2012 NFL Picks and Odds: Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons Predictions – Week 9 Sunday Night Football Picks

2012 Week 9 NFL Picks: Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons Vegas Odds and Predictions – Free NFL Picks 11/4/2012: Entering Sunday night’s matchup, Dallas and Atlanta are two teams heading in opposite directions. The Falcons (7-0) are the NFL’s lone undefeated team and are cruising to an NFC South title and possible home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Cowboys (3-4) are coming off their third loss in their last four games and are in danger of losing touch with the New York Giants in the NFC East. Not surprisingly, the Falcons are favored in this matchup by four points.

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Offensively, the teams have been heading in different directions, as well. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan leads a top-10 passing offense and a top-five scoring offense that is putting up almost 29 points per game. He has a multitude of weapons at his disposal, including receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, along with tight end Tony Gonzalez. Dallas is actually averaging more passing yards per game than the Falcons, but the Cowboys haven’t been putting points on the board. Entering Thursday’s matchup, Dallas is among the 10-worst scoring teams in the NFL, averaging less than 20 points per game. With only nine touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions, QB Tony Romo has taken a lot of the flack. However, a porous offensive line and struggling running game haven’t helped matters either.

Fittingly, the teams have also been polar opposites on the defensive side of the ball. Dallas has been one of the stingiest units in the NFL in terms of yardage but is just mediocre in terms of scoring defense. Overall, the Cowboys are allowing the fourth-fewest yards, including the third-fewest passing yards. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr and rookie Morris Claiborne have revitalized the secondary of a unit that also features a great defensive front led by sack artist DeMarcus Ware. Meanwhile, the Falcons have allowed opponents to get a more than 350 yards per game, but their bend-but-don’t-break approach has held teams to less than 19 points per game. It is worth noting that for Thursday’s game, Atlanta’s leading tackler Sean Witherspoon is out with an injury.

The Cowboys Win If:

On the defensive side of the ball, Carr and Claiborne have been stout all year, and if they can at least take away the big plays from the Atlanta passing game, the Cowboys will be in good shape. If Ware can also have a big game and put pressure on Ryan, they will be in great shape. On offense, Dallas has to find a way to establish the run to take pressure off of Romo. If the Cowboys’ offensive line can keep Romo upright, he has two weapons in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant that can get open down the field. For his part, Romo can’t turn the ball over and give Ryan and the Atlanta offense any easy scoring chances. If Dallas can limit its turnovers and make this more of a defensive battle than an offensive shootout, the Cowboys knock the Falcons from the ranks of the unbeaten.

The Falcons Win If:

Ryan and the passing attack have been dialed in most of the year, but they face a tough test in this one. Still, Atlanta needs Ryan to play well in order to win, and he has the weapons to beat any secondary. As long as he doesn’t get impatient looking for the big play and start turning the ball over, Ryan and company should still put points on the board. Limiting turnovers will also ensure that a struggling Dallas defense doesn’t get any cheap points. If the Falcons force the Romo and the Cowboys to earn their points, Ryan and company have too much offensive firepower for Dallas to compete.

Bottom Line:

While the Dallas defense is legit, Romo and the offense haven’t been holding up their end of the bargain. An injury to running back DeMarco Murray has made for an inconsistent running game, the offensive line is struggling, and Romo himself has been having the worst year of his career. Meanwhile, Ryan is enjoying the best year of his career, and he has weapons all over the field. Even if Romo and the Dallas offense do connect on a few big plays, they haven’t shown the ability to put together a full four quarters since the season opener. In the end, the Cowboys just have too many holes on offense to compete with the efficient offense of the Falcons.

Prediction: Atlanta Falcons (-4) Cover the Spread

Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons
Line: Atlanta -4
Total: Over/Under 47.5
Time: 8:30 PM EST on NBC

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