A Sunday of football comes to a close with a monster matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:20 EST on Sunday, September 29 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC.
Oddsmakers list the Cowboys as 2.5-point road favorites with an over/under of 47 points. Click here to see a full list of the Week 4 NFL odds.
The Cowboys will stroll into New Orleans this weekend undefeated at 3-0. Of course, nobody should be surprised based on the schedule Dallas has played early in the year. The three teams the Cowboys have beaten are a combined 1-8 on the season. That includes the Dolphins and Redskins, who look like the early favorites to earn the top pick in next year’s draft.
Of course, all of that changes this week when the Cowboys face the Saints. Dallas is also set to play the Packers and Eagles between now and the end of October, so the schedule will get more difficult in the weeks to come. On the bright side, their 3-0 start to the season has given the Cowboys an early cushion atop the NFC East standings, as Dallas aims for their second straight division title.
The Saints, on the other hand, are just trying to survive the early part of their season while Drew Brees nurses a thumb injury. They suffered a lopsided loss to the Rams in the game that Brees got hurt. However, New Orleans was able to bounce back and pull off a surprise win last week in Seattle. Also, in the light of Brees going down, their Week 1 win over the Texans on a last-second field goal looks all the more important.
Right now, the Saints are just trying to right the ship without their veteran quarterback. The good news is that New Orleans has a manageable schedule moving forward. The Saints will get four of their next six games at home, starting with this week’s showdown with Dallas.
I was a little surprised to see the Saints win in Seattle last week. However, the win with Teddy Bridgewater in place of Brees was a bit of fool’s gold. New Orleans benefited from scoring a touchdown on defense and another on special teams. Those aren’t things you can count on becoming a regular occurrence. Without them, it’s a completely different game last week. Even before Brees got hurt, the Saints had some flaws. This is the kind of game when those flaws can be exposed, so I’ll take my chances with Dallas covering as road favorites.
It starts on the defensive side of the ball. Only two teams have given up more passing yards than the Saints through three weeks. In fairness, they’ve played three of the best quarterbacks in the league in Deshaun Watson, Jared Goff, and Russell Wilson. But that’s not a good enough excuse for the New Orleans secondary getting carved up, especially when the Saints have nine sacks through three games.
I expect Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense to have plenty of success against the vulnerable New Orleans defense, in part because the Cowboys are able to stay balanced. Before they worry about Prescott hurting them through the air, the Saints have to make sure they have a handle on Ezekiel Elliott. In fact, backup Tony Pollard rushed for over 100 yards last week, so there is no taking a break from trying to slow down the Dallas rushing attack.
When it comes to the passing game, Amari Cooper is the top target, as he already has four touchdowns this season. But the Cowboys have more than Cooper. Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb also require plenty of attention, and so does Jason Witten, especially in the red zone. Elliott hasn’t even been a factor in the passing game this season and yet Prescott is off to a great start throwing the ball. Wilson threw for over 400 yards against New Orleans last week, as the Saints gave up over 500 total yards against the Seahawks. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the New Orleans defense, even at home.
On the offensive side of the ball, the jury is still out with Bridgewater running the show. Despite getting the win in Seattle last week, Bridgewater had just 177 passing yards. The Saints were also held under 100 yards rushing, averaging less than four yards per carry. Obviously, there’s room for improvement once the Saints come back home. But it wasn’t exactly a promising performance last week. Plus, there are still concerns about a lack of consistent playmakers outside of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, especially against a Dallas defense that is giving up an average of 15 points per game early in the season.
While I do expect a better performance from the New Orleans offense, there will still be some growing pains with Bridgewater taking over. More importantly, the Cowboys have way too many playmakers and too much balance offensively for the Saints to keep them off the scoreboard. I’m not sure if I like Bridgewater in a shootout against Prescott and all of his targets. I like my chances with the Cowboys winning by at least a field goal.