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Written by:
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Published on:
Sep/18/2020

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2020 NFL Week 2

Falcons vs. Cowboys - The Dallas Cowboys are a -4.5 point favorite hosting Atlanta in Week 1.

Dallas was listed at -135 to win their respective division coming into the new season.

(AP) - Mike McCarthy got the sentimental stuff out of the way before his first home game as coach of the Dallas Cowboys, in the stadium where he won his Super Bowl with Green Bay a decade ago.

After getting hired, McCarthy wanted to know how long the ride was from team headquarters to AT&T Stadium, so he made the trip. Before a glorified practice in Dallas' $1.2 billion home during training camp, McCarthy took himself back in time.

When the Cowboys play Atlanta in a meeting of 0-1 teams Sunday, McCarthy will be thinking about home-field advantage -- with a limited number of fans, of course -- and other things associated with taking the proud franchise where it hasn't been in the playoffs in 25 years.

"I've had the chance to do the walk down memory lane," McCarthy said. "I'm really kind of past that and just want to establish ourselves at home this year."

(For more in-depth coverage of the NFL, listen to the AP Pro Football Podcast apple.co/3iGiX8a)

McCarthy's Dallas debut coincided with the opening of the new stadium in Los Angeles, and the Cowboys lost to the Rams 20-17. The Falcons fell to Seattle 38-25 despite 450 yards passing from Matt Ryan.

Atlanta lost four of its first five games in 2018 and began 1-7 a year ago on the way to a pair of 7-9 finishes. The first 0-2 start in six seasons under Dan Quinn would further cloud the future of a coach who likely needs to make the playoffs to keep his job.

"That's kind of something we preach around here a lot, be where your feet are," cornerback Isaiah Oliver said. "Wherever you are right in that moment, wherever you are right at that time. Keep looking forward."

Dak Prescott had a big first half leading the Dallas offense against the Rams, but the Cowboys scored just three second-half points and couldn't produce with a chance to tie or win late. The theme was all-too-familiar after a disappointing 2019, when Dallas was 1-6 in one-score games.

"I take pride in having the ball in my hands late in the game," Prescott said. "I'm not very proud of the way I've handled it and the team has handled it recently. But it's something I'm sure will change. Everybody has got to embrace that."

WHAT'S THE NUMBER?

The Cowboys continue to be vague about how many fans will be allowed. Perhaps speaking out of turn, McCarthy volunteered 25% capacity in a stadium with 80,000 permanent seats. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has authorized up to 50% capacity in stadiums.

Regardless, it will be the first game with fans for both teams. The Falcons didn't allow fans in their opener, same with the Rams at palatial SoFi Stadium.

"I just didn't think it was going to be that quiet," McCarthy said of the LA opener. "We'll have some live energy in the building. I'm pretty confident the music and the game operations will be a little different than it was this past week."

SPREADING IT AROUND

Dallas Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper suggested the possibility of three 1,000-yard receivers after the Cowboys drafted CeeDee Lamb in the first round to join him and Michael Gallup. The Falcons are off to a much better start in that regard.

The second-most prolific passing game of Ryan's career was most notable because of three receivers surpassing 100 yards. Julio Jones led with 154 yards, followed by Calvin Ridley with 130 and Russell Gage at 114 -- each with nine catches.

Gage's performance was especially encouraging. A sixth-round pick out of LSU in 2018, he is getting a shot to play a much bigger role as the third receiver.

"He's always been a guy who I thought had a lot of talent," Ryan said. "You're always unsure when a guy gets his opportunity, is he going to be able to handle that role and do it week in and week out? He certainly exceeded everyone's expectations."

ZEKE/GURLEY ROUND 4

Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott and Atlanta newcomer Todd Gurley -- both top 10 draft picks a year apart -- will meet for the fourth time. The first three were when Gurley was with the Rams, including a divisional playoff during the 2018 season.

Gurley leads in yards rushing, 256-249, with Elliott having a slight edge in yards receiving, 116-115. Elliott has five total touchdowns to Gurley's four. Gurley has two wins, including the playoff game when LA reached the Super Bowl.

ON THE CORNERS

The Falcons will be looking to tighten up their coverage after Seattle's Russell Wilson did whatever he pleased in Week 1, completing 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards and four touchdowns.

Most notably, Isaiah Oliver was burned on a fourth-and-short play when DK Metcalf ran by him to haul in a 38-yard touchdown that helped break the game open for the Seahawks.

