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Scouting The Schedule: Can Atlanta Avoid The Super Bowl Hangover?

(Editor's Note: The start of the 2017 season is still a few months away, but it's never too early to prepare. The Cowboys face a daunting schedule this year, highlighted by the AFC West and NFC West, as well as their traditional rivalries in the NFC East. Over the next two weeks, Bryan Broaddus will preview what to expect from all 13 of their upcoming opponents. The series continues with Week 10 and the Atlanta Falcons).

Opponent:Atlanta Falcons

Series Record:Dallas leads, 16-10

This Year's Matchup:Nov. 12, Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Best Draft Pick:If not for medical questions, UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley likely would have gone much earlier in the draft, but post-season shoulder surgery created doubt about his availability. After unsuccessfully trying to move up in the draft to grab Charles Harris, the Falcons found a spot ahead of the Cowboys and were able to secure McKinley. While at UCLA, McKinley played as a standup linebacker and occasional defensive end. The plan appears to play him as a defensive end and let him compete with veteran Adrian Clayborn for the starting spot on the right side. This addition gives the Falcons a really nice complement to Vic Beasley in their pass rush, which they've needed.

Best Free Agency Move:I really do like the move for Dontari Poe and what he can bring to the middle of this defensive line. When you have players that can attack the edge the way the Falcons do, putting that big body in the middle makes plenty of sense to push the pocket. Poe is only on a one-year deal, so they will get the very best effort from him. The Falcons now have some nice size inside with Poe, Grady Jarrett and Ra'Shede Hageman at their tackle spots. This creates better matchups when they play those physical teams like the Cowboys.* Most Troublesome Matchup:The Falcons' offense. Matt Ryan was outstanding last season and with Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman -- it will not be any easier. What will be different about them is they won't have Kyle Shanahan calling plays. Despite that loss, my feeling still remains the same – they want to score early and often, putting the opponents in a situation where they become one-dimensional. They were almost able to pull it off in the Super Bowl but just couldn't finish.  Most Favorable Matchup:Where opponents were able to take advantage of the Falcons last season was in the red zone. Their offense was one of the best in the league but their defense was the worst. The addition of McKinley, Poe and rookie linebacker Duke Riley could help -- but I am not sure how much of an improvement we will really see. Unsung Storyline:*The dreaded Super Bowl hangover. Dan Quinn is an outstanding coach, but this one will be hard to get over (see: Carolina Panthers). Like the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Falcons are talented at all positions, so the matchups are difficult. But where will this team be halfway through the season? That's the big question.


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