(Editor's Note: Each week, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will present "6 Days to Sunday" for the upcoming game, presenting a daily update for each team as they head into the upcoming contest. This week, the Cowboys are looking for a four-game winning streak when they travel to face the Falcons in their new stadium.)
WHAT: Dallas Cowboys (5-3) at Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 12 - 3:25 p.m. (Central)
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, Georgia
TELEVISION: Fox (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman & Erin Andrews)
The Cowboys downgraded both Tyron Smith (groin/back) and tight endGeoff Swaim to Out for Sunday's game. Smith will be replaced by Chaz Green at left tackle and Swaim's spot as backup tight end and special teams contributor will be replaced by rookie Blake Jarwin.
The Cowboys have claimed defensive tackle Daniel Ross of the Chiefs practice squad. Ross, who did not make the trip to Atlanta and will not play Sunday, fills the roster spot vacated by the now suspended Ezekiel Elliott. It's not the first time the Cowboys have signed a defensive linemen from the Chiefs as budding star avid Irving was also signed from KC's practice squad back in 2015.
The Falcons are looking to even the all-time series with the Cowboys in games played in Atlanta. Dallas owns a 7-6 advantage including the playoffs in the city (14-10 overall), and it marks the second time the teams have played in the first season of Atlanta's new stadium. The Cowboys beat the Falcons 41-17 in 1992, the first season of the Georgia Dome. So far this year, Atlanta is just 1-2 in its first three games of the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which not only opened this fall, but promises to be one of the most attractive sports venues in both the NFL and the entire sporting world.
After missing two days of practice, wide receiver Dez Bryant was limited on Friday. However, in the early portion of practice that was available to the media, Bryant had several nice catches, including a one-handed grab that signaled he's not only ready to play, but perhaps at a high level. Bryant suffered both knee and ankle injuries in the game against the Chiefs, stating on Thursday it's more of the knee bothering him than the ankle. Either way, he might be listed as questionable on the official injury report, but seems ready to go against the Falcons.
Just like Dez, the Falcons also listed their star receiver as limited after missing two days of practice. Julio Joneshas an ankle injury bothering him but it seems like he'll be ready to play Sunday against the Cowboys. Jones torched the Cowboys for 12 receptions and 164 yards and two touchdowns in the 2015 meeting in Dallas. He also had five catches for 129 yards in a 2012 win in Atlanta. (Full Injury Report)
The announcement of Zeke's six-game suspension should catch no one by surprise anymore. This back-and-forth saga has had everyone's attention, especially the backup tailbacks behind him. While the Cowboys have kept a pair of former 1,000-yard backs, don't forget about Rod Smith, who could be the Wild Card in this whole scenario. Smith, the older brother of linebacker Jaylon Smith, was ironically a college teammate of Elliott at Ohio State. He's been active for every game this year as both a utility back on third downs, but also as a special teams regular. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said on Thursday it's likely that Alfred Morris will get the first snaps on Sunday, and expect Darren McFadden to get some reps as well. But Smith won't be forgotten by the coaching staff, and could end up having the most snaps of any other back.
While it's likely the Cowboys are going to be using a running back by committee, the Falcons are one of the best teams in the NFL with that approach. Starter Devonta Freeman ranks 12th in the NFL in rushing with 512 yards. But his 114 carries rank 11th among those top 12 rushers. The reason for the lower numbers is because backup Tevin Coleman also has 316 yards, averaging an even 5.0 yards per carry. However, neither back is getting the ball into the end zone with regularity. Freeman and Coleman have a combined three rushing touchdowns.
While it's nothing new to see Tyron Smith miss practice on Wednesday, the Cowboys are just hopeful he can return to action at some point this week and play Sunday in Atlanta. This week, Smith is listed on the injury report with both a back and groin injury. He's been dealing with back issues for nearly two seasons now, including every week this season. But the groin injury occurred in the second half of the Chiefs game and kept him out of action towards the end of the Cowboys' 28-17 win. If Smith can't play, it's likely Chaz Green would get the start at left tackle. Green filled in for Smith Sunday, and also two games last year with Smith out.
The Falcons did not have the services of Julio Jones in practice on Wednesday because of an ankle injury. While it could just be a precautionary move for the Falcons to hold out their best receiver, not having him in the lineup on Sunday would obviously be a big setback. Fantasy owners might likely disagree, but Jones is still having another great season for the Falcons, as he ranks fourth in the NFL with 658 receiving yards. Where Jones has struggled this year is finding the end zone – or actually, catching it when he's in the in there. Jones has only one touchdown catch this year, and had a crucial and uncharacteristic dropped pass in the end zone last week in Carolina. Jones has been targeted at least four times in every game this year, including 12 last Sunday.
* *With 28 points scored last weekend, this year's team has become just the second in club history to score at least 28 in six straight games. Only the 2007 team, which finished the year 13-3 and the No. 1 seed in the NFC, has accomplished that feat. The Cowboys went 6-0 during that stretch in 2007, while they're just 4-2 during the last six games, which began with a 28-17 win over the Cardinals back in Week 3. But it won't be an easy task considering the Falcons have yet to allow more than 26 points in a game this season.
* *Taking care of the football is the key for any quarterback. Last year, Ryan threw only seven interceptions in a full 16-game schedule, one of the reasons he was able to win his first NFL MVP award. Through eight games this year, Ryan has already thrown seven picks, including one last week in a loss to Carolina. In comparison, Ryan is also way down in his touchdown totals. After throwing 38 last year, he's only on pace for 22, with 11 TD passes at the midway point.
*As dominant as the Cowboys were on offense Sunday, the final drive of the game saw three key players out of the lineup, including wide receiverDez Bryant. Also, left tackleTyron Smith and wide receiverTerrance Williams*, who had his best day of the season, were all injured in the final minutes of action. Head coach Jason Garrett didn't provide a ton of information on the trio during his Monday afternoon press conference, listing them all as "day-to-day" with injuries the club will monitor throughout the week. Bryant is dealing with both an ankle and knee injury and Garrett said "he'll deal with both of those on a day-to-day basis." Williams re-injured the same ankle that bothered him in Week 1 vs. the Giants. Smith had a groin injury in the game and Garrett said the team will see "how he feels when he comes in tomorrow and how to proceed during the week."
* *The defending NFC Champions aren't exactly flying high these days in the first season of their new home of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta has limped to a 4-4 record at the halfway point, including two straight home losses to the Bills and Dolphins. The Falcons just completed a stretch of three straight games, finishing 1-2. The Falcons saw Carolina score 20 unanswered points after taking a 10-0 lead. Atlanta couldn't get over the hump and lost 20-17 to their division rivals. Sunday's loss dropped the Falcons to .500, which is a drastic fall considering Atlanta opened the season 3-0.