After a bye week to prepare it looks like the Cowboys have reached a crossroads. Beat the Atlanta Falcons and they will appear to be a playoff contender. Lose to another winning team and it would seem that the Cowboys will be toiling in mediocrity all season long. I still believe the Cowboys have the talent to play with anyone in the league. They just need to get out of their own way so they can start winning against the top teams. Here is what I think they need to do to beat the Falcons.
1. Slow down Tony Gonzales. I didn't say stop Gonzales because I don't think that is possible. But the defense can focus on him to force Matt Ryan to beat the defense with his wide receivers. That doesn't spell success since the pass defense hasn't been the best, but at least Matt Ryan would be forced to hold the ball longer to allow his receivers to work down the field on deeper routes. That could help the pass rush get to Matt Ryan. He has only been sacked twice all year because he doesn't hold the ball. the coverage will have to force him to second and third reads on pass plays.
2. Don't give up any big plays to Michael Turner. If you can keep Turner contained he won't hurt you. But let him get past the first line of defense and he is likely to take the ball all the way to the endzone. The front seven can't make any mistakes playing the run.
3. Give Tony Romo time to run the offense. Romo looked good against the Chiefs throwing the ball and may be back on track in terms of accuracy and confidence. He'll need time to get the ball to Roy Williams and Miles Austin since the defenses will be focusing on stopping Jason Witten.
4. Keep the defense honest with Felix Jones. Defenses have to play the Cowboys differently when Felix Jones is on the field. He may not be 100% but no one really knows what he can do until he gets out there during the game. I think he needs to be on the field as much as possible even if the play doesn't go to him just to keep the defense worrying about the threat of his speed.
5. Play a clean game. We are entering game 6 and we still haven't seen the Cowboys put together a complete game. They'll need to cut down on dumb penalties, turnovers, and bad play calls to win this game.
I really feel like the Cowboys are going to break out in this game. They have a tendency to play to the level of the competition so we can probably expect a close game. The difference is going to be whether the Cowboys can score in the red zone and stop the Falcons in their two minute offense. I believe the Cowboys will put together their best game of the season and win 30-21.