The New Orleans Saints (6-8) march into Cowboys Stadium Sunday afternoon, to play the Dallas Cowboys (8-6). The Saints are no longer in playoff contention, unlike their opponents who are in the thick of the chase.
Jason Garrett’s team seem to have turned a corner. They are riding a three game win streak, and are tied at the top of the NFC East standings alongside a surging Washington Redskins, and a stumbling New York Giants. So going into this game they have everything to gain, and lose.
New Orleans will look to end the season on a high note, and possibly end the year an even 8-8, which after the terrible start to the season would be quite an achievement. With quarterback Drew Brees in control of the offense, they are still very capable of putting up huge numbers. Both in yardage and on the scoreboard, as the unlucky Tampa Bay Buccaneers found out last weekend when shutout 41-0.
The high powered offense hasn't’t been backed up by their defense however, and this ultimately has been the downfall on their campaign. The Saints secondary was exposed time and time again at the in the first half of the season, and hasn't’t really stopped shipping huge plays. However the same could be said of the Dallas defense too. They tend to play very soft early in games, and this has led to the team having to play catch up in the majority of their games.
A large part of the Cowboys problem has been down to injuries, and they have had to move a lot of players around to play in positions the are not used to. Somehow though the group of players they have mashed together tends to stand up tall when it most matters. When they stiffen up, good things happen and they salvage games when they look to be dead and buried.
With two explosive offenses, with quarterbacks who can go over 300 yards passing in a game with ease , going up against two defenses that can be very suspect, they are sure to be lots of points to light up the huge jumbo screens in the Cowboys Stadium.
Keys to a Saints victory will be to be score quick and often. Sounds obvious. When you take into consideration the amount of times the Cowboys have been asked to comeback in games, forcing them to go away from their run game. Recently they have come back and gone on to win, they can only do this a certain number of times though. Surely?
Well it will be upto the Saints to test this theory, and put the ball and pressure into Tony Romos hands. This will lead force the secondary to step up, and stay aggressive to the ball, they have to contain the threat Bryant, Austin and Witten. This will force Romo to throw more to his third and fourth choices.
The Dallas Cowboys will try and keep Drew Brees off the field for as long as possible. Therefore a key to them being victorious will be giving DeMarco Murray a lot of the ball. If they can control the clock with the run game, mixing it up with some play action, and short passes to Witten, they will have a successful day. Defensively, they need to get to, and hit Brees often, he really doesn't’t respond well to pressure. At least not this season. Jimmy Graham will expect to see a lot of passes thrown his way, and last weeks overtime hero Brandon Carr will have to be at this best again to nullify the threat of Graham. The Dallas secondary looks to be bolstered by the return of rookie Morris Claiborne.
It could come down to who has the ball last. Most Cowboys games this season have. If so expect t the Cowboys to be supremely confident on the kicking ability of Dan Bailey. Of Dallas’ last five wins, three have come from the boot of Bailey. His range is good and could well be the deciding factor this Sunday.
With so much on the line and having to keep pace with their rivals, i see the Cowboys coming out winners in a high scoring match. Both teams will score over 30 points, but Romo will prevail in the shootout. Dallas by 6.941002