"It was definitely a technique issue," Oliver said. "A drop step with my left foot put me behind the receiver immediately. ... You do that with a good receiver and you're always going to be a couple of yards behind on any route he runs."

The Falcons' other starting cornerback is rookie A.J. Terrell, who'll have his hands full trying to cope with the Dallas trio. Look for the Cowboys to try to exploit Atlanta's secondary youth.

Ravens vs. Texans - The Ravens are a -7 or -7.5 favorite in Houston depending on the book.

HOUSTON (AP) -- Baltimore's Lamar Jackson was torn when asked if he enjoys matchups such as Sunday's against the Houston Texans and fellow talented and mobile quarterback Deshaun Watson.

"That's a great quarterback we're going against (so) I say no, because of how dynamic he is, and our defense has to prepare for him," he said. "But (yes), you could say that. You could say that, yes."

So, while Jackson is looking forward to showcasing his talents in a game against Watson, he knows dealing with Houston's star will be a tall task for his defense.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh agreed with his quarterback and raved about Watson.

"He'll throw it to anybody. He'll throw it deep. He'll throw it short. He'll throw it to every different receiver -- you saw that last week -- and he'll run," Harbaugh said. "It's a big concern for a defense -- a major problem for any defense and we're working to try to figure it out this week."

(For more in-depth coverage of the NFL, listen to the AP Pro Football Podcast apple.co/3iGiX8a)

Of course, the Texans are in the same boat in figuring out ways to slow down Jackson after last season's MVP threw for 222 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 79 yards in Baltimore's 41-7 rout of them last year.

"He's just got a very unique skill set," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "Obviously he's very fast, he's very quick. Over time he's become a better passer. He's a very accurate passer. He does a really good job using all the people around him. They have a great scheme ... he's the MVP, so we've got ... a big challenge ahead of us."

It's the second game to start the season where the Texans will face an MVP quarterback after they lost 34-20 to 2018 winner Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl champion Kansas Chiefs last week.

The Ravens easily handled Cleveland 38-6 in their opener last week behind three touchdown passes from Jackson. The victory extended Baltimore's regular-season winning streak to an NFL-best 13 in a row, which is the league's longest run since Carolina won 18 straight in 2014-15.

O'Brien likes the challenge his team is facing early this season.

"That's what it's all about," he said. "You're going up against the best. We were a playoff team last year. We played the Super Bowl champs last week and now we're playing a team that was 14-2 last year."

EMPTY STADIUM

There won't be any fans at NRG Stadium on Sunday because of the coronavirus. Team officials made the announcement last month and said at the time that some fans could be allowed at later games if conditions in the area, which has been a COVID-19 hotspot, improve.

Houston star defensive end J.J. Watt said he can't remember a time he played a game at any level without a crowd. He reminisced about hearing his grandfather "going nuts" in the stands when he played youth football in front of a small crowd. But he then added that the lack of fans on Sunday really shouldn't impact anyone's performance.

"As an athlete, if you can't get yourself ready and amped up to compete against another team and to compete at the highest level, then you really probably shouldn't be out there in the first place," he said.

DREAM START

Ravens rookie linebacker Patrick Queen played a major role in his NFL debut, leading the team in tackles at middle linebacker and adding a sack.

"He showed his explosive speed a couple times, where he went and made some plays," Harbaugh said. "He didn't panic at all. I felt like that was the best thing about it as a start. And he should only improve from here."

Queen starred at LSU before being selected by Baltimore in the first round of the NFL draft. He stepped right in as a starter at a key position in the middle of the defense.

"It's what I expected," Queen said of his first game as a pro. "I wanted to do better than I did, but I'm grateful for what I got. I prayed about it, slept on it, dreamed of making plays."

PLENTY OF PLAYMAKERS

The Texans don't have DeAndre Hopkins anymore, but Will Fuller stepped up last week with eight catches for 112 yards against Kansas City.

"He's a go-to receiver, for sure. Very talented, very fast, definitely someone that we have to mark," Harbaugh said.

Even though Baltimore held the Texans to a single touchdown last year, Harbaugh knows the Texans can ring up points through the air.

"They have four really good receivers who are all high-end receivers in the National Football League," he said. "They have two excellent tight ends and two running backs who are excellent receivers. So, they have a lot of weapons in the passing game to go with Deshaun Watson."

- Ean Lamb, Gambling911.com

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