Just three weeks into the NFL season, there are only nine teams remaining with perfect records and two of them, the (2-0) Dallas Cowboys and (2-0) Atlanta Falcons, go head-to-head for the first time this season (1pm ET, Sunday).
For Atlanta, this is their third game of the season and third against the NFC East. The team already dispatched the Philadelphia Eagles in week one and the New York Giants the following week. Combined, those teams have a 1-4 record as the Giants won in their week three Thursday night matchup against the Washington Redskins.
The Falcons looked the better team in those games, both on the field and in the stat sheets. In fact, for the first two weeks of the season, the Falcons, who finished with a sub-.500 record and missed the playoffs despite being in the worst division in football, have been one of the best teams in the NFL. Atlanta has the fifth best total offense, second best in the NFC. Atlanta also has the third best, and tops the NFC, in passing yards per game (318).
Led by a new head coach and a healthy Julio Jones (pictured), the Falcons look like a brand new team and in his eighth season, Matt Ryan, looks the best he has his entire career. The 30-year-old veteran signal caller has tossed for 661 yards and three touchdowns, two of which have gone to Jones, who has 22 receptions for 276 yards.
But Jones isn’t the only one who has curried favor with Ryan this year. First year Falcon, Leonard Hankerson has a touchdown and 93 yards on eight catches. Tight end Jacob Tamme is third in receptions with seven for 96 yards.
Against the Cowboys defense, Ryan and his receivers will have their biggest tests of the season. In the Eagles, the Falcons faced the 25th ranked passing defense and against the Giants, the worst in the league. The Cowboys however have the ninth best stats against the QB and the passing game and the third ranked defense overall in total yards per game (257.5).
As for the Cowboys offense, there really isn’t much to say. This is a team that lost its equivalent to Julio Jones in top NFL receiver Dez Bryant in the middle of a week one game. This is a team that lost its own signal caller, who had been one of the best in the league these past two years in Tony Romo, midway through week two. The Cowboys can’t afford to lose any more high profile players, especially with recent reports that tight end Jason Witten is questionable after having been limited in practice on Thursday.
Moral of the story, Dallas’ offense looks poised to struggle, even though they are facing a Falcons’ defense that ranks 27th in the league. Brandon Weeden who has almost as many interceptions as touchdowns in his brief NFL career is not the kind who can take advantage of Atlanta’ weaknesses like Romo would have been able to. Without Bryant and possibly Witten, Weeden will have to rely on the running game.
Leading the way for Dallas is a running back by committee approach. Joseph Randle should be in line for the majority of the carries as he has this season. The 23-year-old has only toted the ball 34 times this season in two games as Dallas is a pass-heavy offense. But without Romo, Randle could be in the line for an increased role. He already has 116 yards, which amounts to about 3.4 yards per carry. Darren McFadden with 16 attempts for 47 yards and Lance Dunbar, just one carry for eight yards, also look to be in line for more touches.
Our Preview’s Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys Betting Picks
At this point in the season, the Falcons and Cowboys are two teams that could be headed in different directions. Atlanta is young and healthy and finally look to be the team that is ready to return to the playoffs. Last year, their division was the worst in football and this year things aren’t much better. The Falcons will be competing with the Carolina Panthers, but both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints shouldn’t put up much of a fight.
The Cowboys on the other hand are in this year’s worst division in football. Dallas’ opponents are a combined 1-7 in their first eight games and the NFC East really was theirs for the taking. But that was before the injury bug hit with full force. Owner Jerry Jones is convinced the Cowboys can stay afloat for the six weeks Romo and Bryant will be out, but this game will be a real test of that.
Due to the injuries, Atlanta, the road team, enters either as two point favorites or with no spread at all depending with of the sportsbooks’ betting lines you look at. Atlanta has won their first two games by just a combined six points, but the small spread is almost impossible not to best in a win and that’s exactly what the Falcons will do. Coming into Dallas is no easy task but the Falcons have the advantage. They are healthy and have one of the best WR/QB combos in the entire NFL this year.
- Our preview’s betting pick is to take the Falcons to land the victory. The only decision is which of the sportsbooks’ options to go with. For instance Bovada are Falcons -2pts @ -110 betting odds. BetOnline is ‘pk’ (ie: no spread) at -125. However our preferred option is to bet on Atlanta to win with 5Dimes Sportsbook @ -120 pk. They also offer -1pt @ -110.
- As for the total points in the game, I think it’s safe to pick the under 45pts on this one, especially given Dallas’ offensive situation. All the sportsbooks have the line at 45pts, but the best odds for the under are -110 with BetOnline or 5Dimes.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.