The New Orleans Saints return home to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this weekend. There they will host the visiting and undefeated Dallas Cowboys in a nationally-televised contest on NBC Sunday Night Football.
Kickoff is at 7:20 P.M. Central time and will be broadcast nationally by NBC, and will be broadcast locally on WDSU-TV Channel 6.
The Cowboys currently lead the NFC East Division with a 3-0 win-loss record. They feature one of the most explosive and talented offenses in the entire NFL, led by 4th-year veteran quarterback Dak Prescott, All-Pro running back sensation Ezekiel Elliot, and emerging 4th year superstar wide receiver Amari Cooper.
— NBC Sports PR (@NBCSportsPR) September 24, 2019
As such, Dallas is currently favored to win this highly-anticipated contest by three points over the Saints as of this writing. New Orleans will once again be playing without starting QB Drew Brees, who will miss at least the next five games while the surgically-repaired thumb ligament on his throwing hand continues to heal.
The last time that New Orleans and Dallas faced each other was last season in 2018, when the Cowboys defeated the Saints by a score of 13-10 in a tough defensive battle at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
It’s with all of that in mind this morning, that Big Easy Magazine presents 5 Bold Predictions for this Sunday night’s contest as the New Orleans Saints attempt to win their 11th straight game at home against their NFC rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.
As usual, we’ll start first at #5, and work our way down to #1…
#5. The Saints Keep Cowboys All-Pro RB Ezekiel Elliott In Check and Limit Him to Under 100 Total Yards from Scrimmage
— NFL (@NFL) September 25, 2019
Elliott — who Saints fans might recall scored the only Dallas touchdown on a 16-yard screen pass to help lead the Cowboys to victory over the Black and Gold last season — is currently ranked 4th in the NFL in rushing yardage (289 yards). But as everyone knows, he is just as equally dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield.
To that point, Elliott was the catalyst for that win last year over the Saints at Dallas when he rushed for 76 yards on 23 carries, but did most of his damage as a receiver, catching 6 passes for 60 yards and that touchdown which eventually was the game-winning score.
However in this Sunday Night’s contest, the Saints’ defensive Front 7 will rise to the occasion and keep Elliott in check for a majority of the game, as he gains 62 yards rushing on 20 carries but only grabs 4 passes for 36 yards as a receiver, for a total of 98 scrimmage yards.
#4. Following His Phenomenal Performance Last Week at Seattle, Saints Superstar RB Alvin Kamara Has Another Stellar Day
— NFL (@NFL) September 22, 2019
Kamara will be coming into this weekend’s contest as the player who was the main “difference-maker” in the Saints’ remarkable 33-27 win over the Seahawks at Seattle CenturyLink Field last Sunday, as the 3rd year RB scored TD’s both through the air and on the ground and gained 161 scrimmage yards overall on a grand total of 25 touches.
Those numbers along with the steady guidance of back-up QB Teddy Bridgewater, the stellar performances of the Saints defense and special teams (both of whom scored TD’s), and the masterful play-calling and strategy employed by Saints head coach Sean Payton; allowed the Black and Gold to leave the rainy Pacific Northwest with a critical victory that essentially “saved” their entire current 2019 Season.
In this weekend’s game at the Superdome, Kamara will follow up last week’s phenomenal effort with yet another solid stat-line against a stout Cowboys defense, as he rushes for 89 yards on 15 carries and perhaps more importantly: keeps Dallas off-balance by hauling in an additional 6 pass receptions for 72 more yards and a thrilling TD catch-and-run in the 4th Quarter.
#3. In a Pivotal Match-Up, Saints CB Eli Apple Has Mixed Results Against His Former College Teammate, Cowboys #4 WR Devin Smith
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) September 25, 2019
With Cowboys #2 WR Michael Gallup expected to miss a few more weeks after a minor surgical procedure on his injured knee. he has been replaced in the Cowboys line-up by 4th year outside receiver Devin Smith; who attended college at Ohio State University and is a former college teammate of a handful of Saints players.
Obviously that would include Saints #2 CB Eli Apple, who also attended Ohio State where he was an All-American defender and is most likely the one who will match-up one-on-one for a majority of the contest against Smith, who was one of the fastest WR’s in the entire 2015 NFL Draft Class a few years ago.
Apple — whose forced fumble against Seahawks RB Chris Carson last week helped propel the Saints to their victory at Seattle — will have mixed results while trying to maintain coverage against the former teammate that he won a National Championship with back in 2014. Apple “limits” Smith to 5 catches for 89 receiving yards, but yields a 65-yard “bomb” for a long TD by Smith which gives the Cowboys the lead midway through the 2nd Quarter.
