Cowboys vs. Saints NFL Week 16 Preview
Cowboys vs. Saints
The Saints, who have bested the Cowboys, in six of their last seven meetings, come to Cowboys Stadium after snapping a three-game loosing streak. In their previous game, the Saints held the free-falling Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a goose egg while scoring 41 points in the process.
It was the first time in 17 years that the Saints shut out an opponent. So, you and I know they’ll be looking to keep that momentum going. They technically cannot make the playoffs, but it doesn’t mean they can’t play spoiler.
For most the season, the Saints had not been able to stop anyone from gashing their defense with the run, or torching them with the pass. That being said, they still have a guy named Drew Brees playing quarterback, and on any given Sunday, he can light up a defense like it’s the Fourth of July.
The matchup of the Cowboys offense doesn’t bode well for the Saints’ defense, but the Saints offense doesn’t matchup well with the Cowboys’ defense either. It might come down to which team scores last or which team makes the first mistake.
The Cowboys hold the series lead at 15-9 and are 52-24 against the NFC South. However, the Saints have won their last three in Dallas. The most recent game between the two came down to the wire, but the Saints hung on to win after David Buehler had a 59-yard field goal sail wide left. The final score was Saints 30, Cowboys 27.
So, without further ado, here’s what I think will lead to a Cowboys’ victory on Sunday.
Protect Tony Romo
Romo has completed 379-of-568 passes for 4,269 and has been hot lately. He’s got his team on a three game win-streak and has thrown for six touchdowns to only one interception during that span. His total yardage ranks third behind only Brees’ NFL leading 4,335 passing yards and Tom Brady’s 4,276.
Protecting Romo should be the upmost priority, although sometimes because of his mobility it seems as if it’s last on the list. The offensive line had one of its most impressive outings against the Pittsburgh Steelers and allowed only one sack on 42-dropbacks. When’s the last time you heard that?
The protection has to continue on Sunday if the Cowboys plan on keeping pace in the NFC East, and if they plan on containing defensive end Will Smith who has sacked the Cowboys’ quarterback at least once in their last four meetings.
Establish the Run
It may seem repetitive, but establishing the run has to be near the top of the priorities list of the Cowboys. For one, it will take the heat off of Romo, and secondly it will keep the Saints’ offense on the sidelines.
No. 29 makes the offense better when he’s on the field and he should be rewarded against the Saints’ porous defense, which ranks 31st against the run. Looking to extend his touchdown streak to four games, I expect a heavy dose of DeMarco Murray if the Cowboys don’t fall behind early.
Get to Drew Brees
This is easier said than done, mostly because the Saints’ offense is built around protecting the quarterback and getting the ball out quickly. Brees is one of the most accurate passers, and his career 65.57 completion percentage ranks second best in NFL history. So pressuring him and or disrupting the receivers at the line should be a priority.
One thing that the Cowboys have going for them in this matchup is that DeMarcus Ware has four sacks and two forced fumbles in his past three games against New Orleans, and Anthony Spencer is coming in on a stretch of six-and-a-half sacks over his previous five games.
Help Danny McCray in Coverage
If there's one thing that the Cowboys defense has proven in the past three games it's that McCray struggles in coverage.
Way too many times the opposing tight end is burning McCray for huge gains across the middle of the field. Hopefully, and for the sake of keeping this one close, Rob Ryan has a plan to help McCray cover Jimmy Graham.
The 3-4 defense is susceptible to the short pass in the flats, so look for the Saints to try and exploit that matchup now that Darren Sproles is healthy. McCray one-on-one with Sproles and or Graham doesn’t bode well for the Cowboys.
Special Teams have to Show Up
Kicker Dan Bailey has been money this season, making 27-of-29 attempts. The only ones he missed were from 50+ yards out. He’s hit three game-winners and could be in store for his fourth, and third game-winner in a row.
Brian Moorman, however, has been a disappointment. The Cowboys signed Moorman after Chris Jones went on IR with an ACL tear. He averages about 44 yards per punt, but has been shaky as of late.
Along with Moorman’s poor punting ability, punt coverage and protection has been bad. The Cowboys cannot afford to give the Saints good field position because of poor execution on special teams.