1. Falcons defensive line vs. Cowboys offensive line – The Cowboys will be relying on their dominant offensive line to guide them to victory without their two stars. Making life comfortable for backup quarterback Brandon Weeden while opening running lanes for Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden will be their key to win, and it’s important the Falcons are able to win the battle up front.
Stopping the run and pressuring Weeden will make life very difficult for the Cowboys offense, although this will be no easy task for the Atlanta Falcons. Vic Beasley will need to have a good game.
2. Falcons run defense vs. Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden – You can bet Dallas wants to run the ball early and often, so it’s important Atlanta bottle it up early. Dan Quinn’s team has done a good job with this in the opening two games, allowing only 160 yards on the ground. Putting the game in the hands of Weeden will tilt the game in Atlanta’s favor, and it all starts with stopping the run.
3. Falcons running backs vs. Cowboys run defense – Devonta Freeman will take the majority of the carries with Tevin Coleman likely to be out with a fractured rib, and he will need to find some success against the leagues’ top-ranked run defense. Much like the Falcons did, the Cowboys have shut down DeMarco Murray and Rashad Jennings in recent weeks, and will look to make Freeman the third victim.
Nov 30, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) runs the ball against the Arizona Cardinals in the second quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Terron Ward may get some carries, but it will Freeman in the driving seat, and he will need to get the job done. Churning out yards on the ground will keep the defense honest and help the Falcons win the time of possession battle. The less time Weeden has to make plays, the less effective he will be.
4. Desmond Trufant vs. Terrance Williams – Against the Giants, Desmond Trufant didn’t see the ball come his way once. He could be responsible for Terrance Williams on Sunday, although it’s also possible he ends up covering tight end Jason Witten. Whatever the scenario, Trufant will need to make a strong impact in the game and make life tough for the backup quarterback.
With no Dez Bryant to cover, the Falcons pass defense has a much easier job in front of them, but a key will be Trufant causing problems for the receivers.
5. Devonta Freeman vs. Joseph Randle – Running the football will be so important in this game. The Cowboys will try and lean on it, while the Falcons will aim to achieve balance on offense. If either of these two backs outscores the other by a large margin, it could be the deciding factor of the game. Both players need to improve from their early-season performances, but if either surpasses 100 yards it could be enough to lead their team to victory.