Posted on November 26, 2018, by Travis Pulver
After looking like a team that deserved to be left for dead, the Dallas Cowboys have reinvented themselves over the last few weeks. With three straight wins, they are no longer in the cellar or on the outskirts of the wild-card picture. They are now in command of the NFC East. But are they a legitimate contender?
If they want the world to see them as more than the best team of a bad division, they will get their chance to prove themselves Thursday night when they take on the New Orleans Saints. But do they stand a chance against the best team in the NFL?
The New Orleans Saints own the best record in the NFL at 10-1. It is due in large part to their trademark high-powered offense led by Drew Brees. But the defense has played a significant role as well. After getting past their poor performance against the Tampa Ba Buccaneers to start the season, the Saints defense has become one of the NFL’s best.
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From a yardage perspective, they don’t appear impressive. Through Week 12, they are 16th in total yards/game allowed with 358.9. But where they do the most damage is against the run. So far, they are the league’s top run defense (73.2 yards/game allowed).
Teams have had success throwing against the Saints defense, but that number could be skewed a bit since most teams are forced to throw a lot because they are playing catch up.
The Dallas defense, on the other hand, is good against the pass (12th; 237 yards/game allowed) and run (third; 93.6 yards/game allowed). But they haven’t faced a tandem quite like Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.
But at the same time, the Saints haven’t faced anyone quite like Ezekiel Elliot. Todd Gurley would be the closest and they held him to 79 total yards. However, he only had 13 carries largely because the Rams were in catch up mode for much of the game.
Many are going to look at this game and right the Cowboys off. New Orleans has too much firepower they’ll say—and they will be right. But this game is going to be much closer than expected. The Dallas defense is going to give the Saints all they can handle. They will make Drew Brees and the Saints offense work for every point.
But the Cowboys are going to struggle to put up points of their own. Their success in the passing game in recent weeks has been due in large part to their ability to run the ball. But Elliot is not going to find nearly as much space against the Saints as he did the Redskins, Falcons, and Eagles.
Without the run game taking pressure off Dak Prescott, the Cowboys do not stand a chance.
Dallas will put up a fight but take the Saints to win straight up. However, against the spread, take the Cowboys (+7). But the over/under is a little ambitious (53), so take the under. Yeah, the Saints can put up some points but the Cowboys are not going to put up man or let the Saints go as nuts as they normally do.