Cowboys Four Quarters to Success – Week 16 Edition


Week 15 brought an old time rival to Cowboys Stadium as the Pittsburgh Steelers came to town and left quite unhappy. Yet another gutsy, impressive showing from the home town Cowboys was rewarded with an overtime 27-24 win. The victory pushed Dallas into a three-way tie heading into the last two weeks of the season, allowing them to control their own destiny in earning a playoff spot. This week, the New Orleans Saints come to Dallas, in what will be the last regular season home game for the Cowboys. The Saints may be the most puzzling team in the league to figure out as you will see in this week’s edition of the Four Quarters.

– Close the door…

Unlike the recent years, this team is proving itself to be able to seal the deal. The 2012 Cowboys are undefeated when they are tied or have a lead going into the fourth quarter (5-0). The Saints on the other hand are all or nothing. They are 6-0 when they have a lead going into the fourth quarter and 0-8 when they have trailed. Simply put, if the Cowboys are leading at the end of three quarters, they have a very solid chance of getting to 9-6.

– Cool Brees?

The 2012 version of Drew Brees is not the same guy we are used to seeing. He leads the league in interceptions and has already tied his second highest career mark for most in a season with two games left. His passer rating is the second worst it has been in the last five years, while his completion percentage is the worst it has been in almost ten years. On the flip side of that coin, the Saints are first in passing touchdowns, second in passing yards and third in pass attempts. For Dallas to triumph, they will need to expose the flaws and not succumb to the always dangerous Drew Brees.

– Control the clock…

Both the Saints and the Cowboys are in the top six teams in the league in third down conversion percentage. Dallas (third at 44.4%) will need to keep this pace up to not only have an opportunity to score the points necessary to keep up with high-powered Saints’ offense but also make Drew Brees impatient by keeping him on the sideline. Enter DeMarco Murray. Getting the running game going should not be too much trouble as the Saints have the second to worst ranked rush defense.  If Murray gets 20+ carries or eclipses the 100-yard mark, the Cowboys will most likely be victorious.

Dec 16, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs with the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

– Air conditioning…

This game will likely come down to a duel between Brees and Romo. This is where the Cowboys become the conundrum to solve. The Cowboys would seem to have an advantage when you look at pass defense, however looks may be deceiving. Dallas is ranked 14th in yards and 13th in touchdowns allowed, yet they also see the third least amount of pass attempts per game. Dallas also is tied for last in interceptions which poses another issue.  Fourteen of Brees’ eighteen interceptions have come in losses. Bottom line, I don’t forsee Tony Romo putting Dallas in negative situations, so if the Cowboys can get Brees to give up the ball, New Orleans is very likely to lose.

My prediction: Saints 31, Cowboys 37.

As for the picks for the week, I am now back at even with two weeks left. Although today is the first day of winter, it’s time to get hot to ensure that I finish above .500 for the year. As always, the picks are in caps and bold.

LAST WEEK 9-7 (.563)
SEASON TOTAL 112-112 (.500)
THIS WEEK 0-0 (.000)

-4 ATLANTA at Detroit
Tennessee at GREEN BAY -12.5
+8.5 OAKLAND at Carolina
Buffalo at MIAMI -4.5
+3.5 CINCINNATI at Pittsburgh
-14.5 NEW ENGLAND at Jacksonville
-6.5 INDIANAPOLIS at Kansas City
New Orleans at DALLAS -3
Washington at PHILADELPHIA +6
St. Louis at TAMPA BAY -3
N.Y. Giants at BALTIMORE +2.5
+8.5 MINNESOTA at Houston
Cleveland at DENVER -13
-5.5 CHICAGO at Arizona
-1 SAN FRANCISCO at Seattle
+2.5 SAN DIEGO at N.Y. Jets