By Zach Walker
New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys
Sunday – September 28 – 7:30pm
AT&T Stadium – Arlington
Who do the Cowboys need to shut down?
TE Jimmy Graham – I’ll spare you the joke, but the punchline is they won’t. If Delanie Walker had a ten catch, 142 yard game, imagine what the most dynamic tight end in the game can do. Though, Walker did benefit from good coverage of the rest of the Titans’ options, it’s not likely that the Cowboys can replicate that kind of team performance against the Saints. The Cowboys defense is likely going to be without Rolando McClain for the second straight week and the secondary made Austin Davis look pretty damn good. It’s going to take a designated Graham blanket to cover him, and I don’t know who that could be. Maybe start by just blasting him at the beginning of the play by a linebacker before he starts his rush.
Who on the Cowboys, needs to step up?
CB Morris Claiborne – After a bona-fide awful game, Mo Claiborne basically ended the game for the Cowboys with an interception against the Rams, but that couldn’t prevent all eyes turning to him and realizing that he just isn’t very good. Lack of reps in preseason may be the quick answer, but that doesn’t spare him from his own poor play, if you’re in the game, that means you’re ready, and it appears he isn’t, so the team benched him, or demoted him down the depth chart which is what really happened, because he’s got to play against the Saints. And whether he’s ready or not, that ball is going towards him, because there’s no reason to go away from him until he proves otherwise. Claiborne will likely be covering the third option on the play, but I say that this is a great opportunity to do something to really boost himself, but at the same time, this punishment (demotion) shouldn’t be a one-game “timeout”, he really needs time to develop his craft, and maybe he’ll come back strong.
Which Group will give the Cowboys’ fits?
The Saints’ wide receivers – Stacked isn’t really a proper word to describe the Saints receivers, because it’s Drew Brees that makes these players so dangerous. Not that Meachem and Colston aren’t really good, but if someone were to look at Meachem’s numbers from his season in San Diego, he just wasn’t the same player. But the Saints went out in the first round of the draft and grabbed a player that fits exactly what the Saints are about, and that’s moving the chains through the air. Brandin Cooks is a scapula that can cut quickly and have the ball caught and have the first down before the defensive back has even reacted. This season, the run game is really not bad at all for the Saint’s but the heart of this team is the passing game. And it’s going to be all hands at battle stations for Sunday night.
Which Group will give the Saints’ fits?
The Cowboys’ pass catchers – The Saints are 29th against the pass, and Tony Romo is coming off of his best performance of the season against a good defense, with a great pass rush. The offense waited patiently until the defense gave them what they wanted, and that’s the broken coverage on Dez for 68 yards and a score. This week, the Cowboys are going to have to generate pressure on the Saints by scoring points and being effective in the passing game. The Cowboys have the depth on offense to have the edge on almost any play, especially if they go to their four wide receiver set with Jason Witten along the line as the fifth receiver.
What will it take for the Cowboys to win?
Converting third downs and preventing the Saints from doing the same. Keep at the run game with DeMarco Murray and keep the ball under the Cowboys’ wing, and don’t give Drew Brees any extra possessions (turnovers). Getting pressure on quarterbacks has been there, but hasn’t gotten there yet, with only three sacks through three games, and I’m not holding my breath for Anthony Spencer to have a stat filled game, that has to be earned.
Prediction: New Orleans 31 – Dallas 34
If the Cowboys can keep the Saints out of the red zone, they can have a shot at winning this game, because Graham will mop up touchdowns in short-yardage situations, but if the Cowboys can hold the ball the way they have to start the season, they have a good shot at beating the under-achieving Saints.