Odds tell us that the Falcons will be 8-0 on Monday morning. Atlanta, however, is not the story in this game. The NFL world is fixated on the annual disappointment that has become the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones' frantic search for "a glory hole" has already been thrown off course much earlier than usual in the season.
The Cowboys might have turned things around last week had Dez Bryant simply let his posterior take the force of landing in the end zone. Four fickle fingers of fate landed first, only slightly out of bounds. Dallas hasn't been this enraged by a photo finish since the 1960 presidential election. Quarterback Tony Romo is of course the epicenter of the Cowboys' problems. Right or wrong, he's the one that would be well advised to stay away from grassy knolls and book depositories the day after he inevitably throws his next interception.
Whatever narrative you choose to explain the team's struggles - from poor coaching to freelance quarterbacking to a general manager that runs the roster like an internet commenter - whatever the underlying problems with the Cowboys, Romo is somehow mixed up in it.
The Falcons are a well-oiled machine. This is in part the result of Mike Smith being a silver-haired robot. Atlanta's football operation and its continued success would be the envy of even the English bureaucracy, by far the world's tidiest. Each decision is made with an eye two steps ahead of the plan. It is overseen by Thomas Dimitroff, who is Bill Belichick's successful son. The only problem is that this beautiful machine has produced exactly zero playoff wins since 2008. Even the schizophrenic Cowboys won a single playoff game over that span, in just one 2009 appearance.
Atlanta's record speaks for itself. Sure, four of the first seven games included all four AFC West teams, but the Falcons looked pretty good running through the WAC Conference of the NFL. Matt Ryan is making a case for being included with the NFL's elite quarterback club. The defense is allowing just over 18 points per game. All of those things are nice, but mundane compared to the thrill of putting it all into a glory hole.
If either team is going to find a gusher this year, it's the Falcons. A win Sunday night over a brand name franchise will convince a few more and keep the Falcons satisfied for another week.
Falcons win, 34-24
Cast of Characters
Tony Romo, Hot Girl
Earlier in the year we said that it's better to date a decent looking girl who's stable (Alex Smith) than a super hot girl who's completely insane and unpredictable. There's no better example of the latter than good ol' Tony Romo. AT YOUR OWN RISK, PEOPLE.
Dez Bryant, Carnival Trick
Looks like a Pro Bowl receiver who will make insane touchdown catches to win games, but just when you reach out to touch it, it... it was all a lie.
Jason Garrett, Andy Reid
Once everyone realizes Jason Garrett is just a crappier version of Andy Reid, the last few Cowboys teams will make so much more sense. Think about that. A CRAPPIER VERSION OF ANDY REID.
Matt Ryan, Hot Girl
But this one's not crazy!
Julio Jones, Cyborg
If you designed a receiver from scratch, wouldn't he look exactly like Julio Jones? Including the dreads? It's really disappointing that he cut off the dreads, but maybe that's what he needed to hit the next level. Like a reverse Samson effect.
The '72 Miami Dolphins, Annoying
Hey so when do we start mentioning the '72 Dolphins during every Falcons game? When they're 8-0? 10-0? And is this section enough to jinx the Falcons on Sunday?
Atlanta was once depicted as a lost underwater city in an episode of Futurama. This was the description.
"Atlanta was a city, landlocked, hundreds of miles from the area we now call the Atlantic Ocean. Yet so desperate the city's desire for tourism, that they moved offshore, becoming an island, and an even bigger delta hub. Until the city overdeveloped, and began to sink. Knowing their fate, the quality people ran away. Ted Turner, Hank Aaron, Jeff Foxworthy, the man who invented Coca Cola, the magician, and the other gods of our legends. Though gods they were - and also, Jane Fonda was there - the others chose to stay behind in their porches with their rifles, and in time evolved into mermaids, and sing and dance, and ring in the new…"
I live in Atlanta, and would like to debate this point. I cannot. Visitors to Atlanta will note our airport, the Coca-Cola museum, and other "landmarks" TV crews focus on during NFL broadcasts. This is camouflage. The real reason to move to Atlanta is to have your own house, your own porch, and yes, to fall into the sea when overdevelopment takes us to our watery future home. I plan on enjoying my gills.
Famous Atlantans include Andre 3000, Margaret Mitchell, Ed Helms, Ted Turner, Lil' Jon, Bobby Jones, Julia Roberts, Jeff Foxworthy, the band Mastodon, and Usher. We're really, really sorry about Usher.
