Sunday Night Football has had some interesting pairings this season, but tonight’s game between the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys may provide football fans with the best quarterback matchup on Sunday night so far this season. With Tony Romo of the Cowboys and Drew Brees of the Saints going head-to-head, there should be plenty of fireworks.
Sometimes a football game can come down to three words: location, location, location. Tonight’s game will be played in New Orleans at the Superdome. Neither quarterback will have to worry about the elements, but being at home does have its advantages for the Saints this season.
The Saints are currently 4-0 at home and none of those four games were that close.
Even though they only beat the Atlanta Falcons by six in the season opener, you can almost chalk that game up to the Falcons’ flaws not showing themselves yet and the fact that it was Sean Payton‘s first game back as head coach after spending the 2012 season on suspension.
After the win over the Falcons, the Saints have been unstoppable at home. They pounded the Arizona Cardinals 31-7, started the Miami Dolphins downward spiral by ending their undefeated season on Monday Night Football to the tune of 38-17, and then beat up on the Buffalo Bills 35-17 a few weeks ago. The competition hasn’t been the hardest, but the performances have been dominant and efficient all along the way.
On the flip side, the Cowboys’ play on the road has been mostly dismal.
In their road-opener, the Kansas City Chiefs obliterated the Cowboys with their defense, but only won by a point. Two weeks later it was turnovers that doomed the Cowboys late on the road against the San Diego Chargers. And then a few weeks ago, there was that crazy fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions that ended with a one-point loss for the Cowboys and the Jason Witten/Dez Bryant verbal spat on the sidelines.
The one shining moment for the Cowboys on the road wasn’t even that much of a shining moment. The Cowboys beat the Philadelphia Eagles 17-3 on the road on October 20th. As indicated by the score, the Cowboys won with their defense as the Eagles’ usually poor defense was able to keep Romo in check despite him ending up with over 300 passing yards; the Eagles did this with a couple interceptions of Romo.
A lot of how this game goes will be determined by who is actually on the field for both teams. Both teams have long injury reports entering this week, and there’s a lot of uncertainty within those reports.
The Cowboys are expecting the return of DeMarcus Ware on defense, but it’s still not 100% for sure going to happen. There’s also DeMarco Murray and his knee that has forced him to miss the Cowboys’ last two games and Dez Bryant‘s back has even called his status for tonight into question slightly.
The Saints’ injury report is littered with defensive players that are questionable for tonight, but the biggest Saints player that is questionable for tonight plays on offense. Jimmy Graham has been Brees’ favorite target by a wide margin. He has yet to miss a game this season and only once (against the New England Patriots) has he been held without a catch; that game was also the only one this season in which Graham wasn’t targeted by Brees.
Rob Ryan, current defensive coordinator for the Saints who held the same position in Dallas last season, has rebuilt the Saints’ defense into something that has stood up against a few good quarterbacks and has done very well against everyone else. The fact that they are fifth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game shows how far they have come from having probably the worst defense for a single season in NFL history last year to being a very credible defense that is part of a team in the hunt for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
With all of this in mind, it’s tough for me not to see the Saints coming out of this game with the win. Whether Romo outproduces Brees will end up being irrelevant because it will be turnovers that doom the Cowboys in this one. Romo will throw a couple of interceptions to go with multiple TD passes, and the Cowboys will turn the ball over in Saints territory at least once via fumble. Ironically, I don’t see many of these turnovers leading to Saints points. More importantly, these turnovers will stop Cowboys drives and take time off the clock, precious time as two of the turnovers I’m forecasting will take place in the fourth quarter.
My Prediction: New Orleans (-5.5) 38, Dallas 28
Straight Up: 5-4