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Saturday Night Cowboys at Falcons

December 16, 2006

NFL Football - Dallas Cowboys (-4 44½) at Alanta Falcons 8:00 PM EST

As far back as most of us can remember the NFL always gave us two Saturday games to enjoy the couple weeks before Christmas. Granted they might not have been ratings bonanzas with people out shopping for gifts, however at least it was late season football with typically something on the line. Now the NFL has taken this little piece of late season comfort away in hopes the world will demand that the NFL Network is added to their cable package. Kind of reminds one of the Scrooge. In any event, tonight's game between Dallas & Atlanta is meaningful for both NFC combatants.

If you asked Dallas who the MVP of the league should be, it wouldn't be to hard to figure it would Drew Brees, as he breezed through the Cowboys secondary like an angry wind. Tony Romo went from "Romo-matic" to looking like he had been "Romo-tized" by Saints pass rush. To his credit Bill Parcells never tried to sell his young quarterback as anything more then he was. Now the onus falls to young Tony to pick up and lead his team to victory on the road. The Cowboys were in a rough scheduling situation after big game with New York and the world anointing them as the latest team to make it to the Super Bowl from the NFC. A win in Atlanta clears the way for Dallas, who have home games against Philadelphia and pitiful Detroit before the regular season concludes. A loss changes everything, causing them to be tied for the lead in the division by the winner of Sunday's Eagles and Giants game.

Atlanta's dismantling of Tampa Bay swung open the door again for playoff possibilities for the Falcons. Atlanta's schedule is harsh to finish the year, yet they just have to follow the old cliché of taking them one game at a time. The Falcons top ranked rushing game will have a far different appearance with both running backs Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood given the slimmest chances to participate after suffering injuries. This means starting fullback Justin Griffith will need to step it up to support the offense. If the Atlanta is going to upset Dallas, Michael Vick must play like the Michael Vick that sends chills up the spine of defensive coordinators. He must make clear and unwavering decisions, accurate throws that receivers must catch and stay out of taking big losses on sacks.

Dallas is listed as a 3.5-point favorite at sportsbook.com with a total of 44.5 points. For Atlanta to win, they must play like they have recently, lowering their rush defense average to 3.9 yards per carry against a first-rate Cowboys running game. The pass rush must force Romo to make judgment errors like he did against New Orleans. Jim Mora Jr. needs to make sure his confounding Falcons play with the desperation of a 7-6 team, which they are trying to make the post-season.

Saturday games often have their own unique set of circumstances because teams are playing on a short week. For example, it has been wise to play against a home team on a Saturday off two road games like Atlanta. This record is 15-6-1 ATS.

The Falcons are just 2-10-1 ATS in December off a win and cover when playing a team over .500 next. Dallas has not always been spry in the season's final month with a 1-9 ATS record off a SU favorite loss.

This is what end of season action is all about, teams in position to create their own fate and live with the consequences. As Bill Parcells has said "You are what you are".


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