The Dallas Cowboys are 3-4 and pressure is mounting on coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo. The Atlanta Falcons are 7-0 and have won 30 of their last 36 home games. Atlanta hosts Dallas tonight. Perhaps surprisingly the Falcons are only mild favorites in Las Vegas.
Scheduling helps tell the story
In four losses this season Dallas has faced three likely playoff teams in addition to 4-4 Seattle. The Falcons have squared off against teams with a combined record of 18-32. Atlanta's three home games have resulted in a 27-21 win against Denver when Peyton Manning tossed three first quarter interceptions, a 30-28 victory over Carolina that required two scores in the final five minutes to triumph, and a 23-20 triumph versus Oakland in which Atlanta trailed 20-13 with three minutes left and needed a 55 yard field goal on the final play to taste victory.
Five of the Cowboys' first seven opponents are likely playoff teams. After tonight, the 'Boys are poised to get things going. Of their final eight games, Pittsburgh is the only Dallas opponent currently at or above .500.
Atlanta's formula of beating bad teams is destined to continue. After tonight the Falcons play only one likely playoff team. They host the New York Giants on December 16. The final nine Atlanta opponents have gone 27-38 this season with only New York sporting a winning mark
Even with a difficult schedule the Cowboys rank third in the league in both passing offense and defense. Dallas's issue has been a failure to get the ground game working. In two weeks since starting RB DeMarco Murray was injured, the Cowboys have averaged 2.2 yards per carry. The Giants limited Dallas to 19 yards on 17 carries last Sunday
Atlanta QB Matt Ryan is having an MVP-type season. He ranks third in the NFL in completion percentage (69 percent), touchdown passes (17), and quarterback rating (103). Ryan has limited mistakes tossing just six interceptions and has led Atlanta on three fourth quarter game winning drives in the last four games.
Meanwhile Romo leads the NFL with 13 INT's. He ranks just 24th in league in QB rating.
Dallas has played a better schedule and their statistics indicate that they are just as talented as the Falcons. If the Cowboys limit mistakes they'll be in the game. Will Ryan lead another late drive for a victory? For Atlanta to win it seems likely he will need to.