The only thing Dallas Cowboys’ fans want for Christmas is a trip to the playoffs, something that’s been rare over the last 15 years. The Cowboys have won three games in a row to put themselves in a position to control their own destiny. The task is simple: win both games over the next two weeks and they’re in the playoffs. It all starts Sunday when the New Orleans Saints visit Jerry World. The Saints are coming off a week where they completely dismantled Tampa Bay 41-0. The SportDFW staff predicts a crucial game this week:
C. Joseph Wright:
If the Dallas Cowboys are going to beat the New Orleans Saints, it must start with
stopping limiting QB Drew Brees. Despite the Saints up and down season, Brees is still one of the best QB’s in the NFL. His passer rating this season is 93.1 which ranks him 10th in the NFL (Tony Romo is 11th with a rating of 90.2). In addition to his physical talent, Brees is an intelligent QB; he is a master of reading defenses and taking whatever they will give him. If you look at the New Orleans offense, Brees does an amazing job of spreading the ball around. His “#1″ receiver Marques Colston has 68 catches for 949 yards and 8 TD’s. TE Jimmy Graham also has 8 touchdown receptions in his 69 catches for 779 yards. The other wide-receiver, Lance Moore, has 57 catches for 890 yards and 5 TD’s. The Saints elusive RB, Darren Sproles, has also caught 60 passes for 484 yards and 6 TD’s.
The point is that when you gameplan to try to stop Drew Brees, you can not simply focus on one or two receivers and scheme to shut them down. That strategy will not work because Brees will just find someone else to throw to. There is only one way to stop Drew Brees: get pressure on him and make him throw the ball before he has time to progress through this reads. If he has time to sit in the pocket, survey the field, and wait for receivers to get open, he will pick apart any secondary. The good news is that if you can get pressure on Brees, he is not that mobile or elusive (he has been sacked 24 times this season despite a fairly solid offensive line), so you can sack him. Similarly, if you can force Brees to throw the ball early, like all great QB’s he is sometimes over-confident, so he will throw into double coverage and give up interceptions (Brees has thrown 18 picks this season).
The other way to limit Brees is to jam his WR’s at the line of scrimmage to disrupt their timing. The Cowboys do get CB Morris Claiborne back from injury this week, so that should help. The problem is that none of Drew Brees’ receivers are easy to jam at the line: WR Colston in 6-4 and 225 ponds, so he is a full 4 to 6 inches taller and 25 to 30 pounds heavier than all of the Dallas Cowboys cornerbacks (except Brandon Carr who is still only 6 foot and 210 lbs.) Saints WR Moore, who is smaller at 5-9 and 190, is quick off the line and he is shifty, so it is not easy to jam him either. RB Darren Sproles runs his routes from the backfield, so you can’t jam him at the line in the traditional sense. TE Graham is an imposing 6-7 and 265 pounds.
The biggest problem for Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan, assuming he can stop the wideouts from quick scores on long touchdowns, is defending the short and medium routes over the middle by the TE’s and RB’s and containing short delayed passes to the RB’s in the flats. As I explained at the end of a previous article, the Cowboys have lost one starting ILB after another to injury. As a result of these injuries, the Cowboys, as I argued in this article, do not have an ILB with the speed and athleticism to cover good pass-catching TE’s or RB’s. If the Cowboys can not find a way to defend the short passes to Graham and Sproles, Brees will be able to move the chains all day long and score enough points to win.
The good news is that the Saints defense is near the bottom of the league in most of the important categories, so the Cowboys should be able to move the ball and score points. Tony Romo will continue to play like a superstar, DeMarco Murray will make a couple big and important plays. Jason Witten get tough first downs when needed, and the Cowboys will score enough points to win.
Dallas Cowboys 31 – New Orleans Saints 24
I’ve been very critical of the Dallas Cowboys all season, and I’ve picked them to lose several times, including last week. What I’ve said all along is they have to show me they are a winning team before I believe they have a shot at making the playoffs. After the way they have played the last few weeks, I’ve decided that time has come. This is not the same Dallas Cowboys team that we saw early in the year, they have transformed into a team that could potentially make a deep playoff run if they can just get in. New Orleans has been extremely inconsistent this season, but when they are play well, they look unstoppable. I think the Cowboys will have to score quite a few points to win this game, but they will get it done. How can I pick against them when they’ve come this far? Boys Win! Boys Win!
Dallas Cowboys 35 – New Orleans Saints 27
Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to all of the Loyal and Faithful Cowboy fans who have stood by your Cowboys during their fantastic drive to make the playoffs for the first time in two years.
Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers were standing in the Cowboys way to the NFC East Crown; the Cowboys defeated them in OT 27-24. Up next for the Cowboys is the ever powerful Purdue and former Texas Great Quarterback Drew Brees and the inconsistent New Orleans Saints. The Saints are a playoff caliber team, but they are 6-8 because of their inconsistency. It is difficult to predict which Saints team will show up this Sunday in Dallas.
Either way, it is going to be a battle. It is going to be an air show: “Drew von Brees” vs the “Silver & Blue Baron von Romo”.
Romo has held the hot hand recently, so I believe it continues: Tony von Romo out duels the Baron von Brees late in the 4th quarter.
Dallas Cowboys 37 – New Orleans Saints 34
This is a big game for the Cowboys as a win can get them closer to the playoffs. A loss would be devastating, but perhaps more so to the Saints. If the Saints win, that means Jerry Jones may put more heat under head coach Jason Garrett‘s seat and that means Sean Payton‘s name will be mentioned as a possible replacement. The Saints need to lock him up and quick. It won’t shock me if the Saints win this game, but the Cowboys are the better team.
Dallas Cowboys 31 – New Orleans Saints 27