Game Preview

Thursday Night Football Preview: Saints at Cowboys

TNF Week 13

Thursday Night Football Preview: Saints at Cowboys

New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys

Saints -7.5 | O/U 52

Last Week

Welcome back to the Gridiron Experts Thursday Night Football Preview! Last week, we had a Thanksgiving Mega-Preview, where we picked all 3 games. In those games, I picked the Bears, Cowboys, and Saints as favorites to cover the spread. All three picks came through, both straight up, and ATS! If you listened to my predictions, I’m sure your Pumpkin Pie tasted all that much sweeter. We’re on to Week 13!

Brad’s TNF Picks Season Record (incl. Thanksgiving):

  • Straight-Up: 11-2
  • Against the Spread: 10-2-1

Saints at Cowboys

Saints -7.5 | Over/Under: 52

This Thursday Night the New Orleans Saints (10-1) will head to Dallas to take on the Cowboys (6-5). The Saints are currently (-7.5) favorites to take this contest on the road. Last week, Sean Payton’s squad knocked off the Falcons by a score of 31-17. Meanwhile, Jason Garrett’s Cowboys beat the Redskins by a score of 31-23 in Dallas. This is a rare gem of a Thursday Night game, featuring two division leaders.

We previewed both of these teams last week, so you should be well acquainted with them by now!

The Saints have ripped off 10 consecutive wins after starting the season with a loss to Tampa Bay. They tout the league’s highest point total, averaging 37.2 points per game. New Orleans is also top 10 in yardage, passing yards, and rushing yards.

QB Drew Brees is having arguably the best season of his bright career and has established himself as a frontrunner for MVP. Brees’ 29 TD passes rank 3rd in the NFL, and he’s only thrown 2 INT the whole year. Last week, Brees was workmanlike, notching 4 TD passes on 171 yards passing. While the Dallas secondary will pose more of a threat than the Falcons’, the 39-year-old should continue his success this Thursday. He’s also stacked with weapons.

Alvin Kamara FantasyIn the backfield, New Orleans has two of the game’s best in Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Kamara is a true dual threat with his 1,225 yards from scrimmage split almost 50/50 between rushing (706 yards) and receiving (519 yards). Kamara has also found the end zone a ton, logging 11 rushing TDs, and 4 receiving TDs for good measure. Defenses have to watch him wherever he goes on the field, and tailor their game plan to stop him. If they don’t, he’s proven that he’ll run wild on anyone.

The second half of the tandem, RB Mark Ingram, has also been effective. In 7 games since returning from a suspension, Ingram has rushed for 440 yards and 4 scores. He’s also logged 134 receiving yards and caught a TD. He’s also proven that he can still handle the volume, topping 100 yards twice this season. Ingram and Kamara will have their work cut out for them against an intimidating Dallas front, including some of the league’s best young linebackers.

Saints WR Michael Thomas continues to be one of the league’s best. Thomas ranks 4th in receiving yards (1,080), 2nd in catches (86), and 5th in touchdowns (8). However, Thomas is coming off of a rough outing against Atlanta on Thanksgiving where he caught 4 balls for a season-low 38 yards. Last week, the production instead came from a multitude of sources including TE Dan Arnold (4/45/1), Tommylee Lewis (1/28/1), Austin Carr (1/12/1), and Keith Kirkwood (1/5/1). TE Ben Watson also provides a reliable target for Brees. Even though the Saints have some legitimate stars, they also can spread it out and beat with you with their ancillary targets.

Rookie Tre’Quan Smith missed the Thanksgiving game but had his most productive week as a pro in Week 11 when he caught 10 balls for 157 yards and a TD. He was listed as Limited for Monday’s practice, along with DE Marcus Davenport. Smith’s status is still unclear and should be monitored, but Davenport played last week. Also of note, one of the game’s best kickers, Wil Lutz was listed as limited on Monday. As long as the Saints don’t sign another kicker this week, Lutz doesn’t appear in danger to miss this contest.

 

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Dallas’ offense is paced by one of the league’s best, RB Ezekiel Elliott. This year, Zeke leads the NFL with 1,074 rushing yards and he’s added 6 TDs. He’s also carried the ball (217) more times than any other player in the league. Elliott is also 2nd on the team in receiving, catching 47 balls for 363 yards and 2 TDs. The Cowboys will certainly be looking to feed Zeke, but the Saints’ rushing defense has ceded a league-low 73.2 yards per game. Yes, this might be skewed by teams needing to play “catch-up” against New Orleans, but still worth noting. This run defense is no slouch, and he’ll need to earn every yard on Thursday Night.

QB Dak Prescott has experienced a resurgence in the last few weeks. Prescott got out to a slow start, but as of late, he’s been taking care of business, throwing 8 TD and only 1 INT in his last 6 games. He’s also found his running game, logging 5 rushing TDs in that same timeframe. This Dak & Zeke combo is scary, and something the Saints will have to contain to keep their streak alive.

Amari CooperAmari Cooper, in my opinion, has completely transformed this Dallas offense. With Allen Hurns failing to make an impact and a murky TE situation, Dallas decided to make a move at the deadline and bring in WR Amari Cooper from Dallas. In his first 4 games with the Cowboys, Cooper logged 169 yards and a TD. But it was Thanksgiving when Cooper really broke out, as he grabbed 8 balls for 180 yards and 2 TDs on the day. Cooper’s presence completely changes the Dallas offense. When Cooper is productive, defenses have to pay more attention to him on the outside and can’t just load up the box to stop Zeke. Prescott’s certainly pleased with his new toy. Otherwise, his targets include Cole Beasley, who leads the team with 459 receiving yards, and rookie Michael Gallup.

It’s important to note that star lineman Tyron Smith will be a true game-time decision for Thursday night, according to Jerry Jones. He was active on Thanksgiving but did not play. We’ll see if he suits up on Thursday.

The Cowboys’ defense has really risen to the occasion this year and is loaded with young stars. LBs Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have combined for 171 tackles, and are all over the field for the Cowboys. Brown has also added 4 sacks this season. With the losses of David Irving and Sean Lee, the duo’s rise is certainly welcome in Dallas.

 

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On the edge, the Cowboys also have one of the league’s best in Demarcus Lawrence. His 8.5 sacks are among the NFC’s highest marks, and when combined with Tyrone Crawford, Dallas truly has a monstrous line.

On the injury front, Allen Hurns was limited on Monday with a thumb injury, and G Zack Martin was limited with a knee ailment. Their statuses should be monitored leading up to the contest.

The Pick

It’s very rare that a division-leading team is a 7.5 point underdog at home. Dallas seems to be firing on all cylinders right now, as they’ve won 3 in a row and taken the lead in the NFC East. With Prescott and Elliott playing their best football in 2 years, and the addition of Amari Cooper paying off, the Cowboys stand to make some noise this winter.

However, the Saints are truly special. They’re on a 10-game winning streak, have a legend of the game and current MVP candidate at QB, and potentially the best 1-2 backfield combo in the NFL. I said it last week, and I’ll say it again… I’m not going to be the guy to doubt the New Orleans Saints. I see Brees turning in another 3 TD game and Michael Thomas rebounding from his worst game of the year with a special performance. Alvin Kamara will provide a spark early for the gold and black, and Mark Ingram will grind down the clock late.

Give me the New Orleans to continue the streak.

I’ll take them to cover (-7.5), by a score of 31-21.

 

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Thanks for reading

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Maks

    November 28, 2018 at Wednesday, November,28

    damn brad. only 2 losses (and a tie) on your predictions? nice job. i enjoy your weekly write ups. This site is pretty great even tho i don’t gamble.

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