It’s off to the Big Easy, but there will be nothing easy about what lies ahead of this Dallas Cowboys football team on Sunday night. Sure, Drew Breezy is a no-go, but let’s forget that this Saints team has been one of the best teams in the league over the last couple seasons. Had it not been for a couple late-game gaffes (one defensive let down and one officiating), they could very easily be representing the NFC in the Super Bowl these last couple seasons. Regardless of what you think of Teddy Bridgewater, this Saints team is loaded with talented players.
Beating them in the Superdome is going to be a challenge, and it’s going to take some stand out performances. but who will those players be on Sunday? Last week, we had a couple different players show out who were picked by our writers, one on offense, and one of defense. The Cowboys rookie had his coming out party, and our own Michael Strawn nailed it with his 100-yard prediction.
Michael Strawn - Tony Pollard
I expect the Cowboys to play with a lead through most of the game and thus rest Ezekiel Elliott. That means more opportunity for Tony Pollard. I’m predicting over 100 combined yards and two touchdowns, one on the ground and one on a screen.
And speaking of new guys, welcome to the Cowboys Robert Quinn, Cole Patterson called an impressive debut by the former Dolphins’ edge rusher.
Cole Patterson - Robert Quinn
It’s no secret that the Cowboys would like for their pass rush to improve, and what better way for Quinn to announce his presence to the team by creating pressure? The Cowboys made the move for the veteran rusher in hopes that he would solidify the opposite side from DeMarcus Lawrence. Although it’s his first game in a Cowboys uniform following the two-game suspension, look for Quinn to have a solid game against his former squad.
He’s only played one game so far, but he’s already climbing the ranks for the team lead in QB pressures.
Cowboys’ QB pressures this season:— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 24, 2019
DeMarcus Lawrence: 10
Maliek Collins: 8
Robert Quinn: 7
Kerry Hyder: 6
Dorance Armstrong: 5
So, who are the X-Factors for the Saints game? Here are our predictions for the guys who could come up big on Sunday night.
Michael Strawn - Jourdan Lewis
The third-year cornerback had the best game of his career against New Orleans last year. He was essentially tasked with covering human highlight reel Alvin Kamara out of the backfield. Lewis proved up to the task, holding Kamara to 36 yards on 11 targets and contributing the game-clinching interception. No doubt Sean Payton will have some surprises for Lewis and the Cowboys. Still, I expect the feisty Cowboys corner to keep Kamara from going too crazy.
Tom Ryle - Tavon Austin
With Michael Gallup still expected to be out, the team can use a bit more help at receiver, and Austin’s speed is something we can expect Kellen Moore to deploy. But those will still be limited snaps with Devin Smith picking up most of the load in Gallup’s absence. Where Austin should make a big impact is returning punts. It won’t require a score, either. A couple of 30-yard returns can flip the field and set the Cowboys up. He will never be more than a role player, but he can still impact a game.
David Howman - Jeff Heath
While Teddy Bridgewater is a more than capable quarterback, especially in Sean Payton’s offense, he’s currently averaging six yards per attempt, which is 31st in the NFL. I expect Jourdan Lewis to operate once again as the Kamara-buster, but I’m looking for Heath coming down in the box to take on other short yardage weapons like Jared Cook, fullback Zach Line, and Taysom Hill.
Michael Sisemore - Maliek Collins
The Cowboys defense has to get pressure and it needs to come from someone else besides DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys’ defensive ends can set the edge as speed rusher Robert Quinn is a welcome sight. Dallas needs more power rushing from the middle of their defensive line. If the Cowboys can find a way to pinch the interior of a great Saints’ offensive line, it puts more pressure on Teddy Bridgewater to deliver and it keeps the rushing lanes tight. The Cowboys need to start affecting the opposing quarterback and there is no better way than dumping his own men into his lap.
Danny Phantom - Randall Cobb
The veteran free agent receiver has quickly become one of my favorite new guys as he does so many of the little things to win. With Marshon Lattimore having his hands full against Amari Cooper, look for Kellen Moore to find favorable matchups in the secondary against their other corners. Last season, they picked on Eli Apple and Michael Gallup had a career high (at the time) in catches. This year, Randall Cobb could be the benefactor of a suspect Saints secondary. Don’t be surprised if Cobb finds the end zone and has his first 100-yard receiving performance in over a year.
Who do you think will be the X-Factor player of the game?