Three Key Matchups To Watch Between The Atlanta Falcons And Dallas Cowboys

Chris Vinel

A team with all the talent in the world on paper but on the verge of an 0-2 start?

That could describe the Atlanta Falcons or the Dallas Cowboys.

Those two teams meet each other at AT&T Stadium Sunday afternoon, and it’ll be an important early-season battle. Since 2002, less than 11% of the teams who started 0-2 have made the playoffs.

Here are three key matchups to watch:

TAKK MCKINLEY VS. TERENCE STEELE

Remember the dominant Dallas offensive line, anchored by All-Pro center Travis Frederick, that spent much of the last decade clearing the way for Ezekiel Elliott and Co.?

That’s gone now.

Dallas was gashed by the Los Angeles Rams’ pass rush for three sacks and nine quarterback pressures last week. 

Frederick retired in the offseason, and undrafted rookie Terence Steele is starting at right tackle with little depth behind him due to injuries.

Which brings up Takk McKinley.

McKinley looked revitalized last week after dropping more than 20 pounds this offseason and playing in the first game of a contract year. He sacked Wilson once and piled up five quarterback pressures in the first half alone.

He will square off with Steele on the outside.

If he’s able to isolate and regularly beat Steele, McKinley can make it a long night for Prescott.

DAK PRESCOTT VS. ATLANTA’S SECONDARY

Although Seattle’s passing attack wasn’t the Falcons’ main defensive focus, Russell Wilson ripped their secondary last week.

He picked on Isaiah Oliver, Darqueze Dennard and rookie A.J. Terrell, firing 31 completions on 35 attempts for 322 yards and four scores.

D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett gave Atlanta fits, burning both outside corners for long bombs and compiling more than 90 receiving yards a piece.

And if the Falcons worry too much about Elliott, Prescott will give his best Wilson impression. Prescott ranked second in the NFL with more than 4,900 passing yards in 2019.

He throws to weapons like Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb.

The secondary has to give an improved performance, or Atlanta will find itself in another shootout.

JULIO JONES VS. THE COWBOYS’ SECONDARY

Julio Jones could fill one of these key matchup spaces every week.

He was voted the best receiver in the league this offseason, still holds Matt Ryan’s full attention as the quarterback’s favorite target, and currently leads all NFL players in receiving yards.

The Cowboys have a similar secondary setup to the Falcons. With Chidobe Awuzie, Trevon Diggs and Jourdan Lewis starting, Dallas won't be relying on many proven commodities in its defensive backfield.

Robert Woods tore the unit up for 105 yards last week, and he’s not on Jones’ level.

Expect big numbers — again — from Julio.

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