Preview: Saints at Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have cobbled together three straight wins to alter the complexion of their season and vault into a share of first place in the mediocre NFC East. The Cowboys will encounter quite the litmus test on Thursday when they host the surging New Orleans Saints, who have won a staggering 10 in a row since their season-opening loss to Tampa Bay.
Ezekiel Elliott leads the NFL with 1,074 rushing yards and has amassed 531 scrimmage yards (394 rushing, 137 receiving) and four touchdowns in his last three games, including 143 (121 rushing, 22 receiving) with a 16-yard scoring run in Dallas’ 31-23 win over Washington on Thanksgiving Day. The 23-year-old Elliott likely would need a similar performance against New Orleans’ top-ranked rush defense (73.2 yards) as a means to control the clock and keep NFL MVP candidate Drew Brees (league-best 76.4 completion percentage) on the sideline. With Brees under center, the high-octane Saints have scored an NFL-best 37.2 points per game and are fifth in yards (416.6). New Orleans had no issue continuing its frenetic pace last Thursday, as Brees tossed four touchdown passes in a 31-17 win over Atlanta and has 11 scoring strikes against one interception in his last four meetings with the Cowboys.
TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, FOX, NFL Network. LINE: Saints -7.5. O/U: 53
ABOUT THE SAINTS (10-1): The electric Alvin Kamara has shown no signs of slowing down with 575 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns (six rushing, three receiving) in his past six games. Fellow running back Mark Ingram has three scores in his last three outings and Michael Thomas has proven to be Brees’ most trusted target with an NFL second-best 86 receptions. While the offense receives its fair share of headlines, the defense is getting plenty of press too, as it forced four turnovers, registered a season-high six sacks and held Falcons running backs Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith to just six rushing yards on 10 carries last week. “We all know what Dallas is gonna want to do — hand it to Zeke as many times as they can and try to pound out a win,” defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. “So it’s gonna be fun.”
ABOUT THE COWBOYS (6-5): Louisiana native Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper look to exploit New Orleans’ 30th-ranked pass defense after the pair hooked up for two long touchdown passes against the Redskins. Prescott has a rushing score in each of his last three games while Cooper joined Kansas City speedster Tyreek Hill in recording his second 180-yard, two-touchdown performance in the last two seasons with his sterling effort versus Washington. Cooper has seen eight-plus targets in three of four games since being acquired from Oakland, giving Dallas a new version of a familiar three-pronged attack made famous by “The Triplets” of Pro Football Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. “I think the sky’s the limit,” the 24-year-old Cooper said. “Obviously we’ll have to wait and see, but Dak is a great player. Zeke is a great player. So who knows?”
1. New Orleans WR Tre’Quan Smith was limited in practice on Tuesday as he attempts to return from a one-game absence due to a foot injury.
2. Dallas DE Demarcus Lawrence has three of his team-leading 8.5 sacks in the last four games.
3. The Saints have a league low-tying nine turnovers, one fewer than the Cowboys.