Ross Jacobs has been an FFM correspondent on NFL games and NFL Draft matters for the past few years. He is going to be writing up some of his notes on various games he’s watching/studying this year. Typically, he will have written/submitted his work before mine, so this is a look at the same game with different eyes...and you can compare and contrast or find some new takeaways.
2020 Week 2 Analysis: Falcons @ Cowboys (By Ross Jacobs)
-Wow, what a game. This was one of the most exciting games I've watched in a while, certainly the most exciting of 2020 so far. The Cowboys spotted the Falcons 20 points off three fumbles and a failed fake punt on their own 20 yard line. It was a tremendous amount of bad luck, but the Cowboys never flinched and calmly got back to work driving down the field and scoring almost at will. They pulled the game back to 29-24 before an Atlanta touchdown and another failed fake punt gave the Falcons a 39-24 lead with only minutes left. It looked hopeless for Dallas after a promising comeback, but once again they didn't flinch and went right to work. The Cowboys scored two quick TD's and then recovered an amazing onside kick that the Falcons didn't jump on for some reason. Dallas drove right down the field like they had all game and hit the field goal for the win.
-The Cowboys are being decimated by injuries almost as fast as the 49'ers, but unlike San Fran they are still a decent team at this point. Most of their injuries are on the defensive side of the ball, and it showed here. Granted most of the points they “allowed” were off turnovers. It's hard to say how good or bad they are because Atlanta never really had to drive the length of the field to score. When they were on the field though there was a distinct lack of a pass rush which is strange considering how good Smith and Lawrence looked last week. Might be that Atlanta just has a very good line, but Dallas was having real trouble on playaction passes because Matt Ryan had all day to find his receivers. I actually don't think this will be too much of a recurring issue, and I expect the Dallas defense will tighten up a bit most weeks.
-Regardless of the defense they proved their offense is more than capable of putting up the points needed to win games. The Falcons defense is certainly not top-tier, but Dallas drove through them like they weren't even there.
-I have to say I'm so excited to see how aggressive the league is being on 4th down this year. I've seen more teams going for it multiple times a game and from very aggressive locations like on their own side of the field than in years past. Looks like the league has finally figured out what analytics has been saying for years. That's an encouraging sign.
-It was really difficult to take notes on Atlanta here because this wasn't a typical situation. They got spotted short fields the entire first half and again once or twice in the second half, and subsequently had a huge lead almost immediately. It's not often they'll be playing from such a situation.
-If I had to take a guess though I'd say the Falcons are probably a middle of the road team. They've played two very good passing attacks the first two weeks, and nearly had the Cowboys beaten. They are definitely better than their 0-2 record, and I'd wager they are as good or better than the 2-0 Bears.
-The Cowboys played well after a disastrous start and managed to pull their season to 1-1 instead of 2-0. There are always people that say starting 0-2 is a disaster, but it's really not that bad so long as your team is actually good. Even if the Cowboys had lost this game I would still have been betting on them to win the NFC East. They are simply the best team in the division, although the Redskins could give them a run if they'd replace Haskins with Alex Smith. The Cowboys should win around 10-11 games this year and easily make the playoffs.
-Dak had a monster day here and will be in the mix with the other top QB scorers all year, but just note that they won't typically be down and having to throw quite this much. He's still got an incredible trio of receivers though and I expect his numbers to reflect that. Dak's best days will come against teams with weaker defenses but solid offenses that can keep up with the Cowboys' scoring.
-I covered the Dallas receivers last week, and I don't think anything has changed. It does seem like CeeDee Lamb might be the #2 ahead of Michael Gallup, but all three guys are going to have their moments. I wouldn't be shocked if each of them went over 1000 yards this season and all finished as WR2's.
-Calvin Ridley is off to a ridiculous start mostly because they've played two explosive passing teams with poor secondaries, and he's been the beneficiary of defenses focused on Julio. The Falcons have great matchups the next 6 weeks though, so my recommendation would be to hold Ridley through week 8 and Atlanta's second game against the Panthers and then trade him off. I said last week he wasn't the new Chris Godwin, and while I'll stick with that assessment as far as talent goes, I think his season might parallel Godwin's 2019: a monster first half of the season followed by an ok second half. I don't think Ridley will manage quite the pace Godwin did, but I do think he can finish as a WR1. If you have him trade him for everything you can get after week 8. The second half schedule of pass defenses will wipe him out.