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Cowboys vs. Falcons: Writer predictions for the home opener against Atlanta

After a rude awakening last week, how do our writers feel this time around?

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

All of our writers felt confident in the Cowboys’ ability to get the win over the Rams last week and look good doing it. That couldn’t have been further from the truth, but Dallas seems to face an easier matchup this week in the Falcons. But the Cowboys are missing cornerback Anthony Brown, who’s on injured reserve, and Tyron Smith is a game-time decision. So how do our writers feel?

When Atlanta has the ball

Don’t give up the big play

The Rams took advantage of the Cowboys’ soft coverage by attacking the first level of the defense over and over. They ran the ball relentlessly and threw a ton of short passes and screens; Jared Goff had the fewest intended air yards last week because of it.

The Falcons are almost the exact opposite. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter deploys a wide variety of personnel groupings with one singular motive: attack down the field. Matt Ryan had the ninth most intended air yards last week while piling up 450 passing yards. This offense will try and test the Cowboys’ weak secondary, and if they can prevent big plays it will take the Falcons out of rhythm.

When Dallas has the ball

Be who we thought they were

Last year, Kellen Moore showed everyone glimpses of what his offense looked like: lots of pre-snap motion, play-action, and passing on first down. Mike McCarthy’s aggressive, pass-happy approach was supposed to unleash Moore from the conservative nature of the previous coaching regime, but the result looked more like something from the former than the latter.

Atlanta’s defense lacks any real playmakers, and it’s why they were gashed for 38 points last year. If the Cowboys can simply regain their identity and play the kind of offensive football they’re capable of, they can put up a record-setting performance against the Falcons.

Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...

DannyPhantom:

How good is this coaching staff? That is what I want to know. The Cowboys are dealing with a bunch of excuses injuries, but that shouldn’t stop them from being able to get things going against a porous Falcons defense. And they better get at it too, because Atlanta’s offense isn’t chop liver.

While I expect the Cowboys pass rush to be better this week, the Falcons offense will challenge them at times. If Dak and company spin their wheels for any extended amount of possessions, it’s going to be a sad day in AT&T, but I’m hoping this coaching staff has them firing on all cylinders on Sunday. Gimme the boys in a close one.

Cowboys 27, Falcons 24.

Tom Ryle:

This should be a wide open offensive show. Both teams sport great receivers, both quarterbacks can throw the ball, and both have big name running backs. And their defenses both had trouble stopping the other team in game 1.

So I expect this to be a second low scoring affair for the Cowboys, because that is usually how the obvious expectations go. Dallas also has some major worries on the offensive line that could severely curtail how deep they can work in the passing game, while I think Jim Tomsula’s pass rushers are going to give Matt Ryan fits all day. It will come down again to field goals, but Greg Zuerlein, helped by some shorter fields, will have a better result, and the Cowboys will win 23-16.

Terence Watson:

With the secondary and offensive line depth a real concern and after impressive showing from the Atlanta Falcons three top receivers and talented pass rushers this will be a tough game. If the Cowboys are going to win this week it will be won in the trenches. The offensive live should fair better than they did last week against the Rams giving Dak Prescott time to pick apart the less than stellar secondary of the Falcons.

While the defensive line must stop not only Matt Ryan from getting comfortable in the pocket but also stopping Todd Gurley from running all over them like Malcolm Brown did last week. If they can win those battles which I believe they can they will win this game. Led by DeMarcus Lawrence and Aldon Smith’s four combined sacks the Cowboys get their first win of the season at home.

Cowboys 31, Falcons 24

Dave Halprin:

The Cowboys will win this game if the coaching staff trusts Dak Prescott. They need to allow him the freedom to run the offense and get into uptempo mode if he feels the need. The Cowboys offense simply runs more efficiently when they don’t waste time and attack downfield. Yes they have offensive line issues, but plenty of teams win through injuries. No excuses. There will be points scored, but once the Dallas brain-trust understands what they need to do, the Cowboys will prevail 35-23.

Matt Holleran:

We’re about to find out just how deep this Cowboys team really is. With key injuries on both sides of the ball, Dallas will be tested in every facet of the game. Luckily for the Cowboys, their offense should be able to feast on the Falcons poor defense. Dak Prescott will have a huge day tossing three touchdown passes, tearing up the Falcons secondary.

On defense, things won’t be great, but the defensive line will get enough pressure to force a key turnover. Atlanta keeps in the game, but Prescott and the Cowboys drive down the field in the final seconds, leading to a Greg Zuerlein game-winning field goal.

Dallas 34 Atlanta 31

David Howman:

The Cowboys just got their first taste of the new coaching staff, and things didn’t look pretty. But the defense made some really good in-game adjustments last week, and I expect them to come out stronger to start this game because of it. The pass rush will have more opportunities to get after Matt Ryan, too.

But the offense worries me, especially if Tyron Smith isn’t good to go. A slow start for the offense could put too much pressure on this defense, so it’ll be critical for Moore and Dak Prescott to catch fire quick. In the end, I see this turning into a shootout where the last team to hold the ball wins the game. After flipping a coin, that ends up being the Falcons.

Falcons 28, Cowboys 24