowns. Last Sunday alone, he was responsible for 217 yards and three scores. Not to mention the amount of times he's moved the chains for this offense. The 24-year old can seriously play football. Despite struggles, this offense is very promising with that caliber of a WR1 and an elite RB such as Ezekiel Elliott.

What was it again? A first rounder? Should've asked for more, Raiders.

Randy Gregory is a Big Time Player

Gregory's journey to be back on a football field was a difficult one. But it was worth it. Versus the Eagles, his presence was constantly felt by Carson Wentz. He was able to get in five pressures, one of which resulted in a sack.

The last couple of games, Gregory has drawn a few costly flags, but his play is still amazing. He's one of the fastest defensive ends in the league and he continues to improve in bending around the corner. He has five sacks in the last eight games. If you weren't convinced #94 should be our starting right defensive end, you should be by now.

Dalton Schultz

Tight Ends Rise

The lack of a tight end did not stand out this past Sunday. But Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin did. With Geoff Swaim out with an injury, this couple of young rotational players had their best games of their careers. Both were targeted in key moments of the game. Blake Jarwin had 56 yards in seven catches and a big third down conversion and Dalton Schultz finished the night with 37 yards.

A promising sign for the Cowboys moving forward. The offense is clicking at wide receiver with Amari Cooper, having a tight end (or a couple) stand up will only make this unit better.

Report: Jason Garrett "Not Going Anywhere" with Possible Extension Coming Soon

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Garrett Deserves a Round of Applause

Whether or not you think Jason Garrett is a good head coach, the guy deserves an applause. I get why you might not like him. In fact, I still question if he should be in Dallas in 2019 if the Cowboys fail to have success in the playoffs. But the way this team has come back from such a terrible start can't be ignored.

The players on this team fight for this guy. The Dallas Cowboys went from a team everyone had written off from playoff contention to legit Super Bowl contenders since they fired Paul Alexander and got Amari Cooper.

Dak Prescott is One of the Best Facing Adversity

Dak Prescott's career continues to cause a great debate among Cowboys' fans. You see, in the NFL, things are not white or black. When judging a player, there are a lot of gray areas. Take last night's performance from Dak Prescott. He threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball once and pretty much played bad football for three quarters. But his night ended with 455 yards and three touchdowns and a 78% completion percentage in 54 attempts.

In the NFL, not any quarterback comes back from turning the ball three times. With the help of his tremendous defense, Dak did. In the fourth quarter, he completed 17 out of 20 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns. His performance was clutch.

This isn't a one thing either. Since 2016, Dak is tied for the most game-winning drives in the NFL. Prescott might be inconsistent and can have some pretty bad plays. But he's one resilient quarterback. As T.O. would've said: "that's my quarterback."

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Randy Gregory is a Big Time Player" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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