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Cowboys at Saints: Writer predictions for Dan Quinn’s interim head coach debut

The Cowboys at Saints contest is shaping up to be a pretty strange game.

Atlanta Falcons v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

As we near the end of the Cowboys’ annual November gauntlet, in which they play three games in 12 days, things have gotten pretty weird ahead of their road trip to the Superdome to take on the Saints. There are so many storylines swirling around this one, but the most pertinent seems to be simply listing who won’t appear in this game for each team.

The Saints are going to be without three starters along their front seven, both starting tackles haven’t practiced all week and are listed as questionable, Alvin Kamara is questionable after missing the past three games, and they’re making a switch at quarterback from Trevor Siemian to Taysom Hill. Meanwhile, Dallas will be without several coaches including Mike McCarthy, leading to Dan Quinn getting the interim tag against a familiar foe from his Falcons days. Cedrick Wilson will be out with an injury, Terence Steele and Nahshon Wright are out with COVID-19, and Trysten Hill is suspended.

exhales deeply

Now that we’ve covered all that, let’s see what our writers are thinking for this one.

When New Orleans has the ball

Play clean football

It’s a little difficult to know what to expect from this Saints offense right now. They’ve been stagnant since Siemian became the starter, and while Hill isn’t necessarily an upgrade he’s definitely different. The uncertain statuses of Terron Armstead, Ryan Ramczyk, and Kamara further complicate things.

One thing is for sure: Sean Payton will try to attack this defense’s weak point, and last week that weak point was avoiding penalties. Quinn has made it clear he wants to play a lot of man coverage and create pressure on the quarterback however he can. Hill’s mobility will help mitigate the second part, but it’ll be interesting to see if Payton copies the Raiders’ game plan of lobbing up balls and praying for a flag. More importantly, it’ll be interesting to see if Quinn goes away from the press coverages this time around.

When Dallas has the ball

Get Dak Prescott and the passing game going early

It’s not official yet but it’s looking like the Cowboys will, for the first time all year, take the field with Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Tyron Smith, and Zack Martin all at once. We know that Prescott can be lethal throwing to this receiving corps when he has solid protection, so having all these guys playing together again is big.

Jerry Jones has proclaimed that running back Ezekiel Elliott is about to get a big workload in this one, but that would be a terrible thing to do considering New Orleans is tops in the NFL in run defense DVOA and barely behind the league-leading Bills in rush EPA allowed per play. Their secondary isn’t bad either, but it’s been massively inferior to this stout run defense. With both Cooper and Lamb back, and after Dak rekindled his relationship with deep threat Gallup last week, there’s no reason not to air it out early and light things up quickly.

Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...

Tom Ryle:

Ugh. I have no idea what kind of game we will see. Taysom Hill is slated to start for the Saints. Meanwhile the Cowboys look to be short handed at WR, Zeke is banged up, the O line is still in flux, and the defense has to figure something out with Dan Quinn now having to cover HC duties as well. Still, I think New Orleans has way more problems than Dallas, and despite some missed throws on Thanksgiving, the game should come down to Dak finding a way to get this team down the field.

I’m taking that bet for a Cowboys win, 24-13.

Terence Watson:

The hits keep on coming for the Dallas Cowboys with another string of positive Covid tests coming before their game against the New Orleans Saints. This week the Cowboys will be without head coach Mike McCarthy, right tackle Terence Steele, and Nashon Wright due to Covid. The good news is they will be getting receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb back on the field along with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence to give then more firepower on both sides of the ball.

They also have the advantage of Dan Quinn’s familiarity with the Saints offense having coached against them during his time as the Falcons head coach. The Cowboys focus this week needs to be to stop the running game of the Saints as that is the key to what keep their whole machine running. On offense the Cowboys need to establish the run early to keep the Saints pass rush from coming after Dak Prescott. If they. An do that then they have a very good chance of winning this game, which I believe they will.

Cowboys 24, Saints 21.

