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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys vs. Falcons odds, line - Staff, CBS Sports
The Cowboys are underdogs again, but they were in a similar situation last Sunday and they were able to pull off a nice road upset. Can they do it again this week?

A key game in the NFC wild-card race takes place Sunday at 1 p.m. ET when the Atlanta Falcons host the Dallas Cowboys. Both clubs are one game behind Green Bay in the NFC wild-card standings, and the winner will get a leg up in the battle for a coveted postseason spot. The Falcons (4-5) were considered a favorite to win the NFC South, but now sit a seemingly insurmountable four games behind the Saints. Atlanta is looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance in a 28-16 loss to the Browns. Meanwhile, Dallas (4-5) climbed into a tie for second place in the NFC East with its upset of Philadelphia, but remains two games behind the Redskins.

On Sunday, Atlanta is a three-point favorite and the over-under for total points scored is 49.5 in the current Cowboys vs. Falcons odds.

NFL Week 11 FOX Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons Preview - Staff, Pro Football Focus
Pro Football Focus provides their weekly matchup preview, highlighting some key factors to keep an eye on, including how a change of scenery is helping the Cowboys newest receiver.

Cooper Making the Adjustments

He’s only played two games with Dallas, but Amari Cooper already looks settled in his new offense.

While it’s not as splashy as last season’s breakout year, the Cowboys young edge rusher is quietly one of the best defensive ends in the the game.

Lawrence Performing at an Elite Level

Demarcus Lawrence is truly solidifying himself as one of the leagues premier edge rushers.

Whereas on the other side of the ball, the Falcons are the worst team in the league when it comes to generating a pass rush (percentage-wise).

Lack of Pass Rush Remains a Concern

A real area of struggle for this Falcons defense has been their pass-rush.

3 key matchups for Cowboys-Falcons: Who will win the battle of ex-Alabama wide receivers? - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Machota identifies three key matchups for the game, including the battle of the Bama WR’s.

Three of the Crimson Tide’s greatest wide receivers will be on the field Sunday. Five-time Pro Bowler Julio Jones and rookie Calvin Ridley have combined for 1,540 yards and nine touchdowns in nine games for the Atlanta Falcons.

Amari Cooper has fit in nicely since getting traded to the Cowboys last month, immediately improving Dallas’ passing offense. Cooper should have the advantage against Atlanta, one of the NFL’s worst passing defenses. Opponents are averaging 294 passing yards per game against the Falcons this season.

“Amari has always been good,” (Julio) Jones told reporters this week. “He’s quiet. He was like me when I was in school, so it wasn’t like I had to coach him up or anything like that. Great receiver. Route running ability, everything, run after catch, all that. It’s just his work ethic. Everything about him ... he’s another great one.

All Amari Cooper does is make 1st downs, and it’s changing the Cowboys - Eli Cuellar, Cowboys Wire
Cooper’s presence has already been felt, but I’m not sure we realized it was going to be this good. The closer you look, the more excited you get.

Against the Titans:

What is most interesting about Cooper’s performance was his ability to generate first downs. Every single catch of his went for either a first down or a touchdown. Cooper faced man coverage the majority of the time, and only saw zone coverage once.

Against the Eagles:

In Week 10, Cooper saw an expanded role on the offense, totaling 10 targets for 78 yards. Once again, his ability to move the chains proved to be imperative as five of his six receptions went for first downs. It is now clear Cooper is becoming the catalyst for the passing offense.

And the addition of Cooper has a trickle-down effect.

It seems so unbelievable that one player, who was picked up at the midpoint of the season, could have this much of an impact. But that is exactly the case. The Cowboys may have found their passing-game savior, and his name is Amari Cooper.

That’s good, right?

Falcons vs. Cowboys: One reason to be confident, one reason to worry - Dave Choate, The Falcoholic
Our sister site, the Falcoholic, gives their readers a cup of optimism followed by a small dark cloud as they examine both sides of the coin in this week’s matchup.

Worry about: Scoring enough points to win

At home, pretty healthy on offense, and facing a Dallas Cowboys defense that wasn’t all that special a year ago, it’s tempting to think the Falcons are going to blow the doors off Dallas. But it’s not a given. While I have the Falcons scoring 30 in my own prediction, I do have to acknowledge that it’s based on my faith in this offense more than anything else. They just turned in a disappointing performance against the Browns a week ago, and the Browns blueprint of staying disciplined and keeping everything the Falcons wanted to do in the air in front of them is something Dallas can passably match too. The Cowboys have allowed 400 yards just twice and have been pretty damn stingy for a 4-5 team, with the season high scored against them clocking in at just 28 points, which happened just once. Just five of their opponents have even mustered 20 points in a game this season.

Stopping Falcons’ offense won’t be easy task for Cowboys - K.D. Drummond, Cowboys Wire
K.D. chats with The Faclons Wire as they discuss key matchups, including the ever-dangerous Falcons quarterback, Matt Ryan.

CowboysWire: Matt Ryan appears to be playing at the level he did when he won the MVP award a few years ago. What are his biggest strengths and does he have any weaknesses to exploit?

FalconsWire: Ryan is definitely playing at an MVP level again. What’s different this year is that he’s throwing just as good outside of the pocket as inside, so that takes away one of those traditional negatives about his game. He also used to force too many passes to Julio Jones, but it’s been about three years now that he’s really become comfortable with taking what the defense gives him. There’s not many weaknesses to go around. I’d say like most QBs, he doesn’t like pressure. The Falcons offensive line has kept him very clean the last few weeks, so if that continues he’ll be tough to stop.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons game preview, analysis - Stefan Stevenson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Stevenson lists five things to watch for including the key to limiting the Falcons offense.

