As the NFL enters Week 4 of the young season, the New Orleans Saints are still among the favorites to win the Super Bowl. However, a loss to the Dallas Cowboys on “Sunday Night Football” could make it especially difficult for New Orleans to have a successful 2014 campaign.
New Orleans is trying to avoid a 1-3 start so they don't fall further behind in the division. The Saints have already lost to the Atlanta Falcons, who look like they could be among the best teams in the conference. The reigning NFC South champion Carolina Panthers are also ahead of New Orleans at 2-1.
The Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings 20-9 in their home opener, but now head back on the road to play a Cowboys team that has won two straight games. New Orleans appeared to make some improvements in their first win of 2014, but it remains to be seen if they can continue their winning ways away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Since the start of last season, the Saints have proven to be two different teams on the road and at home. New Orleans went undefeated at home in 2013, and beat the Vikings without much trouble in front of their own fans. On the road, head coach Sean Payton’s squad has been one of the worst in the league, losing seven of their last eight regular-season games.
The Cowboys aren’t particularly good at home, but they are coming off two somewhat surprising wins. In Week 2, Dallas won handily in Tennessee as underdogs. The team was favored in Week 3, but they pulled off a shocking 34-31 victory after spotting the St. Louis Rams 21 points in the first 24 minutes of play.
Both teams head into the contest with two of the league’s top running attacks. Even after losing Mark Ingram for a game, the Saints rank sixth in total rushing yards, and Dallas running back DeMarco Murray leads the NFL with 385 yards on the ground.
The two teams might not have much trouble establishing a ground attack, but the game will likely be decided through the air. The pass defense for New Orleans and Dallas has been much maligned, and both teams made changes this week to their respective units.
New Orleans made their change during their Week 3 matchup with Minnesota. Cornerback Corey White replaced starter Patrick Robinson, who struggled in the loss to the Cleveland Browns. Rookie Brian Dixon also got playing time over Robinson, even though he hadn’t seen any action in the first two weeks. The Saints ended up having their best defensive game yet, allowing just nine points and 188 passing yards.
Dallas has replaced one of their starting cornerbacks ahead of Sunday’s matchup. According to ESPN, Morris Claiborne skipped the team’s practice on Tuesday when he was told that Orlando Scandrick would take his place in the starting lineup.
Claiborne has not lived up to the high expectations that caused the Cowboys to trade up and draft him with the No.6 pick in 2012. He allowed five catches for 108 yards against the Rams, including a 51-yard touchdown pass. Claiborne returned to the team’s facility on Wednesday.
Whoever is in the secondary will have a difficult time stopping Drew Brees and the New Orleans passing attack. The quarterback has thrown for over 5,000 yards in each of the last three seasons. Tight end Jimmy Graham leads the NFC with 24 catches.
Tony Romo has struggled to put up big numbers through three games. His best performance came in the team’s last win, and the quarterback only threw for 217 yards.
The betting odds at Las Vegas casinos indicate that the Saints will end their latest skid on the road. They are giving the Cowboys three points, and the over/under has been set at 53 total points.
Prediction: With both teams struggling to stop the pass, the Sunday night game could turn into a shootout. A high-scoring affair gives the Saints the advantage, but they’ve played so poorly on the road, and the Cowboys have enough offensive weapons to find a way to win.
Predicted Score: Dallas 30, New Orleans 27