Last Updated: 2017-11-08
The Dallas Cowboys (5-3) have one shot to get back into the NFC East race. Currently, they are two games back of the Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) in the loss column. The Eagles have a bye week. However, the Cowboys have a shot to be within one game by November 19. The Cowboys also might be out of the division race entirely if they fall to the Atlanta Falcons (4-4) this Sunday. Meaning, the Cowboys are already in a must-win situation against the defending NFC Champions.
Due to the hotly contested NFC playoff race, conference wins are of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, the Cowboys have to deal with Ezekiel Elliott suspension saga at least one more week. In the coming hours, they will find out once and for all if Elliott will be with the team for the rest of the season. If not, he may have to sit out six games down the stretch. Would the Cowboys be able to withstand a loss over the final eight weeks of the season?
The Cowboys are already (3-1) in road games. Their only loss came against the Denver Broncos in Week 2. Therefore, traveling to the Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium shouldn’t be the toughest part of their trip. However, the Cowboys are looking to avoid their third conference loss of the season. They already fell to the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers at home. Currently, the Rams are leading the NFC West, while the Packers have fallen due to serious injuries. More importantly, a loss to the Falcons will knock the Cowboys out of the last Wild card spot. Right now, the Cowboys hold the tie-breaker over the Seattle Seahawks. Both teams face off in Week 16. Yet, the Cowboys’ main competition should come from the Falcons. After it’s all said and done, Week 10 really could be the decisive moment of the NFC Playoff race.
Quarterback Dak Prescott has taken another step forward in his development during his second NFL season. So far, he has accounted for 16 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions, while completing 63 percent of his pass attempts. Prescott also has four touchdown runs this season. Will his workload increase as the weather gets colder? Prescott is throwing the ball 32 times per game. He’s only running the ball 3.2 times per game. Yet, Prescott has seemed to make enough big plays over the last three games.
However, it’s been Elliott’s emergence that has the Cowboys right back in the mix after a slow start. Elliott averaged 69 rushing yards per game during his first four games. Naturally, that number was diminished by the 8-yard effort in the loss to the Broncos. Still, Elliott has accounted for 126 yards, scoring 5 of his 7 touchdowns in the last month.
The biggest question in passing game comes from Dez Bryant. He leads the Cowboys with 75 targets for 38 receptions and 439 yards and 4 touchdowns. However, Bryant suffered an ankle injury and is questionable for the Falcons’ game. The good news, Cole Beasley earned his second two-touchdown game of the season in the win over the Kansas City Chiefs. But can he increase his performance if the offense is altered due to suspension and injury?
Defensively, the Cowboys have been brilliant during their three-game winning streak. They are giving up 15.3 points per during that stretch. Over the course of the season, the Cowboys are giving up 22.3 points per game. Meaning, they are playing a full touchdown better than their season average. In fact, if the Cowboys didn’t give up a screen-mary to the Chiefs right before halftime, they would have been lauded for another dominant performance. Yet, they are facing a Falcons’ offense with electrifying weapons. Therefore, a confident Cowboys’ defense can’t relax at all.
Currently, they are 3-point underdogs despite the winning streak. The Falcons are averaging 16.3 points over the last three games. They have also lost 4 of the last 5 games. So, the Falcons might be ready to breakout offensively. That’s the biggest reason why the Cowboys have to beware.