It’s just about game time. The Cowboys will be battling the Falcons in Atlanta. Instead of waiting for the game to finish, we decided to tell you how it will go and who will win. On to the predictions.
Dave Halprin: It’s going to be tough without Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith. The Cowboys will struggle on offense to start the game, but a scrappy defense will keep them in it. By the second half, the offense will find its rhythm and the running game will start to take over. But it will be a couple of big plays by Dak Prescott, one with his arm and another with his legs, that will seal the deal. Cowboys 24 - Falcons 20.
Michael Strawn: I expect a bit of a slog, kind of like first 25 minutes of the KC game. I fear Dallas won't be able to convert 3rd downs as well as they have been and a couple drives will be derailed. I also fear the Atlanta backs will give the defense trouble and as a result Dallas finds themselves behind midway through the third quarter. I then expect Dak to do what he did against SF, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Green Bay last season and put the team on his back and bring the Cowboys back. The final is 24 - 23 on a late Rod Smith touchdown.
OCC: Atlanta is the 29th-ranked run defense by DVOA, while the Cowboys have the 4th-ranked run-blocking O-line, per Football Outsiders. Even without Elliott, the Cowboys should be able to establish their ground game early (though they might rely a little more on the pass on 3rd-and-short). Success on the ground should allow Dallas jump out to an early lead, which will leave the Falcons playing catch-up throughout the game. Cowboys 34, Falcons 23.
DannyPhantom: My biggest concern this week is that the Cowboys face another team that has had its struggles during the season who somehow manage to abracadabra, play-out-of-their-mind. We saw that with Denver and then again with Green Bay. Hopefully, the difference maker this time is that the Cowboy have got it together on both sides of the ball to keep something like that from happening. Offensively, I'm a little concerned with the running game. Not because I don't have confidence in Alfred Morris. I think Morris will surprise some people. My concern is Chaz Green starting at LT. Not only is that a downgrade in itself, but we'd all be holding our breath that he makes it through the game unscathed. If we see Byron Bell on the field, it's going to become very unsettling. A holding penalty or a whiffed block that leads to a sack are both serious drive killers. And even though Morris and Smith will churn out some nice gains, the Cowboys will miss Ezekiel Elliott on short yard situations. Don't be surprised if the Cowboys go with Smith on that one (no, not that Smith, the other one - 41).
Defensively, it's going to be hit or miss. Matt Ryan will torch them at times, but he'll also make some questionable throws that will take their offense off the field. One thing I have been really impressed with lately from the Cowboys is how they have completely flipped the script on being the better team in the second half. After those two disappointing losses before the bye where the team blew first half leads and were outscored collectively by 26 points, the Cowboys have been a great second half team after the bye. They won each half during their three game winning streak and have outscored opponents by a total of 33 points. Whatever adjustments the coaches are making, seem to be working out well. Of course, this could also be the product of the Cowboys running game wearing them down as the team has finally reached their 2016 output of close to 150 yards per game. The 64 thousand dollar question is - can they sustain this type of performance without their star running back? I profess they can as Dak Prescott will remind everyone who was last year's rookie of the year and that the offense doesn't live and die with Zeke. I got the Cowboys winning 27-20.
X-Factor Player of the Game: Alfred Morris. I've been beating his drum for months now that I would be doing him a disservice if I chose anyone else. With something to prove and a suspect Falcons run defense, don't be surprised if ALF is right on par with Elliott's average of 130 rushing yards during the Cowboys recent winning streak. Also, while many are excited to see Rod Smith in action, it will be his brother who has the best game of his young career with a big game-changing play in the second half.
RJ Ochoa: Last week the Dallas Cowboys saw a Dak Prescott rushing touchdown give them a 14-3 lead just before halftime. It was then that everything completely fell apart, and the next time Dak touched the ball he was down 14-17. It was in this moment that we saw him show nothing but resolve as he led the offense to a touchdown drive that would give them a lead they would never look back from.
In the absence of Ezekiel Elliott I expect Dak to show a similar sense of resolve. He's proved he's capable of doing it all, even if "it all" includes a shootout with a Falcons offense we've seen be pretty great recently. Thankfully, Dak has a defense he can rely on at the very least to a small degree, and it stands to reason that DeMarcus Lawrence and Co. will help him out as the Cowboys cruise to their fourth win in a row.
Tom Ryle: Everyone's talking about the Cowboys' running game, but I think the Dallas defense is going to be the difference. Against the Chiefs, they totally shut down the run and largely contained the passing game. I believe the D will continue its hot streak, harassing Matt Ryan and not letting the Falcons get any rhythm going. Ryan has 7 interceptions this season and only 11 passing TDs.
To look at it another way, Dak Prescott will be the superior QB on the field. He will be able to crack the Atlanta defense, where Ryan is going to have more issues.
Cole Patterson: We need a big game from Chaz Green. Zeke hurts, but no Tyron Smith isn't ideal at all. I am confident in Dak and believe the run game can still pick up yards, but Green must be able to stay on the field and protect Dak's blindside against that pass rush. Also, the defense needs to continue playing the way that they have in recent weeks. Tank is hungry to start a new sack streak, and David Irving has been unblockable. Jourdan Lewis has a tough test on his hands.
Michael Sisemore: The Cowboys will be missing key pieces on their offense including their All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith. The focus will be on the absence of Ezekiel Elliott and this team will struggle to establish the run in this game.
The Falcons will be desperate to win a game but the Cowboys defense will be the difference maker. DeMarcus Lawrence strip-sacks Matt Ryan and Sean Lee recovers the fumble. Matt Nugent nails a short-yarder and Dallas escapes with a three point win. 24-21.