1. What is the biggest key to victory on Sunday?Andrew Hirsh: I think it's staying grounded. The Falcons are fully capable of beating a wounded Cowboys team as long as they maintain the "championship mentality" Dan Quinn talks about so often. Stick to the game plan, limit mistakes and bring a fiery mindset, and Atlanta should be able to win its third game of 2015.
Kelsey Conway: I believe it will come down the Falcons ability to get pressure on Brandon Weeden early. Atlanta's defense has held their previous two opponents to under 100-yards rushing, and I expect a similar performance this game. So, if the Falcons can get in Weeden's head early and force him to make his own mistakes, I think the defense will lead the Falcons to their third straight victory.
Jay Adams: The stage seems to be set for the Falcons to walk right in and earn a win, right? Wrong. While the Cowboys will be without star wide receiver Dez Bryant and quarterback Tony Romo, there are still weapons on offense to contend with and backup QB Brandon Weeden looked darn good last week in limited time. He's a former starter, so it's not like this is anything new for him. The biggest key to me is not overlooking this game. Dan Quinn has said all week the Falcons are just preparing like they always do, so nothing changes. Just keep the mindset the same through 60 game minutes Sunday.
2. What about Devonta Freeman makes you think he'll succeed in his first career start at running back?
AH: This may be a bit cliche, but I believe it's his tenacity. Freeman is tough as nails and that trait will definitely serve him well on Sunday. Not many running backs his size can handle a 20-carry workload, but I think if the offensive line holds up, he has the combination of speed, toughness and football I.Q. to have a solid day.
KC: His mentality and the way he approaches the game. After listening to Freeman talk with the media on Thursday, I believe he is more than confident and prepared for the opportunity. Freeman emphasized the importance of bringing energy daily, and I think that energy will help the rest of the offense thrive on Sunday.
JA: He's hungry, he's tough and he's ready. I expect to see Freeman and Tevin Coleman slugging it out for carries the entire time they're together in Atlanta, so to see Coleman take advantage of an opportunity while Freeman was recovering from an injury wasn't surprising. Now, it's Freeman's turn to step up, and I think he will. He knows the system, he ran it at Florida State, so he's got familiarity. He's facing a tough run-stopping front, though, so finding the holes and hitting the green space quick will be key to Freeman's success.
3. The Falcons' pass rush will get a big test against Dallas' stout offensive line. How do you think Atlanta can get and sustain pressure against arguably the best five-man front in the NFL?AH:I think the Falcons defense has to be especially aggressive in its pursuit of Brandon Weeden. Four-man rushes won't accomplish much against the likes of Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick. I'd like to see the linebackers—namely O'Brien Schofield and Justin Durant—get involved in blitz packages, and I think William Moore can help out here, as well. It's also important for the pass coverage to hold up. If Weeden can get rid of the ball quickly and find open receivers on a consistent basis, it'll be difficult to bring down the Dallas QB.
KC: Atlanta's defensive front is based on speed and playing fast. I would expect to see a combination of Beasley, Clayborn, Babineaux, Jarrett, Schofield and Biermann to use their speed to disrupt the Dallas passing attack. It's also imperative that the secondary covers long enough to give the defensive line time to get to Brandon Weeden.
JA: There's no doubt that Sunday's game presents a challenge in the trenches and we're going to get a real good look at just where the Falcons' defensive front is. Quinn preaches "affecting the quarterback" often and so sacks may not come in bunches against Dallas, but getting close enough to make Weeden uncomfortable could throw off their whole game plan. The Falcons will continue to rely on speed off the ball, and there's plenty of it to go around. I don't expect the mode or intensity of attack to change.
Over/under: 12 catches for Julio Jones
AH: Under. I think Jones will do just fine, but I expect Matt Ryan to spread the ball around a lot.
KC: Over. I think based off Jones' previous two performances the Falcons keep going with what is working so well for them.
JA: I'll take the under, although it's pretty clear that Julio Jones is option one, two and three for Matt Ryan. I think he'll catch a shade under 12 and go for 100-plus yards.