Saturday, November 9, 2013

Dallas Cowboys vs New Orleans Saints

Market Watch

For the Sunday Night Football matchup, there aren't a lot of mysteries to be found. Last week the LVH had the Saints as -7 point favorites in the look-ahead line. It reopened at at -7 on Monday and we've only seen a small move down to -6.5 during the week.

65 percent of bets are on New Orleans, and it remains to be seen whether there will be any last minute line movement.

Keep an eye on

With Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham, and Marques Colston all expected to be in the lineup on Sunday, Drew Brees will have his full arsenal of weapons available. This is a problem for the Dallas Cowboys defense which ranks as an average unit in most key categories.

A closer look at the Cowboys defense reveals a lot of good mixed in with some bad. Although they rank near the middle of the pack against the run and the pass, they've been near the bottom of the NFL in drive efficiency and red zone defense.  This is amplified when you consider the Morris Claiborne injury. The trickle down effect has moved Orlando Scandrick to the outside and B.W. Webb in the slot. Scandrick has been great this year, but opposing quarterbacks are targeting Webb and you can be sure Brees will do the same.

Up front, Everette Brown looks like a nice steal from the rival Philadelphia Eagles, and they'll also have DeMarcus Ware in the starting lineup. If they have any hope of keeping this Saints offense in check, they'll need to win the line of scrimmage.

But the Saints always play better at home and that should be on full display under the prime-time lights.

The inconsistencies continue for Dallas on the offensive side of the ball. Tony Romo overcome his last minute meltdown reputation last week, but the Vikings only rushed three on the final drive which made life easy on the controversial QB.  Dez Bryant has been a beast for most of the year, but he continues to nullify his potential with bonehead mistakes. Last week he had two big drops and two penalties.

If the Cowboys want to keep up with Brees, their best bet would be to run the ball. This is the primary weakness of the Saints defense, but it's not something that Dallas are very committed to.

The peripheral stats don't reveal any edge for either team. Both teams rank high in average net starting field position and turnover differential. Home field advantage should be amplified for New Orleans though. They've yet to lose at home, while the Cowboys are 1-3 on the road.

Bottom Line

Against the Jets, the Saints defense regressed. They had a number of blown assignments and missed tackles. According to ProFootballFocus, they averaged eight missed tackles per game in 2012, but only 4.1 per game this year (before last week). I expect them to clean up their act with the whole nation watching, which means New Orleans should be in a great position to win this game.

I think the current point spread is exactly where it should be, which means it's a good idea to take a pass on this one, but it does make the Saints a great teaser option for Week 10.