Week 10 will feature a matchup of two teams that were at the top of the NFC last season, the Dallas Cowboys (5-3) and the Atlanta Falcons (4-4), and the two teams seem to be trending in different directions.
The Dallas Cowboys, just a few weeks ago had everyone wondering if they were a legit Super Bowl contender after dropping to 2-3. Since dropping back to back games to the Los Angeles Rams and the Green Bay Packers, they’ve won three straight and made believers out of Cowboys Nation and national observers.
The Atlanta Falcons on the other hand started the season hot going 3-1 in their first four. Since then, they’ve dropped three of their last four to the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and Carolina Panthers. Their lone win was a five point win vs the New York Jets in a game they were trailing at half time.
This is a huge game in the NFC playoff race. A Dallas Cowboys win will position them well for a wild card spot while keeping them in sight of NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles. A Falcons win allows them to stay above .500 and keep a shot at one of the two NFC wild cards.
The Dallas Cowboys hold a 16-10 lead in the all-time series with their last victory being a 37-21 blow out win in 2009.
By the Numbers
The Atlanta Falcons turnover differential, which is 25th in the NFL. Matt Ryan has been intercepted seven times in eight games, good for sixth most among quarterbacks who have played eight games or less.
Jason Garrett has zero wins over the Atlanta Falcons as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. One of the two losses to the Falcons coming in the Tony Romo less 2015, losing by 11. In 2012 they lost by six in a game where Romo threw for over 300 yards, but could only engineer one touchdown drive.
David Irving is second on the team in sacks (6), tackles by a defensive lineman (10), and passes defended (4) in only four games in 2017.
The yards per carry number on nine carries for Rod Smith if you take away his season long rush of 45 yards.
Ezekiel Elliott is third in the NFL amongst running backs in yards from scrimmage. One of the players that is ahead of him, Kareem Hunt has played nine games. The other player, Todd Gurley picked up a ton of his yardage (215 total yards) during Sean Lee’s absence in week four.
His suspension is a significant loss.
Alfred Morris’ yards per carry on 13 carries when you take away his season long run of 76 yards.
Atlanta Falcons running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have combined to average 4.375 receptions per game on an average of six targets per game.
Seventh in the NFL is where Matt Ryan sits in passing yards. He also ranks ninth in completion percentage but is only 14th in passer rating at 92.8.
Dak Prescott’s ranking with a 97.9 passer rating. That’s ahead of notable quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Marcus Mariota, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Cam Newton, and Joe Flacco.
The amount of times that Matt Ryan has been sacked, which is good for ninth in the NFL among players who have played at least eight games. For perspective, the leader in this category is Drew Brees who has only been sacked eight times.
The Atlanta Falcons leading receiver is averaging 15.3 yards per reception. His 658 yards is nearly double that of the second leading receiver for the Falcons and ranks fourth in the NFL. Julio Jones has also been targeted 24 more times than Mohammed Sanu, who is second in targets.
Dak Prescott’s 16 passing touchdowns are tied for fifth in the NFL with future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. Prescott’s 20 total touchdowns rank him third in the NFL behind Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson.
The difference in points per game when Sean Lee is out of the lineup (35) and when Sean Lee is in the lineup (18). That even includes the 42 points they allowed vs the Denver Broncos in week two. Take that 42 point aberration away and the PPG average drops to 13.2 points per game.
DeMarcus Lawrence’s 16 game sack pace, which has begun to come back down to earth after his tremendous start. At this pace, he’d be 1.5 sacks shy of tying Michael Strahan’s single season sack record.
At roughly 22 points per game allowed, the Atlanta Falcons and the Dallas Cowboys are 14th and 15th in the NFL in points allowed per game.
Dallas’ total sacks is third in the NFL behind the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers. The Atlanta Falcons have only registered 18 sacks this season, which ranks 18th in the league.
This should be a good matchup for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys offensive line.
With only two interceptions on the season, the Atlanta Falcons sit second to last in the National Football League, only to the Oakland Raiders who have yet to intercept a pass this season.
The Dallas Cowboys aren’t much better, however, having only intercepted four passes, tying for 26th in the NFL with Carolina.
With only six turnovers forced in eight games, the Atlanta Falcons are tied for last in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Falcons also tie for last in turnovers/drive, while the Dallas Cowboys are 18th in the NFL in the same category.
The rate at which the Atlanta Falcons allow an opponent to score a touchdown or a field goal per drive. At 40.2% the Falcons represent the fifth worst rate in the NFL.
The Dallas Cowboys have the ninth worst number at 37.2%.
Dez Bryant’s 75 targets are 27 more than Jason Witten. Dez has been the fifth most targeted player in the NFL this season and is on pace for 150 targets.
Among players with more than 70 targets, only Amari Cooper and Alshon Jeffrey have a worse catch percentage than Dez’s 50.7%. Again, of players with more than 70 targets, only slot receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Christian McCaffrey have fewer yards than Dez’s 435 on the season.
It’s clear that Dak works to get Dez involved regularly. The two just need to figure out a way to be more efficient.
The amount of rushing yards allowed per game when Sean Lee is playing. Compare that to the 164 yards rushing per game they allowed to the Los Angeles Rams and the Green Bay Packers.
Lead back Devonta Freeman averages 64 rushing yards and 17 receiving yards per game. His 81 yards from scrimmage per game is second on the team to Julio Jones’ 82 yards from scrimmage per game.
The difference in rushing yards per game with Jonathan Cooper (183.6) instead of Chaz Green (89.33) starting at left guard.
Weeks 1-3 Chaz starting at LG. Cowboys avg 89.33 yards rushing/game. Five games since w/ Cooper at LG, avg 183.6 rushing/g #CowboysNation
The amount of rushing yards that the Atlanta Falcons running backs have combined for through eight games. Coincidentally, they’ve also allowed 114.5 rushing yards to opponents.
✭ ✭ ✭
As always be on the look out for the Inside The Star Staff Picks tomorrow and of course…