By Zach Walker
Dallas Cowboys vs New Orleans Saints
Sunday – October 4 – 7:30 pm CT
Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans
Who do the Cowboys need to shut down?
RB C.J. Spiller – Can anyone out there recall a time in your youth, when you were punished for no reason? Of course. I assume that’s how Drew Brees felt on March 10. First, they get rid of Darren Sproles, then dump Reggie Bush, then trade away Jimmy Graham. They just continue to neuter one of the league’s most prolific passers by taking away his dynamic receivers. At least this time, they added someone back to help him out. Though not fully Darren Sproles, C.J. Spiller should continue to get solid targets from Brees on danger downs, because when the ball is in Spiller’s hands in the open field, he knows how to make a guy or two miss. Now progress has been unbelievably slow, in terms of bringing Spiller along into games. In two games so far this season, Spiller has a total of seven touches of the football, four rushes and three receptions. Sean Payton has said this week that he’s ‘got to get him more opportunities’ and versus a defense in Dallas which made Devonta Freeman look like Marshall Faulk, those opportunities will likely be there for the Saints.
Who on the Cowboys, needs to step up?
QB Brandon Weeden – While sitting in the press conference room, waiting for Brandon Weeden to step to the podium, I could over-hear the local professional writers of the DFW media talking of Weeden, and the same thing kept coming up. Did Brandon Weeden lose that game? No, but did he do enough to win it? No. Can the Cowboys move forward with Weeden? Yeah, but he needs help. Sure, Terrence Williams really didn’t capture any fans that he didn’t already have, and he showed his ‘Robin’ ceiling in the process. But, Brandon Weeden helped the Falcons defense by not pushing the envelope, not trying anything beyond 15 yards downfield. He absolutely had an efficient game, 22 of 26 passes were completed. That’s seriously good, but he wasn’t very Brandon Weeden. On one play, yeah, he’ll want that one back, where he rolled left and looked as though he was in a Scooby Doo style suit of armor, then let a duck for the chain. Weeden said something like, it wouldn’t be wise or tactically smart to go deep. And there isn’t an ‘all clear’ sign from the defense to go deep, but Weeden needs to scare off the safeties or else Joseph Randle is going to beat his head against an eight man front.
Which group will give the Cowboys fits?
The Saints’ Secondary – The Saints have some serious aerial resistance with their secondary. Keenan Lewis brings the veteran savvy, Brandon Browner brings the pedigree of a Super Bowl mercenary, Jarius Byrd plays the middle of the field as well as the best safeties in the league, and Kenny Vaccaro can bring a combo of boom and youthful ability to match with tight ends and leave Byrd to still play center field. With the way that the Cowboys’ receivers failed to impress against a very youthful Falcons secondary, against a seasoned group, the Cowboys’ receivers are going to need to do some work out there.
Which group will give the Saints fits?
The Cowboys’ Linebackers – This is more of, which group needs a bounce back and take the reins of this defense. Sean Lee needs to shake the Superdome with another Sean Lee game of epic proportions. Anthony Hitchens needs to continue to be the slam in the middle of the field, and Kyle Wilber’s return to the field should really help. I don’t know how the Falcons ran so well on the Cowboys, especially after they just stuffed the flame of the Eagles’ running game, but a return to that type of play is essential for the success of the Cowboys without Tony Romo.
What will it take for the Cowboys to win?
Play TWO halves of football, not coast off of the first half accomplishment. Stay angry, stay hungry for more. It is quite amazing how good the team looked in the first half, then washed their hands of the game in the locker room at half time, and I know that’s not giving the Falcons their credit, but no, the Cowboys played losing football in that second half and they got what they played to do. Get back to playing winning football. If it is Luke McCown, they have to make him feel like the back-up, not let him get into a Brandon Weeden type efficient game like he did last week against Carolina. A Sunday night back-up bowl, what a gem of the NFL schedule.
Prediction: Dallas 24 – New Orleans 20