Aaron S. Lee
As I wrote last week, it was no surprise the Dallas Cowboys (7-5) were able to defeat the then-league leading New Orleans Saints (10-2). What was a bit of a shocker is the way in which they went about stifling one of the league’s most potent offenses led by it’s most prolific passer of all time.
Dallas is proving to be the class of the NFC East, which is surprising considering last year’s Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (6-6) are in their division.
The Cowboys have literally turned their season around following a four-game win streak and now control their own destiny as those very same Eagles travel to Texas to face Dak Prescott and “Da Boys,” who will have enjoyed 10 days since handing Drew Brees and the Saints only their second loss of the season.
However, the Eagles are on a two-game win streak of their own, and if the Cowboys do not want to endure the same fate as the Saints last week, Jason Garrett’s team will need to fire on all cylinders to topple a winged Philadelphia team that is second in the division and still in the hunt to salvage what has been an underachieving championship title defense to date.
The Cowboys, which finally looks to be coming of age since the addition of wide receiver Amari Cooper last month, only managed a modest 308 yards of total offense against New Orleans but did everything it needed to do to keep Brees off the field. Prescott has found new life as of late with added weaponry as he went 24 of 28 for 209 yards — 76 of which to Cooper on eight passes.
The MVP of the game would need to go the Cowboys defense, which stymied the Saints offense, holding them to 176 total yards — including 111 passing yards — and never allowed New Orleans to find a rhythm — a task no other team has been able to do all season.
As for the Saints, the sky is far from falling. If anything, the loss to Dallas could not come at a better time. Sure, it ended a 10-game win streak which began after a season-opening loss to NFC South rival Tampa Bay (5-7), but it now resets the team’s focus ahead of this Sunday’s rematch versus the Buccaneers on the road.
Oddly enough, this could almost be considered a must-win for New Orleans, who has home-field hopes throughout the playoffs. The road to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta will be a lot smoother should the Saints destiny run through the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Despite having beaten the new league-leading Los Angeles Rams (11-1) five weeks ago, the Rams are now the top seed in the NFC. The Saints hold a tie-breaker advantage over the Rams should the two teams end the regular season with the same record after 16 games, but at the moment the Saints are a game behind. Therefore New Orleans will be bantering for every team facing the Rams for the remainder of the year.
According to the latest NFL Futures from the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, the Rams are the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl at 5/2 (+250) thanks primarily to projected home field advantage based on current NFC standings, while the Saints are 3/1 (+300) and Cowboys are 25/1 (+2,500).
However, MGM sportsbooks have New Orleans favored at 2/1 (+200), with the LA Rams 3/1 (+300) and Dallas 25/1 (+2,500).
Following the Bucs, the Saints travel to Carolina (6-6) before returning home to host the Steelers (7-4) and then the Panthers to close the season.
Keep in mind, the last time the Cowboys ended a Saints double-digit win streak came in 2009 when Dallas ruined an undefeated season (13-0), which was the first of three straight losses for New Orleans to close the regular season.
Oh, and the Saints went on to win Super Bowl XLIV a month later.
— Aaron S. Lee is an international sports journalist for Eurosport, contributor for WGNO-ABC 26 in New Orleans and a graduate of Minden High School.