Matt Holleran:

Both of these teams desperately need to win this game. New Orleans comes into this matchup losers of four straight after losing Jameis Winston for the season. Winston’s absence has really impacted the Saints offense, causing them to make a QB change this week with Taysom Hill set to start. It’s hard to pick the Cowboys right now with how poorly they have played the last two times out, but I just don’t see the Saints having enough offensive firepower to really challenge the Dallas defense. It won’t be pretty, but I think the Cowboys are able to start off December with a win.

Give me the Cowboys, 23-17.

Darreck Kirby:

The Cowboys are staggering, having lost three of four after a 6-1 start, but the return of Tank Lawrence is a major relief to the defensive front. Though Amari Cooper remains in question and Dan Quinn will be coaching and calling the defense, the team has to prove it can respond in a difficult situation and environment given recent performances. The Saints defense is good but they aren’t world-beaters offensively. Call me crazy, but I think Dallas gets a convincing victory Thursday night.

Cowboys 34-13.

Aidan Davis:

We won’t know until the game ends, but this seems like a pivotal moment in the Cowboys season. If they travel to New Orleans, with a healthier roster than previous weeks and still struggle, panic will ensue. While I could definitely see this happening, Dallas should be able to find a way to pull this one out. Similar to the Buccaneers game, this week is going to feature a heavy passing attack since the Saints boast arguably the best run defense in the NFL.

But what does Taysom Hill bring to the table for the Saints? If Demarcus Lawrence is able to produce pressure on the defensive line, the Cowboys can use Micah Parsons in the spy to prevent Taysom from using his legs. Regardless of how they decide to stop him, Hill brings a more dynamic skillset to the table than Trevor Siemian. With that being said, Dallas should be able to stop the depleted Saints offense and leave with a win on the arm of Dak Prescott. But it will be a tight one.

Cowboys 26, Saints 24.

Tony Catalina:

The Cowboys have been on the wrong side of things as of late as the last two games have not been great for Cowboys Nation. Couple that with the fact the Cowboys seemed to have faced endless challenges this week, as they Cowboys will have to make due without some key coaches and players. The good news is there are enough players coming back ready to go and enough skill and experience on this team to get it done this week.

I think the Cowboys get it done in convincing fashion. First game back with their entire offensive line since 2019, all three of your top receivers ready to go, and Demarcus Lawrence in the fold has me ready for a get right game.

The Cowboys get back to their winning ways and they do it in statement fashion 34-17.

Brian Martin:

The Dallas Cowboys are a tough team to read right now after losing three out of their last four games, and as such, makes this Week 13 matchup with the New Orleans Saints all the more difficult to predict. To further complicate matters, it also looks as if the Saints will be making a switch at quarterback going with Taysom Hill over Trevor Siemian.

With the switch it QB, the Saints offensive game plan will likely be more run oriented. That could prove problematic for the Cowboys defense who have struggled to stop the run as of late. But, if they can contain New Orleans’ rushing attack and force Hill to beat them with his arm, then this will be a game that heavily favors the Dallas Cowboys.

Final score prediction: 24-17, Cowboys.

Danny Phantom:

This team is not playing good football right now. I know they have it in them, but until they can string some quality play together again, I’m going to have trust issues. This Saints defense is a good group and they are especially good at stopping the run. Taking the run away combined with the absence of Amari Cooper is more detrimental than we think. The Cowboys get it right and finish the season strong, but it won’t start this week.

Saints 26, Cowboys 20.

David Howman:

I really don’t know what to expect from this defense right now. The flag show last week could either destroy all their confidence or make them come out defiant and trying to prove everyone wrong. Either way, Payton loves Taysom Hill and I expect him to be in his bag for this one.

Now, Kellen Moore should also be in his bag with all his top guys ready for this one, and Moore’s weapons are so much better. However, I’m worried that Jerry’s public directive to pound the rock might disrupt a more organic game planning process, similar to what we saw happen in Week 4 of the 2019 season when a high-octane offense suddenly went ultra-conservative on the road in this very stadium and lost. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong, but I think Dallas starts out with a vanilla approach before opening things up out of desperation. And being desperate in the Superdome is usually a recipe for disaster.

Cowboys lose, 24-22.