IRVING, Texas – There's no doubt that Brandon Weeden is the dominant storyline in this Week 3 tilt against Atlanta. But it's a disservice to the other 43 players starting in this game – both on offense and defense – to say it all comes down to him.
I've taken a look back at my notes, and determined that these are my two big keys to Sunday's matchup. Weeden will no doubt factor heavily in this matchup, but there's more to it than that.
Here's a look:
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
It would be easy for me to say that Dallas will win this game against the Falcons if Brandon Weeden plays well. As nice and tidy as that might sound – how he plays is really just a small part of that equation.
Don't get me wrong, he will have a hand in the final outcome, but to put victory or defeat on his shoulders I believe is the wrong approach. Last season when he made his only start of the season against Arizona, the offensive line was missing several starters and Dez Bryant was held in check by Patrick Peterson.
This time around, Weeden is not facing a defense that can shut down his running game and receivers. It's a Falcons defense that is improving scheme-wise, but is still several players away from lining up and causing problems for opponents. Dallas offensively will need to take advantage of the matchups they have, but more importantly, they need to find ways to execute their own scheme. Playing behind the chains with negative plays and penalties will only hurt how effective Weeden can be.
Scott Linehan needs to find him a rhythm, much like he did in the second half of that Eagles game when they were able to grind out some yards on the ground and hit the big pass play when the time was right. If Dallas is going to win this game, Brandon Weeden is going to need his teammates to carry him to that victory.
Atlanta Falcons Win If:
With the likelihood of no Tevin Coleman, it will be difficult for the Falcons to run the ball with just Devonta Freeman and Terron Ward. Coleman does bring a different dynamic to this offense – so his loss will be felt, but I expect the Falcons will be creative in how they work around it with their short passing game.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan through two games has done a nice job of putting Matt Ryan in situations where he is not asked to make many difficult throws -- despite the fact that he is more than capable of doing that. The Falcons are now more of a horizontal offense than vertical, like they once were. Even with the potential of no running game, Shanahan will still run play action passes and boot legs -- all while keeping possession of the ball and taking time off the clock.
If the Falcons are to win this game it will because Matt Ryan is able to spread the ball around, making this Cowboys defense have to defend from sideline to sideline – all while keeping them off balance with quick passes to Julio Jones, Jacob Tamme and Devonta Freeman. If Dallas does a poor job handling these players and allows Ryan to make those easy throws, it has the makings of a long afternoon.