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Week 3 Preview: Falcons at Cowboys

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Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-0)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews

*Keys to the game: The Cowboys lead the NFL in time of possession with a ball-control passing game altered dramatically in the first two games by the loss of WR Dez Bryant (foot) and QB Tony Romo (clavicle). Hogging the ball from the Falcons is still the goal, but the method changes with Brandon Weeden behind center. The Cowboys would prefer to run a power-based scheme but if TE Jason Witten (knee, ankles) sits, the personnel groupings are further stretched. In two games, RB Joseph Randle hasn’t looked the part of bell-cow back (3.4 yards per carry, 116 yards in two games). To help Weeden win the turnover battle, Randle, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar will get extra work.

The Falcons are going without RB Tevin Coleman (ribs) and the Cowboys are tops in the NFL against the run. However, the Falcons’ passing game is potent, scoring a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks with WR Julio Jones playing at a nearly unstoppable level (22-276 in two games) and Roddy White going for his fourth 100-yard game in a row vs. Dallas in a matchup with CB Morris Claiborne that Atlanta has to love. Atlanta can take advantage of the aggressive front seven of the Cowboys if Devonta Freeman is able to find bigger creases than he did last week.

*Matchup to watch – Falcons QB Matt Ryan vs. Cowboys WLB Sean Lee: When the Cowboys needed a huge play last week, Lee produced, and he’s tied through two games for the NFL lead in tackles. Lee’s 12 interceptions since 2010 are the most by a linebacker in that span, and Ryan must locate him when getting rid of the ball in the face of pressure.

*Player spotlight – Cowboys TE Gavin Escobar: Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has used more two-TE sets and Escobar had a touchdown in Week 1 before being called down at the goal line at Philadelphia last week.

*Fast facts: Weeden has the NFL’s longest current streak with 12 consecutive completions dating back to last season. He was 7-of-7 passing last week. … Falcons WR Devin Hester has 37 career TDs, including 20 returns.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

Brandon Weeden stares into a bright spotlight at AT&T Stadium with a 5-16 career record aiming not to lose, but the Falcons scorch the Dallas defense for early points and expose Weeden’s limitations to get first-year coach Dan Quinn to 3-0.

*Our pick: Falcons 31-22.


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