#2. Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater Does “Just Enough”, to Help the Black and Gold to Keep the Score Close
Teddy Bridgewater's completions this week pic.twitter.com/94hXdzXP66
— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) September 24, 2019
In the Saints’ victory at Seattle last week, Bridgewater filled in admirably in the place of Brees. While he wasn’t spectacular or sensational by any means, the Saints #2 QB silenced many of his biggest critics by demonstrating a much cooler, calmer demeanor and command of the offensive huddle, which was starkly different by comparison to his performance two weeks ago during the loss to the Los Angeles Rams (the game in which Brees was injured).
Despite a constant drizzle of rain in Seattle, the 26-year-old Bridgewater had a redemptive bounce-back performance that allowed the Saints as a team to demonstrate their capability to win games without Brees in the starting line-up. Bridgewater was the catalyst for the Black and Gold in that winning effort, as he completed 19 out of his 27 pass attempts for a grand total of 177 passing yards and compiled an above-average QB rating of 112.7.
In this weekend’s showdown with the despised Cowboys, Teddy B. will do “just enough” to help New Orleans keep the score close for most of the contest. as he completes 21-out-of-33 passes for 227 yards and 2 TD passes and perhaps most importantly: doesn’t commit any turnovers for a 2nd straight game.
#1. The Cowboys Have the Lead Over the Saints Heading into the 4th Quarter, When This Happens…
— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) September 23, 2019
Speaking of doing “just enough,” last year in the Cowboys’ 13-10 win over the Saints in Dallas at AT&T Stadium, it was Cowboys starting 4th year QB Dak Prescott who did just that. He completed 24-out-of-28 passes for 248 yards and 1 TD while leading Dallas to a hard-fought victory.
Nevertheless, Prescott won’t have nearly as successful stats against the Saints defensive Front 7 and secondary this time around, as his only TD pass of the night goes to WR Devin Smith (as we noted previously right up above). But yet as these two teams enter the 4th Quarter, the Cowboys maintain a 23-14 lead over the Black and Gold, and seem content to just “milk the clock” in an attempt to leave New Orleans with a win.
Unfortunately for Prescott and Dallas, the Saints defense once again rises to the occasion just as they did last week at Seattle; and on a critically important 3rd down play with just under 5 minutes remaining, the former Mississippi State University star is hit from behind by Saints free safety Marcus Williams, forcing a Dallas punt.
Saints kickoff/punt returner Deonte Harris then runs back the Cowboys punt 22 yards to the New Orleans 48-yard line, and then three plays later, Bridgewater hits Kamara streaking down the right sideline on a “wheel route” for an exhilarating 42-yard catch-and-run that narrows the Cowboys lead to 23-21 with a little over three minutes remaining.
The Cowboys then get the ball back and still only need to get one more 1st Down to run out the game clock, with New Orleans already having used all three of their allotted time-outs of the 2nd half. But the Saints Front 7 “stuffs” Elliott for no gain on 2nd Down; and then subsequently in what ends up being the most crucial play of the entire contest, Prescott is SACKED by Saints defensive end Cam Jordan.
Cam Jordan recorded a new career-high 11 total pressures in Week 3 against Seattle!
— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) September 24, 2019
Once again, Dallas is forced to punt while clinging on to the 2-point lead, but this time they’re able to prevent the diminutive Harris from hurting them by making another big play on a punt return. The Saints still have a little over a minute remaining (1 minute and 12 seconds) to move from their own 35 yard line and into field goal range for what would be a game-winning kick by Wil Lutz.
But back-to-back throws by Bridgewater to Kamara and Saints #2 WR Ted Ginn, Jr. fall incomplete, and the Saints are down to their final two plays with just 47 seconds remaining to play. That’s when Bridgewater is able to save the Black and Gold with his feet as well as his arm.
As Bridgewater drops back to pass, he is grabbed from behind by Dallas defensive end Demarcus Lawrence for what would be a potentially game-winning sack, but somehow Bridgewater manages to escape from Lawrence’s grasp and rifles a bullet-pass to a WIDE OPEN Saints TE Jared Cook, who finally makes an impact play for the Black and Gold after his disappointing performances in the Saints’ first 3 games of the current season.
Cook’s catch puts the ball at the Cowboys 39-yard line, and the Saints offense and Bridgewater hurriedly get up to the line of scrimmage and spike the ball to preserve whatever little time they can to send in Lutz. The field goal attempt by Lutz is from 56 yards out — and as the ball approaches the goal post, it hits the left-side upright and then bounces in on a ricochet just like a “bank-shot” in basketball — for the game-winner as time expires.
FINAL SCORE: SAINTS 24, COWBOYS 23
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius