The Saints own them.
Sean Payton owns them.
The Saints have dominated the series in recent years.
THE SAINTS WILL WIN.
Sound familiar? That’s what all the people who think they know something about football (myself included) said leading up to the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons. What no one really considered is that the Falcons were tired of listening to all the noise. They’re men, too. They have pride, too. The Saints had a massive target on their backs. We know how that movie ended. The Falcons rolled up 568 total yards and beat the Saints in overtime.
Sunday night’s storyline starring the Dallas Cowboys is setting up much the same way.
The Saints have won eight of nine games against the Cowboys and three straight. The Saints are 3-1 against Dallas under head coach Sean Payton, including last season’s 49-17 dismantling. The Saints piled up an NFL-record 40 first downs in that one, on their way to 625 total yards. The lone loss to the Cowboys under Payton came in the 2009 Super Bowl season when they handed the Saints their first defeat after 13 straight wins.
But here’s the thing — none of that matters now. The Saints, at this point, are clearly a different team. The defense is leaky and the offense has been shaky. Sure the Saints are a stout 21-9 in regular season primetime games since 2006. Sure they are tough to beat when a national audience is watching. But they surely have trouble winning on the road, too. The 0-2 road start this year hasn’t convinced anyone that the Saints have fixed those problems. Going into Dallas and winning won’t be easy.
The Saints are 1-2. The Cowboys are 2-1. New Orleans is fighting for its season at the four week mark. The Cowboys are trying to prove their defense is no longer a disaster and Tony Romo is fully recovered from back surgery.
Will the Saints defense step up and force mistakes by Romo, who is turnover-prone? Can cornerback Keenan Lewis and others limit explosive wide receiver Dez Bryant?
If the defense can force a turnover or two and the running game continues to be productive, I think the Saints win going away. If not, it could be a long night in Big D.
Saints 34, Cowboys 23.