Cowboys vs New Orleans Saints Week 13: Know thy enemy

Cowboys (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Cowboys (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

7-4. 123. Thursday, Dec 2. 5-6. Cowboys -4.5. Fox Sports/NFL Network. 15. 8:20 PM ET

Welcome to Week 13 of the NFL season. For the Dallas Cowboys, November could not have ended fast enough. After cruising into the month with a 6-1 record and looking like one of the league’s best teams, Dallas has hit a massive speed bump.

After a no-show dismantling at the hands of the Denver Broncos, it looked like a blip on the radar as the Cowboys came back to blow out Atlanta. Unfortunately, back-to-back losses to Kansas City and Las Vegas have put the brakes on any sort of positivity.

Unfortunately, the only positive things happening to the Cowboys are COVID tests. Star receiver Amari Cooper has missed the last two games and is confirmed to play on Thursday Night Football. Meanwhile, head coach Mike McCarthy and four other coaches will definitely miss this week’s game because of COVID as will rookie cornerback Nahshon Wright.

The Cowboys will get no mercy or sympathy from this week’s opponent, the New Orleans Saints, however. New Orleans had this same issue back in Week 2 when seven of their coaches missed their matchup against Carolina. The result was their worst game of the season prior to last week as the Panthers walloped them 26-7.

The Cowboys will have their hands full against New Orleans Saints

With New Orleans losing four straight and Dallas, losers of three of their last four, this Thursday Night Football matchup wreaks of desperation. As such, let’s settle in and get to know thy enemy a little better ahead of this huge game for both teams.

There is little question that 2021 has been a difficult year for the Saints and their fan base. After a blowout win over Green Bay to start the season, that aforementioned loss to Carolina acted as a cooler. New Orleans then handed New England a loss only to turn around and take an L from the lowly New York Giants.

The Saints then righted the ship, stringing together three straight wins, including a nice W over Tampa Bay before the wheels fell off. That win over the Bucs was a costly one as they lost their starting quarterback, Jameis Winston, for the season. With backup Taysom Hill already on the shelf due to a concussion and a foot injury, the offense has struggled mightily.

Injuries have really been the story of the Saints’ season. As stated before, Winston has missed the last four games. Star running back Alvin Kamara has missed the last three. Starting left tackle Terron Armstead has missed four games and likely will make it five this week while star receiver Michael Thomas has not played a single snap in 2021.

As you may imagine, the Saints offense has felt the effects. Just 27th in total yards and passing yards per game, New Orleans relies heavily on running the ball and playing stellar defense to stay in and win games. With Kamara likely back for this game and possibly Hill the new starting quarterback, I would expect a heavy ground attack in this one.

Stopping the run has been New Orleans’ forte in 2021 as they currently have the third-best run defense in all of football. This is not good news for a struggling Cowboys’ rush attack that has really lost its way during this slide.

For the Cowboys, it is really a chicken vs. egg argument. On one hand, the team is not running the ball successfully. On the other, they aren’t really trying to run either. In the last two games, with Cooper and another starting receiver in CeeDee Lamb missing a combined six of the eight quarters, the Dallas offense almost as many incompletions (30) as they do total rushing attempts (36).

This will be another game that the Cowboys also must deal with one of the most hostile crowds in the NFL. After dealing with the noise in Kansas City, they should prepare for a raucous crowd in the Big Easy. New Orleans is never a fun place for opponents.

Since 2014, the Saints have scored the most touchdowns as well as the points at home of any NFL team. Naturally, they also have one of the best records at home over that stretch, going 38-23.

Before the season began, I predicted every game for the Cowboys. For this week, I had them coming into the game at 8-3 but taking a loss to New Orleans. If I’m wrong (and I’d love to be), I would actually be spot on with their record after 12 games.

A lot of factors have me scared about this game. This is a must-win for New Orleans. Dallas has been terrible the past month. New Orleans is a tough venue to perform well. The whole COVID situation. It just feels like the Cowboys are set up to fail.

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The last time things felt this way, however, was when Dallas headed to another tough stadium in Minnesota with a backup quarterback. The Cowboys won that game though and maybe they can find that magic one more time. Give me Dallas in this win to find a way to triumph 27-23, putting the Saints on the brink of disaster.