Take MARTA to the dome and your car everywhere else. Eat at a restaurant, because we have really good ones at every price point. None of these are The Varsity, where the hot dogs may literally be made of people. Get the onion rings and then got to Richard Blais' HD1 if you really need a hot dog that bad. (P.S. You do not need a hot dog. No one has ever needed a hot dog, ever.)
Ask the Locals: Falcons
Is the NFL ready for an MVP with two first names?
Because they might get one. Matt Ryan is in the top five in every category. He's helming the only undefeated team in the NFL. He's thrown 16 touchdowns against just seven interceptions, he's completing 68.8% of his passes and he has a family-friendly nickname. The only thing that can hold him back is the fact that he has two first names, and that's a serious issue. According to my exhaustive research, quarterbacks with two first names are 178 percent less likely to win an MVP award. Bump that up to 200 percent if they play in Atlanta, which ESPN treats like a leper colony. Oh, forgot about Tom Brady. Guess I kinda wasted your time here.
How are the Atlanta Falcons 7-0? I mean, seriously?
Glad you asked. The Atlanta Falcons are 7-0 for the first time in franchise history—they had never even gone 5-0 before, which is fairly pathetic—because they have finally embraced the idea that a defense needs to do more than just hold a lead. Under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, this defense has been on the attack, allowing fewer yards and forcing more mistakes. With the offense humming along, that's been enough to propel them to new heights. That and the rest of the NFC South playing like a dumpster fire will buy you a ticket to the playoffs.
Ask the Locals: Cowboys
The Cowboys are 3-4 and have allowed 162 points so far -- both identical to where they were at this point last season. With all the talk of the improved Cowboys defense in 2012, how can that be?
Turnovers. The Cowboys are at a -11 turnover differential this year. Last year at this point, it was a -2. Tony Romo has thrown three pick-sixes on the year and a punt-block was returned for a touchdown so the Cowboys are giving away points. The defense is much better this year, but the Cowboys offense is killing the team. Oh yeah, Atlanta is at a +10 in turnover differential. You can see where this is headed. If Dallas plays another turnover-filled game against the Falcons this game will get out-of-control-ugly, quickly. Of course, that happened last week, and Dallas came within a fingertip of winning.
Speaking of that fingertip loss, the offending digit belonged to the hand of Dez Bryant. In trying to overcome the turnovers, Bryant almost turned a disaster into a miracle, only to be undone by the out of bounds line and his fingers. Then again, this should come as no surprise as one thing (out of many) that Bryant is known for is having huge hands. One of his high school teachers is quoted as saying: “His hands, you can’t imagine. He has phenomenal hands. They’re huge.” Two college coach quotes: "He’s just freaky in how big his hands are and how strong they are. They seem like big oven mitts.” “His hands are absolutely huge. They are absolutely huge.” For a receiver this is normally a good thing. But for Bryant and the Cowboys, for one catch, those oven mitts were just a little overgrown to produce one of the best comebacks in the NFL. This week, we'd be talking about the Cowboys as genuine "lay your hands on me" miracle workers. Unfortunately, the hands-down consensus is the team is looking for a helping-hand.
Assessing the Bodily Injuries
1. Roddy White, WR, Falcons (back, definitely will play)
The Cowboys actually have the personnel to cover Roddy White and Julio Jones. Whether they actually do is another question.
2. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys (hip, probably)
The Cowboys aren't concerned about it but Bryant came down hard on his hip in last week's game against the Giants. If he misses another game-winning touchdown pass (like last week) Cowboys fans will want to injure him some more.
3. Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Falcons (ankle, maybe)
Weatherspoon could've been facing big trouble with a high ankle sprain but luckily an MRI showed he suffered only a minor sprain last week. He could play but he'll be hobbled.
4. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys (foot, maybe)
Murray hasn't played since Week 5 and his status is up in the air. The Cowboys say they're going to be cautious with his foot but it's been three weeks. Cautious time is over.
Gentlemen, Place Your Bets
Statgasm: Step Away from the Alamo, Sir
In 140-character Conclusion...
"I'm shocked Tony Romo ended the game with an interception." - Nobody
Dallas Cowboys do the Dallas Cowboys better than anyone
Falcons improve to 15-0 when Matt Ryan throws 3+ TD passes. Via Elias: All-time record is Daryle Lamonica, 19-0
Matt Ryan doesn't. That's who RT @RumfordJohnny: How about a compromise, “Mattural Ice?” Who doesn’t love bad beer puns?
Just like the last Cowboy to wear #88, Dez Bryant can't avoid a white line when it matters the most.