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Cowboys news: Gut feelings before Cowboys take on Saints

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Plus, what this game means to Dak Prescott.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Gut Feeling: Predictions For Cowboys-Saints - Dallas.Cowboys.com Staff

The Cowboys are red hot and facing a team without their future Hall of Famer quarterback, but it’s in the noisy Superdome. The experts from the Dallas Cowboys team site share their gut feelings about the game.

Bryan Broaddus: I am going to remind you of something I learned a long time ago in the NFL. Nobody feels sorry for you when you lose players to injury. Last year when these two teams met, the Cowboys were down three starting offensive linemen and still won the game with a gutty effort. The Saints will be down Drew Brees and their offense will be different because of it.

Brees is the master of making those backbreaking plays which crush a defense while Teddy Bridgewater does not. I expect to see Kris Richard/Rod Marinelli to come after Bridgewater in this matchup and challenge him to make plays consistently. As a staff they saw what the Los Angeles Rams did to him with pressure and that’s going to be too much for him to overcome. No Drew Brees will hurt the Saints and the defense takes advantage of that 28-17.

Cowboys vs. Saints odds, line: Sunday Night Football picks, predictions from model on 79-53 run - CBS Sports Staff

The Cowboys and Saints will face off Sunday night, and while the Cowboys come into the game as favorites it’s still going to be a tough matchup. What does the highly accurate SportsLine Projection Model say about the prime time game?

The model knows the Cowboys’ offense is fourth in the league in scoring at 32.2 points per game, and it could be more of the same against a Saints defense that ranks 30th against the pass. Quarterback Dak Prescott has thrown for 920 yards and nine touchdowns, while wideout Amari Cooper is tied for the league lead with four receiving scores. Cooper has 16 catches for 248 yards, and Prescott also has veteran Randall Cobb (11 catches for 116 yards) and un-retired tight end Jason Witten (9-92) as safety valves.

Workhorse running back Ezekiel Elliott has been “eased” into the offense after a holdout, but he still is fourth in the league with 289 rushing yards, including 125 last week. Elliott finally appears to have a legitimate backup in rookie Tony Pollard, who added 103 yards in mop-up duty against Miami to give the Cowboys two 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time since 1998.

But just because Dallas has the firepower doesn’t mean it will cover the Saints vs. Cowboys spread on Sunday Night Football.

The Saints are always tough to beat in the Superdome, where they are 14-3 over the past two-plus seasons, and they have won nine of the past 12 overall against Dallas. They are playing without all-time passing leader Brees, but backup Teddy Bridgewater is 18-12 as an NFL starter. He has a reliable target in wide receiver Michael Thomas, who is third in the league with 25 receptions for 266 yards. The Saints also will rely on running back Alvin Kamara to take the pressure off. Kamara had 92 receiving yards to go with 69 on the ground against the Seahawks and scored twice.

Cowboys at Saints: 3 players to watch Sunday night - Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat

The Saints may be without their star signal-caller for Sunday night, but they still have some explosive weapons on offense the Cowboys will have to contend with.

Stopping Alvin Kamara is going to be job number one against the Saints’ explosive offense. So an emphasis has been placed on tackling this week. Dallas’ number one weapon to stop Kamara, fellow running back Latavius Murray and the all-purpose Taysom Hill will be the Cowboys’ elite linebacker corps led by Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith.

The duo of Vander Esch and Smith racked up a combined 19 total tackles against the Saints the last time these two teams met, limiting Kamara to 36 rushing yards and 36 receiving yards.

Dak Prescott’s homecoming a business trip to him, Super Bowl to others - Todd Archer, ESPN

Dak Prescott was raised in Louisiana and always dreamed of playing in the Superdome as a kid. Now the starting quarterback for the Cowboys, he’s getting that chance. However, Prescott isn’t letting the emotions get to him.

Even though he grew up in Louisiana, Prescott was a Cowboys fan. One brother, Jace, was a Saints fan, and his other brother, Tad, was a fan of both the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of Randy Moss and Simeon Rice, respectively.

“Especially in our household, football was everything,” Tad said. “All three of us, including our mom, have football tattooed on our body somewhere. It was Monday to Friday, get up for school, go to practice, get out of our practice, take Dak to practice, coach his game on Friday night or Saturday morning, then Sunday, just nothing but football, football, football. Neighbors would come to the house, go in the backyard and play football. Football was our life. To this day, it still is.”

Dak has been to the Superdome just once.

He was honored before a game between the Saints and Carolina Panthers as one of the best players in North Louisiana as a senior at Haughton High School. Growing up, the goal was always to play a game inside the Superdome because it would have been for a state championship.

