Cowboys vs Saints; Who will win Sunday Night Football’s Week 4 matchup?
Written by: Greg Lehr
In what will be one of the most anticipated matchups of the weekend, the Dallas Cowboys will take on the New Orleans Saints inside one of the most rockous environments in the league on Sunday Night Football. The 3-0 Cowboys have certainly been impressive to start the year, particularly on the offensive side of the ball under new OC Kellen Moore. The offense has been jump-started with a much more open and aggressive attack than recent seasons, vaulting Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to the best starts in a single season of their respective careers thus far. The Cowboys are currently the 5th highest-scoring team in the NFL, ranking as a top-five offense in most major categories including total offense (3rd, 481 yds/game), rushing (3rd, 179 yds/game), passing (4th, 302 yds/game), and total touchdowns (3rd, 13 total, 4 RTD, 9 PTD).
Despite the hot start, many are saying it has more to do with their level of competition than any other factors, pointing out that Dallas has "only" beaten the Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins, who have a combined record of 1-9. While it's fair to question those defenses and if the Cowboys' offensive rankings are for real, it's not due to playing down to their competition. Dallas has handled its business despite the weaker opening schedule, outscoring opponents to the tune of 97-44 so far, including a +30 scoring margin in the second half of those games.
On the other side, when Drew Brees went down with a thumb injury in week two against the Rams, the Saints were thrown out of sorts and completely out-played in LA. They heard about it all week and responded with a convincing victory in Seattle. How did they do it? They got the ball into the hands of their best overall offensive player and let him go to work. Alvin Kamara torched the Seahawks for 161 total yards (69 rushing, 92 receiving) and added two total touchdowns. Michael Thomas also chipped in five catches for 54 yards and a score, a good sign for his rapport with Teddy Bridgewater. By allowing his playmakers to do the heavy lifting, Bridgewater looked much more comfortable as the Saints built a commanding lead and eventually held on for the win. That same recipe will need to apply again this week for New Orleans to upset the Cowboys in the Superdome. Although Dallas has statistically allowed the 10th fewest rushing yards in the league through three weeks, that number has more to do with game-flow than how tough they have been against the run. In fact, the Cowboys have given up a modest 4.7 YPC (20th in NFL), and have yet to face an offensive line/running back combo as powerful as the Saints with Kamara out of the backfield (who gain 4.6 YPC).
New Orleans Saints Win If…
Kamara goes off (again) and the Saints protect Bridgewater
Jumping out to an early lead would be a huge advantage for the New Orleans offense, which would help them feature Kamara more consistently while also taking the pressure off Bridgewater of entering a potential shootout with the Cowboys' high-powered offensive attack. Kamara did have 9 receptions a week ago, but repeating his excellent efficiency will be difficult to repeat for a second week in a row. A good game-flow will help the Saints offense maintain balance for Kamara to be most effective.
Dallas Cowboys Win If…
Dak keeps rolling and the defense gets off the field on third down.
Prescott will still be without his #2 wideout Michael Gallup, but Amari Cooper should be good to go after battling through some foot and ankle discomfort this week. Tavon Austin is also expected to rejoin the offense to go with Randall Cobb and Devin Street, both of whom have stepped up nicely in Gallup’s absence. Dak looks to build on his fast start (307 yds/game, 9 TD, 2 INT, 128.0 QB rating), which only helps keep the box a little lighter for Zeke and Tony Pollard as the game goes on. On the other side of the ball, can the defense lock down Thomas and Kamara on third down? Dallas needs to make someone other than those two superstars beat them, a task much easier said than done.
The Superdome will be loud and crazy in primetime, but not all of them will be for the home team. Dallas has historically been well represented in New Orleans, though it is certainly still a hostile atmosphere for any opponent. The Saints will come out with great energy from the crowd and could very well have a lead at halftime, but Dallas has been a much better second half team than in previous years. Kamara will be good, but not great like a week ago. I think even if New Orleans comes out of the gate firing, Dallas will keep it close enough before taking over in the second half behind Zeke, who will get stronger as the game goes on.
Dallas 34, New Orleans 30