There is only one unbeaten team, and the Falcons have shown few signs of losing any time soon. They have played a couple of close games — strangely, at home against two of the weakest teams they have faced in Oakland and Carolina — but they have always found a way to get it done. This is a huge game for them — if they win here then the path to 11-0 or even 13-0 is relatively smooth. With each win they also come closer to all but wrapping up the NFC South title.
They already have a four-game lead with just nine games left, so barring a major collapse they are just a win or two away from wrapping things up. Then they’ll just be playing for home field advantage in the playoffs. Really, they already are.
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For the Cowboys the situation is much different. They came into this season with high expectations, but that goes without saying — America’s Team always comes into the season with high expectations. At 3-4, though, things haven’t turned out at all like they were supposed to. The Giants are running away with the division at 6-2, and the wild card leaders are at 5-3 right now, so the Cowboys are at real risk of wasting another season if they don’t get their acts together soon.
Last year the issue was their secondary — it was just brutal. This year there is still work to do, but the improvement has been significant. Now they have just found other ways to struggle — and frustrate their fans and backers in the process.
Cowboys at Falcons Betting Storylines
The Falcons are doing a lot of things right, but the biggest reason for their success has to be Matt Ryan — the clear leader in the MVP race at this point in the season. He’s completing nearly 70 percent of his passes, throwing almost three touchdowns for each interception, and leading a Top-5 scoring offense despite a struggling running game. It’s been a complete effort. Most impressive has been his consistency. Only once in seven games — against the Raiders when he threw three picks and just one TD — has he had less than a solid game. He bounced back from that game with his best showing of the year, so he’s mentally in a good place, too. The Dallas secondary has mostly been solid, but they will face a huge test here. That matchup will have a big impact on this game.
As good as Atlanta has been there is one oddity — they have been surprisingly weak at home. They are 4-0 ATS on the road, but just 1-2 ATS at home. Their four road wins have been relatively easy, while all three at home have been decided by less than a touchdown. It could be that they are complacent at home — especially against weaker opponents — or that the friendly crowd makes them too comfortable. Whatever the situation, it’s rare to see a team of this caliber that is much easier to trust on the road than at home. That’s an issue here, and it could be a continuing issue down the road — especially if they keep winning and get home field advantage in the playoffs.
Tony Romo has a strong reputation in the NFL — or at least he did. With each passing game over the last couple of years it has become harder and harder to truly consider him an elite QB in the league. This year he just hasn’t been very good. His yards per attempt are the lowest they have ever been, his passer rating of 78.8 is brutal, and his ratio of nine touchdowns to 13 interceptions is so far from acceptable that it’s hard to believe. He’s still completing two-thirds of his passes, and he’s third in the league in passing yards per game. Therefore, it’s not a case of total incompetence. It’s just that he’s not making consistently good decisions. At this point in his career he should be better than that. He’s not being helped out by the non-existent running game — they are 28th in yards per game at just 86. Atlanta has struggled defensively against the run, though, so perhaps that can take pressure off Romo and give him more time to make good decisions.
The Cowboys face enough pressure already, but their schedule adds even more. They play road games this week and next week in Philadelphia. After that, though, they play five of six at home, and most are winnable. That home stretch can help them get back into the playoff picture, but only if they come through this stretch of games okay. As a team that hasn’t traditionally handled pressure very well, more pressure isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Cowboys at Falcons Odds and Betting Trends
This game opened with the Falcons favored by as many as five points, but that has widely fallen to four points in early action. Given that more than two-thirds of bets have been on the Falcons, that’s somewhat surprising movement suggesting that sharp money has been on the Cowboys. The total opened at 47.5 and has been stable at that level.
The Cowboys have been dangerous as a road favorite of 3.5 to 10 points recently — they are 5-0 ATS in their last five tries. Dallas has easily won and covered the last two meetings, but those happened in 2006 and 2009, so that doesn’t mean much. Dallas is 3-1 ATS on the road this year, but a dismal 0-3 ATS at home.
Cowboys at Falcons Predictions and NFL Picks
I’m surprising myself with this one based on what I initially thought, but at this price I like the Cowboys. Dallas plays a very tough style of defense, and that made things difficult for the Falcons against the Raiders. Dallas has been tough on the road, and the Falcons have been inconsistent at home. Dallas struggles when they can’t run, but the Atlanta run defense gives them a better than normal chance. At worst Dallas should be able to stay close.
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