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Offseason | 2021

Eatman: The Key Game Nobody Is Talking About


FRISCO, Texas Admit it, you did it in the first 30 minutes the schedule came out last week.

Some of you might have done it in the first five minutes.

But we all have done it, even though we know it's pretty dumb to do in May.

But rest assured, as soon as Post Malone and Jerry Jones got done revealing you the 2021 schedule, you quickly got out a pen and paper and went right down the list.

Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss .... and so on and so on.

What did you get? 10-7? 11-6? 7-10, oh wait ... no, please don't tell me you went 8-8-1??

Anyways, the point is, you've looked at the schedule and you've probably already outlined the games the Cowboys can and cannot win. The games they probably should win and the ones they can't afford to lose.

Any way you slice it, it's going to be interesting -it always is.

But for the 17 games on this schedule – and yes that still feels very weird to say – I think there's a game no one is really talking about.

To me, this one not only is FILLED with storylines, but it's one of those games that could surprisingly decide quite a bit in the playoff picture.

Why aren't we talking more about the Nov. 14 game against Atlanta?

Ok, I know the answer to it – it's not the game people gravitate to. When they think about games that are going to really matter, it's either the division games at the end of the season or the ones with name-grabbing headlines like when they open the season against Tom Brady and the defending champs on the first Thursday of the season or their first-ever game against KC's Patrick Mahomes.

But we all know this – these games count the same. The only thing that really matters is the final record. Sure, the division is important, but you can still go 0-6 against the NFC East but if the overall record was 10-7 or even 11-6, you could still win it.

So don't overlook some of these games, just because you might have put a big "W" next to it, or the fact that Fox decided to make it a Noon game on a Sunday.

Trust me, games like this one against the Falcons are going to be the kind of games that truly separate the Cowboys from being a decent team, to a really good one.

And I personally think the Cowboys have what it takes to be a really good team, but they can't afford slip-ups along the way.
This Nov. 14 game against the Falcons has the potential to trip up the Cowboys.

Think about it, every single year the Cowboys have at least one of those early-to-mid season games at home that you just can't believe they didn't win.

Whether it was Cleveland last year, the Vikings in 2019 or the Titans in 2018 – there just always seems to be that game the Cowboys seem to lose early in the season that ends up biting them in the end.

If you want go back to 2015, it was Matt Ryan and the Falcons that came into AT&T Stadium and stormed back to beat a 2-0 Cowboys team that played its first game without an injured Tony Romo. That loss triggered a downward spiral for the Cowboys that finished 4-12.

But going back to this year, there's just so much intrigue for this game against the Falcons.

  • Obviously the fact that Dan Quinn is now the defensive coordinator in Dallas is going to be a huge storyline that week. He coached the Falcons for six years before being fired in mid-season last year.
  • The Cowboys signed two veteran starters from Atlanta's secondary in Keanu Neal, who is actually slated to play linebacker in this scheme, and safety Damonte Kazee, who is coming off an Achilles injury.
  • The one player Jerry Jones made sure to point out in the draft build-up was Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. While it was never a real possibility the Cowboys would get him, he's certainly going to be a handful to stop as the Falcons picked him No. 4 overall. Atlanta now has yet another weapon for Matt Ryan in Pitts, who joins Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.
  • And if that's not enough, let's not forget the show the Cowboys and Falcons put on last year. Dallas fell behind 20-0 and rallied in the final seconds to beat the Falcons, 40-39, thanks to the now famous "Watermelon" onside kick that led to Greg Zuerlein's game-winning kick.

All of that should make for another fun week leading into the game.

But the real reason this game seems to be so important to me – is for that last point I just made.

Last year's game was super close. The Cowboys very easily could've and should've lost that game. And while the offensive tackles were out, Dak Prescott certainly was not, as the Cowboys needed his arms and legs to rally back.

But the Cowboys and Falcons just showed us how close of a game they can play. Dallas got better since then. I would imagine the Falcons have as well.

This is the type of game that could decide whether the Cowboys are a real playoff team or not.

No matter if you've already penciled a "W" next to it or not.

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