Dallas Cowboys Countdown to Atlanta Falcons

WHEN:  3:25 p.m. Central Time

WATCH: FOX (Joe Buck & Troy Aikman)

LISTEN: Dallas Cowboys Radio Network; Sirius 82, XM 82; Cowboys app

FOLLOW: @BobbyBeltTX@CamiAnnG@JonahTulsNFL@therealmarklane



Red = Cowboys-Falcons

Blue = Giants-49ers

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10: Sacks Dak Prescott has taken in 2017 — The second-year signal caller has been dropped 10 times by opposing defenses, good for fifth-fewest sacks in the NFL among quarterbacks with 100 pass attempts. The Falcons are tied with the Colts and Jets for the 12th-fewest sacks in the NFL. The gap may contract as left tackle Tyron Smith is out, Chaz Green in, and running back Ezekiel Elliott finally serving his six-game suspension. If Prescott can avoid Atlanta’s pressure, it will help him survey the field.


9: Jason Garrett’s November road wins — The eighth head coach in Cowboys history is 19-10 in November with a 9-3 record on the road. That means his winning percentage is better away in the season’s penultimate month than it is at home (.750 to .588). Garrett will need to summon whatever special motivation he always has in November as his team will be without Smith and Elliott. Garrett took over a 1-7 team with no Tony Romo in his first game, a November game, as interim head coach in 2010. Redball knows how to get his team ready in November, and will no doubt have them ready in a must-win against the Falcons.


8: The Cowboys’ rank for opposing completion percentage — Opposing quarterbacks have completed 65.6 percent of their passes against the Cowboys, which his the eighth-most in the NFL. Interestingly, that is the exact number for Matt Ryan’s completion percentage, which is ninth-best in the NFL. Yes, our friend, R.J. Ochoa from ESPN SA/Blogging The Boys/Twitter has been notified. Nonetheless, it presents a unique challenge for Dallas, who is tied for 11th-fewest yards surrendered per attempt at 6.8. Can they keep Ryan from going downfield, and when he dumps it off, can they “keep the cup” and gang-tackle the receiver?


7: Tevin Coleman’s rank for yards per carry — The 2015 third-round pick from Indiana has 5.0 yards per carry, good for seventh-best in the NFL. Granted, he only carries the ball nearly eight times a game, but it is representative of his ability to move the Falcons offense on the ground as a sidekick to Devonta Freeman. With Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens playing weakside and middle linebacker respectively, along with Jaylon Smith’s snaps limited, Coleman shouldn’t have the space to emulate Todd Gurley in any way.


6: Carries Alfred Morris has had since the bye — We all knew Alfred Morris would get the first crack at starting running back when Elliott served his suspension, even though obvious tweets are obvious. Since the Cowboys returned from the bye, Morris has been well rested with exactly six carries for 29 yards through three games. Morris is made for the Cowboys’ zone-blocking scheme as it is similar to what he ran behind in Washington from 2012-15. In that time, Morris did play the Dan Quinn-led Falcons in 2015 and rushed for a paltry 15 yards on eight attempts. Dallas will feed Morris more than the running-back-less Jay Gruden team in Washington.


5: Dez Bryant’s rank for red zone touchdowns — An off-year for Bryant? Maybe so, but his biggest asset has always been as a red zone target. This season, Bryant is tied for fifth-most red zone touchdown receptions with four. Half of those touchdowns have come from inside the 10-yard line. If the Cowboys get down inside the red zone, especially with Elliott nixed, targets to Bryant will be at a premium since he is one of their best red zone targets.


4: Losses Cowboys have had to Atlanta when holding the better record — Dallas comes into Sunday’s encounter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a 5-3 mark against the Falcons’ 4-4 record, making it the 14th time in series history Dallas has had the better record ahead of the match-up. Only four times the Cowboys lost; not only that, but the Cowboys are 0-4 against Atlanta in November with every one of those losses in Atlanta. The Cowboys will need to clean up the offensive penalties and limit the big plays on defense so they don’t play to this strange trend.


3: Cole Beasley’s rank for touchdowns inside the 10 — If you can’t get the ball to Bryant inside the 10-yard line, maybe you need to add a little Sauce. The 2012 undrafted receiver from SMU has caught four touchdown passes inside the 10-yard line. With Elliott out and the Cowboys’ ability to punch it in inside the 10 dubious, Dallas may look to Beasley more as they approach the goal line.


2: Freeman’s rank for rushing touchdowns inside the 5-yard line — The 2014 fourth-round pick from Florida State has scored four rushing touchdowns from inside the 5-yard line, tied with a myriad of other backs (including Elliott) for the second-most in the NFL. If the Falcons get down inside the 5, know that they will pound the rock with Freeman. The Cowboys currently are the 14th-worst red zone defense in the NFL with allowing touchdowns on 56.0 percent of their opponents’ trips. Dallas will need to play above the percentages.


1: Field goals, extra points missed in Mercedes-Benz Stadium — Opposing kickers are 6-of-6 on field goals and 6-of-6 on extra points in the Falcons’ new digs with Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant 8-of-8 on point-afters and 4-of-5 on field goals. Bryant has gone 15-of-18 in 2017 as Dallas kicker Mike Nugent, filling in for Pro Bowler Dan Bailey, has gone 4-of-5 since the Washington game on Oct. 29. Will it really come down to one kick?

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