According to Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings, New Orleans has the second worst defense in the league. But that's no consolation for the Cowboys defense, which has the dubious honor of going up against the league's number one offense. Here's how Football Outsiders rank both teams in all three phases through Week 3:
The Saints offense will have lots of oportunities against the Cowboys defense, just as the Cowboys offense will have lots of opportunities against the Saints defense. If these numbers are anything to go by, we could be in for a high-scoring contest.
Accordingly, the over/under for the game is set at a relatively high 53.5, the highest value of the weekend. Out of the eight experts who predict a score below, seven are taking the over, and expect the combined score in Sunday's game to exceed the 53.5.
Of course, all of this just makes it more likely that the exact opposite will happen, and the game will be a low-scoring nailbiter. Such is the way of expert predictions with regards to the Dallas Cowboys.
Let's take a look at what our panel of prominent pigskin pundits predict for the game:
Vinny Iyer, Sporting News
||38-34||When these two teams met on Sunday night last season, the Saints did all the shooting in a 49-17 victory at the Superdome. That also meant the Cowboys have dropped eight of the team’s past nine meetings. Last season was Rob Ryan’s revenge as defensive coordinator. This season, Ryan’s Saints defense hasn’t been so hot on the back end and still has trouble vs. the run. Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray will facilitate Tony Romo keeping Dallas in the game for four quarters. Drew Brees, who hails from down the road in Austin, tends to have some big games vs. Big D, and the Cowboys will be lost trying to stop either Jimmy Graham or Brandin Cooks. This will be more entertaining and competitive than the 2013 version, but in a different venue, it’s the same result that matters.|
|Michael Smith, Pro Football Talk||34-20||The Cowboys are right on pace to finish 8-8 for the fourth straight season. They’ll be 2-2 after their defense gets lit up by the Saints’ offense.|
Greg Cote, Miami Herald
||34-31||AAAWWWKK!" screams the Upset Bird. "Passes and points will fly. Scoreboard might break. Might braawwk!" Why bother with the pretense of defense in this prime-time shootout? Just let Drew Brees and Tony Romo combine for 90 passes and the first team to 30 points wins. Brees is 7-0 on TDs/picks in past two games vs. ‘Boys, and Romo was 4-0 in last meeting with Saints. Brees is 3-0 in Dallas but N’Awlins has lost five straight regular-season roadies, and Romo is 24-16 in his career covering as an underdog. Counting on DeMarco Murray staying hot. "Prepare for unusual sight on TV," notes U-Bird. "Jerry Jones up in his suite – smiling. Creepy smile. Creepy smaaawwwk!"|
|Sam Farmer, LA Times||28-24||The Cowboys are nothing special; we knew that. But the Saints were supposed to be untouchable at home, and they were so-so at best against the struggling Vikings. Take Drew Brees over Tony Romo any day, but the Saints are sleepwalking through the season so far.|
Peter Schrager, Foxsports
||36-31||My Cowboys! Yes, my Cowboys! I predicted Dallas would win 10 games and go to the playoffs in August and got roasted for it. After Week 1, I was ready to hire a master coder and quietly delete all remnants of that prediction from the interwebs. Sure enough, the Cowboys have responded by winning two straight, and doing so by relying on the running game and an opportunistic defense. Sean Payton and Rob Ryan have ties to the Cowboys and the Saints always play well on Sunday nights, but I’m taking Dallas. New Orleans is a different team at home and on the road. And even in last week’s 20-9 win over the Vikings, the Saints offense didn’t have the same sizzle and pop that it’s had in recent years. I like the Cowboys. I mean, my Cowboys, in a wild one.|
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
||31-27||This has the makings of a fun, explosive game. The Saints still didn't look right in beating Minnesota last week, but the defense was better. This is a much better Dallas offense. I think Drew Brees will win a shootout against Tony Romo.|
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com
||34-30||This matchup has "shootout" written all over it -- so let me tell you how the defenses are going to rule the day. Just kidding; they're not. Both Drew Brees and Tony Romo should put up solid if not superb numbers. That said, the sudden interest by Dallas play-caller Scott Linehan -- or Bill Callahan or Jason Garrett -- in the run game might keep the scoring down a little, as that approach uses up more time than throwing every down. On that note, the Saints' run defense has probably been the brightest spot for coordinator Rob Ryan's unit heading into his triumphant return to Dallas, where he can reminisce about fielding a mediocre Cowboys D (although it was a few million ranch acres better than the current iteration). Still, DeMarco Murray will rush for 90-something yards against New Orleans.|
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
||35-31||The Saints may not be as good as they were last year. The Cowboys may not be as bad. In the end, it may not lead to a different outcome than last year.|
Randall the Handle, Toronto Sun
||- -||At what point do we give up on pre-season expectations and start accepting what we’re seeing now? If we’ve reached that point, then this line is absurd. What have the Saints done to deserve the favourite’s role here? Two road losses and then a rather insipid home win over a mediocre Minnesota squad that was forced to go with its rookie quarterback early in the game? The Cowboys were supposed to have a completely useless defence this year. While it’s not exactly stellar, Dallas’ defensive numbers are actually better than its guests’. The Cowpokes have a superior run game, a capable passing game and they’re a home dog to an overrated visitor.|
Many sites publish their picks without providing any specific commentary. Most of them like the Saints for the win on Sunday:
|USA Today||0||7||.810 (17-4)|
|NFL Around The League||1||4||.733 (11-4)|
|SB Nation||2||5||.571 (12-9)|
|Dallas Morning News||0||9||.556 (15-12)|
|Pro Football Focus||3||5||.560 (14-11)|
It's a little disconcerting that the two most accurate panels in picking Cowboys games so far this season (USA Today and Foxsports) have no love at all for the Cowboys. Then again, judging by the combined accuracy of all our panels, accurately predicting Cowboys games has largely been a hit-and-miss affair this season anyway
Do you think the Cowboys can pull off the upset?