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2012 NFL Week 9 Preview: Atlanta Falcons vs. Dallas Cowboys

Welcome back to this week's installment of BDTS. This time the Dallas Cowboys led by Tony Romo and Demarcus Ware will be coming to the Georgia Dome to play an Atlanta Falcons squad led by Matt Ryan and Sean Weatherspoon. The last time the two teams played in 2009 the Cowboys came out on top by a score of 37-21.

As always we'll start out by looking at the coaching matchups. Jason Garrett and Mike Smith have never gone head to head as head coaches. When the Falcons last played the Cowboys, it was Wade Phillips who was in charge.

When the Cowboys last faced Mike Nolan it was in 2011 when Nolan was the DC of the Dolphins. In that game Tony Romo was held to only 226 yards passing and Demarcco Murray was limited to 87 yards rushing, and in total the Dolphins only gave up 20 points. However, as is the recurring theme here the Dolphins offense couldn't get the job done and fell two points short of a win.

Nolan's defense undoubtley got the job done against the Cowboys, the offense just couldn't close the deal. When the Cowboys last faced Dirk Koetter it was in 2010 when Koetter was the OC of the Jaguars. The Jaguars came away victors in a 35-17 fashion with David Garrad going 17/21 for 260 yards four TDs and no interceptions. Maurice Jones Drew carried the ball 27 times for 135 yards as the Jaguars vanqiushed the Cowboys. It's quite clear here that the Falcons have a coaching edge as both of the coordinators units fared well against the Cowboys when they last played against them.

When looking at the Cowboys D one name in particular sticks out, that would be DeMarcus Ware. The Falcons must find a way to stop DeMarcus Ware, who put up 19.5 sacks last year. I would imagine that Ware will see plenty of chips and double teams in this game, but Atlanta must keep him from constantly pressuring QB Matt Ryan. The Cowboys DL is pretty average; Jay Ratliff used to be a force at the NT, but he has started to lose steam as he has gotten older. Atlanta must make sure that he doesn't start controlling the middle of the line and closing the running lanes for Turner. This is especially important since Dallas has one of the better up and coming LBs in the league in Sean Lee.

Lee recorded 105 Tackles last season with 10 stuffs, 4 Ints, and 10 PD. Matt Ryan must watch for him in coverage as he's not a LB that you can just throw against. In the secondary the Cowboys are weak at the safety position, but took several steps to strengthen the corner position. One of them was signing Brandon Carr away from the Chiefs. Then the Cowboys drafted LSU CB Morris Claiborne eighth overall. Claiborne, from reports has struggled so far in training camp with the Cowboys and #3 CB Mike Jenkins has been dealing with injuries that have landed him on the Pup/Act list. Either way by week nine Jenkins should be healthy and Claiborne should have a better grip on the game. Claiborne could struggle with the athleticism of Julio Jones, and that should be something that Matt Ryan should look to exploit.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys are a lot like Atlanta was last year. Very good skill position players, but aside from one, maybe two players they are really lacking on the OL. Nate Living and Mackenzy Bernadeau are both mediocre players on the interior and it gets even worse when you add in Phil Costa was a significant drop off from Andre Gurode. Even worse the Cowboys gave Doug Free a big contract following a superb 2010 season, but Free fell off in a bad way in 2011 and finished with a -11.9 grade from Pro Football Focus finishing as the Cowboy's worst OL. The one bright spot was rookie LT Tyron Smith who played very well and should continue to improve.

The Cowboys OL for the most part is a mess. John Babineaux and Corey Peters should have no problem exploiting the interior and Lawrence Sidbury could give Doug Free a ton of trouble off the edge with his speed, something Free struggled with a lot in 2011. It's nearly impossible to predict the Cowboys' starters at the skill positions. Romo seems to be on a short leash, DeMarcco Murray is injury prone, Jerry Jones recently said that if Dez Bryant continues to screw up they would move on without him and Miles Austin had a big dropoff last year combined with injuries. The only real mainstay is TE Jason Witten. Asante Samuel should be able to grab an INT off the mistake prone Romo, and Brent Grimes should be more then enough to deal with Miles Austin. If Dez Bryant is still on the team when this game roles around he could be a problem due to his oustanding athleticism.

Overall I think the Falcons walk out winners in this game. The Cowboys are an average team with a lot of injury prone players and a bad offesnive line. On defense the Cowboys have some good talent they still have massive holes at both of the safety positions and they have yet to find a pass rusher across from DeMarcus Ware. Add in the fact that this game is in the Georgia Dome and it just gives Atlanta that much more of an advantage.

Previously on "Breaking Down the Schedule":

9/9 at Kansas City

9/17 vs Denver

9/23 at San Diego

9/30 vs Carolina

10/7 at Washington

10/14 vs Oakland

10/28 a Philly

Get more great Atlanta Falcons news and analysis over at The Grits Blitz.


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