Saints/Cowboys — Cowboys +7.5, 1 unit
(1 to 5 unit scale)
The Cowboys 3 game win streak has just as much to do with soft competition as it does with Amari Cooper helping their offense, but in a primetime scenario against the best team in the league Dallas will give a max effort. Not downplaying anything the Saints have done because they’re definitely the number 1 team right now, but New Orleans’ offensive numbers were way down for their two toughest road games (@ Baltimore and @ Minnesota). Against Baltimore, Kamara and Ingram combined for 96 yards on 26 carries (3.3 ypc). Brees threw for just 212 yards and they won 24-23 after Justin Tucker missed a game-tying extra point.
Against Minnesota, Brees had 120 yards 1 TD/1 INT and Kamara and Ingram combined for 4.15 ypc (26 rushes/108 yards). That was a 30-20 win that was heavily influenced by Cousins’ interception in the redzone that got returned to the other side of the field. Dallas’s defense has been physical all season and won’t be easy to score against.
The Saints run defense’s numbers are great but they’ve also played a lot of mediocre/bad offenses – Eagles, Bengals minus AJ Green, Ravens with Flacco, Redskins, and the Giants in 5 of the last 8 games. They blew the Rams out in the first half because the Rams pass defense has been terrible without Talib and the Rams had to abandon the run so Gurley only had 13 attempts (68 yards, 5.2 ypc). Zeke won’t be as easy to stop as some of these average/below average offenses.
Dallas’s gameplan will be to go after the Saints backup LT (making his first road start), attack the middle of the offensive line, and milk the clock on offense. A lot of Zeke handoffs and short passing routes. Cowboys are without LT Tyron Smith but the backup is a good run blocker. Either way, I don’t see New Orleans blowing out the Cowboys early like they have against so many teams because the Cowboys defense is good enough to compete. Dallas’s defense is also 4th in the NFL in redzone D.
The Cowboys could hold the Saints to 27 or less just like the Ravens did and this should be competitive.