5. Slowing Matt Ryan

Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan is still one of the best in the league. He’s one of four QBs with more than 3,000 passing yards. He’s done it in nine games, the other three have done it in 10. He has multiple weapons, including Julio Jones, who leads the league with 1,040 receiving yards. Rookie Calvin Ridley, who the Cowboys skipped to draft linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in April’s draft, has quickly become one of Ryan’s top targets. Ridley has 36 catches for 500 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns.

Cowboys Defense Faces Tough Matchup vs Falcons Passing Attack - John Williams, Inside The Star
As good as the Cowboys defense has been all year, the Falcons offense will be it’s toughest challenge so far this season.

The Dallas Cowboys are likely going to give up some long drives to the Falcons, and that’s ok. What they don’t want to do is give up big plays to the Falcons passing attack.

The Cowboys rank sixth in the NFL in red zone defense allowing teams to score on only 48.1% of their trips inside the 20 yard line. The Falcons are seventh in the league at scoring in the red zone, but have had their issues scoring touchdowns when getting inside the 20. If the Cowboys can hold them to three instead of seven, I’ll count it as a successful drive for the defense.

The Dallas Cowboys defense is playing really well this season and it ranks in the top 10 in most team defensive categories. However, if they have a weakness it’s been in their pass defense, primarily Awuzie and the safeties. If they want to win this game and continue to get themselves back into the playoff picture, they’re going to need better performances from their defensive backs not named Byron Jones, Anthony Brown, and to a lesser extent Xavier Woods. Facing the Atlanta Falcons prolific passing attack is a huge test for this defense and one that could define the rest of the Dallas Cowboys 2018 season.

Cowboys injury report: Defensive line depth a concern for Dallas with Taco Charlton, David Irving out - David Moore, SportsDay
The Cowboys are banged up and it won’t be hard to determine the inactives, but fortunately some big names are going to be able to suit up.

On offense:

LT Tyron Smith, held out or limited in practice earlier this week after experiencing back spasms, was a full participant Friday and will play against Atlanta. RG Zack Martin, limited in practice the last two days, is listed as questionable but expected to play. LG Connor Williams is listed as questionable as he returns from a scope on his knee, but Xavier Su’a-Filo had a strong game against Philadelphia and is expected to start.

And on defense:

Three defensive linemen -- starting end Taco Charlton (shoulder), tackle David Irving (ankle) and end Daniel Ross (calf) -- have been ruled out of Sunday’s game and a fourth -- Antwaun Woods (concussion protocol) -- is listed as doubtful despite not practicing this week.

Maliek Collins (knee) is listed as questionable and is expected to play, but he was held out of Wednesday’s practice and was limited the last two days. How much he’ll be able to play is a question.

Backup LB Joe Thomas, who has missed the last four games with a knee injury, returned to practice on a limited basis and is listed as questionable.

The Cowboys made a roster move to give them an extra big-body in the interior defensive line for Sunday.

Don’t let me down, Ringo. I believe things can come together with a little help from your friends.

Falcons-Cowboys injury report: Matt Bryant will play, Deion Jones will not - Will McFadden, Atlanta Falcons
The red birds will get their kicker back as veteran Matt Bryant will return after missing three games with a hamstring injury. It was going to be a coin flip on whether stud linebacker Deion Jones would be ready, and it came up tails.

Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones, however, will not be on the field. Jones made his return from injured reserve this week, and he has not played since Week 1 due to a foot injury. Quinn said Jones “is certainly close,” but he wants to make sure Jones is 100 percent ready to go before putting him in a game.

Not having Jones on the field hurts this Falcons defense.

Here is the final practice report...

Official Cowboys fan rooting guide for Week 11 of the 2018 season - RJ Ochoa, Blogging The Boys
Need some help deciding who to root for this week? Well, RJ has simplified things for you with a quick little cheat sheet.

Cowboys need help from Houston, New Orleans, and maybe a few others

The most critical things in Week 11 besides the Cowboys locking up their own win in Atlanta are without a doubt losses from NFC East foes. Washington hosts Houston with the Texans coming off of their bye and holding on to a six-game winning streak. That is the next-most important thing after rooting for Dallas on Sunday.

Similarly the Cowboys want to see the Eagles lose (this happened last Sunday when Philadelphia lost at home to Dallas, by the way) as always, but it’s very crowded in the NFC East and separation would be ideal. The Eagles will be on the road at the Superdome which is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL, factoring in that the Saints look like one of the top teams in it will certainly make it all the more difficult.

Other than that, it would be nice if some other wildcard-contending teams lost so that they become more of a possibility for Dallas to catch. It’s extremely unlikely that they would, but we’ve seen crazier things.

USA TODAY Week 11 NFL picks: Chiefs-Rams, Pack-Seahawks split opinions - Nate Davis, USA Today
The writing staff for USA today all pick the Falcons to win in what everyone is predicting will be a high scoring affair.

Who will win, Falcons or Cowboys? Expert picks - Staff, Atlanta Falcons
Yesterday, we shared how the writing staff over at the Mothership felt about this week’s game. It was mixed. Maybe that was just Cowboys optimism talking because the writing staff from various media outlets all lean towards the Falcons.

No worries. The Cowboys seem to rise up when nobody has much faith in them.

If you live in the red area, the Cowboys game will be on your television sets for the early game (map courtesy of 506 Sports).

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