The Cowboys will need to pressure Atlanta's Matt Ryan on Sunday.
Are the Cowboys interested in joining the division race? They gained ground on the Giants and Eagles by sitting out last weekend. Now, they'll host a very talented Atlanta team. I think offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has to commit to the running game early in this game and give this huge offensive line a chance to lean on the smaller Falcons' front. I'll be very interested to see how the Cowboys divide the carries with Marion Barber, Tashard Choice and Felix Jones. If Jones breaks a big play early in the game, there will be the temptation to keep going to him. I think the Cowboys need to be careful with Jones until he proves that he can stay in the lineup for a few games. I think it's imperative that the Cowboys get off to a strong start. Coach Wade Phillips is using an Atlanta newspaper headline ("Unstoppable") to motivate his defense to slow down the Falcons' hurry-up offense. But if DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff can't throw Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan out of rhythm early, it could be a long day. Watch the Falcons try to get wide receiver Roddy White in a matchup against Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins. That's a very, very bad place for Jenkins to be. And I think the Falcons will try to hit on a deep ball early.
The highly anticipated debut of Skins playcaller Sherm Lewis is upon us. OK, that's probably an overstatement. No one knows what to expect from a guy who hasn't coached in almost five years and isn't familiar with the Redskins' personnel. Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his right-hand man Vinny Cerrato have become one of America's great comedy duos -- and Jim Zorn is their No. 1 prop. I think this game has disaster written all over it for the Skins. The Eagles are coming off a dreadful performance against the Raiders. I think this will look a lot more like the team that made it to the NFC title game. In my mind, the Redskins' only hope is to score on defense. I think Jason Campbell will play well, but there are not many quarterbacks who can overcome this type of adversity.
Does anyone know what happened to the Spread Eagle offense? Andy Reid left Michael Vick and the Wildcat formation against the Raiders. In past weeks, he'd claimed to be saving some things. I have no clue why you wouldn't have pulled out all the stops to escape the Black Hole with a win. Reid gets enamored with his own offensive genius at times. He needs someone on the sideline Sunday reminding him to feed the ball to Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy. At least make the Redskins respect the hint of a running game. And for goodness' sakes, let Vick go out there and do something.
It's weird how we've pretty much buried this Giants-Cardinals game. Before the season, this appeared to be a pretty entertaining matchup. But then the Cardinals have sort of staggered around early in the season and the Giants were hammered by Drew Brees and the Saints. I think Bill Sheridan is going to bring just about everyone in an attempt to get some hits on Kurt Warner. Brees didn't have to worry about a pass-rush. You can't give Warner time to drop back and play catch with Larry Fitzgerald. In fact, I would have Fitzgerald bracketed at all times. The Cards aren't going to run the ball. Try to take Fitzgerald out of the game. That's easier said than done, but I can see the Giants having a big bounce-back game here. But if you let Warner have too much time, he'll treat the Giants like Brees did -- and it wasn't pretty.
First, the Cowboys have to slow down Burner Turner. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips has a healthy respect for Falcons running back Michael Turner, who isn't off to a fast start this season. The Cowboys have to be more disciplined than usual in their run blitzes. I've seen safety Ken Hamlin race right past running backs -- especially when they play for the Ravens. But if you get too aggressive against Turner, he'll make you pay by cutting on a dime. Fortunately, inside linebacker Keith Brooking knows a thing or two about the Falcons' offense. The former Falcons Pro Bowl player will be jacked up for this one -- and it wouldn't surprise me if he ends up with 13 tackles and a sack. He's been one of the biggest positives for the Cowboys. This team has to learn how to defend its new stadium. So far, it doesn't seem like that tough a place to play.