‘Tell me you don’t like these’: How Dak Prescott plans with Cowboys OC Kellen Moore - Jori Epstein, USA Today

A big reason for the Cowboys’ offensive explosion this year has been the connection between Dak Prescott and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Now, Moore breaks down how he and his quarterback collaborate each week to create each game plan.

Each Friday, first-year coordinator Moore huddles with Prescott, who is in his fourth year as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback. The duo reviews the week and the game-planning process that, of course, began long before week’s end. Moore will detail revelations he’s gathered on the defense’s tendencies during late nights at the office on Monday and Tuesday.

Prescott will consider which routes star receiver Amari Cooper wants to adjust this week. Both men consider Prescott’s practice play, be it an overthrown ball to speedy receiver Devin Smith or a red-zone target to Jason Witten that Prescott had a feeling might become the interception that safety Jeff Heath did in fact make it.

They ask themselves: What is Prescott comfortable with? What will the offense be most comfortable with? How can we most effectively confuse the defense?

“At the end of the day, in a way, you’re sales-pitching plays,” Moore said. “He’s got to be convicted on it as well. … Sometimes I want them. That’s the challenge sometimes. He wants to say you love them all and it’s like, ‘Dak, no: You need to say no to 3-4 of these.’”

Dez Bryant Warns Cowboys About Paying Dak Prescott - Zach Kelberman, Heavy Sports

As Dak Prescott continues to put on a show on the field, the price tag for his pending contract extension presumably goes higher. Dez Bryant, Prescott’s former teammate, recently gave his own opinions about the Prescott negotiations.

During a recent appearance on the ThomaHawk Show, a podcast hosted by former NFL players Joe Thomas and Andrew Hawkins, the legendary Cowboys wide receiver pushed for Prescott’s windfall while cautioning Dallas not to kick the proverbial can down the road.

“I think Dak should get paid. There’s no question,” Bryant said. “You got to look at everything he’s done. Since he’s been in that locker room, he is an outstanding leader. That’s just something that was born inside him. I’m not just doing this talkity-talk-talk stuff; I really do believe that. The way that he correlates with the guys means way more than a pass on the football field. Some quarterbacks have it and some quarterbacks don’t have it, and he has it. He’s going out here, doing way better than people [give him credit for]. He’s just shutting up everybody each and every week.”

“He’s putting the Cowboys in a tough situation,” he added. “Why not go ahead and pay him now? If they wait until the end of the year, they will find themselves in a deep hole of trouble trying to sign Dak to a reasonable contract.”

How is Cowboys RT La’el Collins like Saints DE Cam Jordan? ‘You feed off that person’ - Amie Just, NOLA.com

Dak Prescott isn’t the only Cowboy who grew up in Louisiana, as right tackle La’el Collins even attended LSU in college. Collins, though, recently signed a contract extension with Dallas and has been playing lights out thus far as he prepares for a homecoming game.

But this week’s matchup hits a little closer to home, with Baton Rouge native and LSU alumnus La’el Collins starting at right tackle for the Dallas Cowboys.

Collins has had a productive last three weeks. Off the field, he agreed to a 5-year, $50 million extension on Sept. 3. And on the field, he’s the highest-graded offensive lineman in the league, per Pro Football Focus, only allowing one pressure through three games.

”When you see things like that you definitely know that you’re going against the cream of the crop,” Saints defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. said. “So you have to study, you have to go out and do technique and do things like that. Otherwise you won’t come out victorious.”

Dallas Cowboys: Something’s wrong with Jaylon Smith - Reid Hanson, The Landry Hat

Last year Jaylon Smith took the NFL by storm after returning to the form that once made him a potential top five draft pick prior to a devastating injury in college. However, Smith has yet to show that same flash this year, and it could be an area of concern.

This is all very possibly an overreaction. There are many who claim Jaylon is a splash play machine who thrives on key big plays – not consistent production. They say eventually he will progress to the mean and this entire conversation will soon seem silly.

But reducing Jaylon to a feast-or-famine slash play machine is insulting to the every-down greatness that Jaylon is. Yes, Jaylon is the second most productive big play producer on the defense (just behind DeMarcus Lawrence in impacting opponent expected points), but you can see that playmaking ability all game long, even on plays he’s not directly involved in.

It’s about the total body of work. For those watching his every play in film study, it looks like something’s wrong (possibly as simple as conditioning). The coaching film doesn’t lie. For those just focusing on slash plays, it’s understandable they aren’t as concerned.