A shot at the playoffs is on the line for the Dallas Cowboys as they meet the New Orleans Saints Sunday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium.
Dallas is sandwiched between the division-leading Washington Redskins, and defending champion New York Giants, and need a win to keep pace in the division and wild card races.
The Cowboys remained one of the hottest teams in the NFL last week, dropping the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 27-24 overtime win behind quarterback Tony Romo’s 341 yards and two touchdowns. Dallas forced two turnovers, including an interception of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the first possession of overtime, which resulted in kicker Dan Bailey’s game-winning 21-yard field goal.
Running back DeMarco Murray gained 81 yards and a touchdown, and receiver Dez Bryant started with a fractured finger and had four receptions for 59 yards and a score.
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Speculation has placed Dallas head coach Jason Garrett on the hot seat, and his rumored replacement, Sean Payton, led the Saints to their only Super Bowl title.
New Orleans withered at the start of season without Payton’s guidance, going 0-4, but have a chance to reach .500 for the season by winning their final two games.
Last week was perhaps their biggest victory of the season, as they crushed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers playoff hopes in a 41-0 rout. Quarterback Drew Brees threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns, the Saints defense picked off Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman four times and forced another fumble.
Brees hit a different receiver for each score, with Joe Morgan catching a 34-yard bomb in the third quarter for a 31-0 New Orleans lead. Saints running back Mark Ingram had 14 carries for a season-high 90 yards and a touchdown.
With no shot at the playoffs, New Orleans can play the spoiler for Dallas, who hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009.
A key for Dallas will be extensive pressure on Brees in the pocket, but they’ll have to go without starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff who has been ruled out for Sunday’s matchup.
The game begins at 1 p.m. EDT and will be shown by FOX, or watch a live stream online by purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket Max.
Betting Odds: Dallas is favored by 3 points
Over/Under: 51.5 points
Prediction: The Cowboys defense has a huge task of containing Brees, and may struggle throughout the game. Still New Orleans defense has been their downfall throughout the season, and they cannot contain Romo and company. Murray should have a big game in a Dallas win.
Predicted Score: Dallas 34, New Orleans 31