NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (6-8)
at DALLAS COWBOYS (8-6)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Dallas -2, Total: 51.5
Dallas seeks its fourth straight victory to remain atop the jam-packed NFC East division when it hosts New Orleans on Sunday.
The Saints are pretty much playing for pride at this point, while the Cowboys continue to fight for their playoff lives. New Orleans snapped a three-game losing streak in a big way, shutting out the Bucs 41-0 at home last week, but the team is just 2-5 SU and 3-4 ATS on the road this season. Dallas, on the other hand, hasnít exactly had much of a home-field advantage of late. Its overtime win over Pittsburgh last week was its only cover in the past 10 home games, dating back to Thanksgiving 2011.
Can the Cowboys extend their win streak on Sunday? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every NFL game throughout the 2012 season and playoffs.
Brees was unstoppable last Sunday, completing 26-of-39 passes (67%) for 307 yards, 4 TD (to 4 different receivers) and 0 INT. That was quite an improvement from his previous two games (both on the road) when he threw just 1 TD pass and 7 INT. Brees' road numbers are rather pedestrian this year (85.9 rating, 14 TD, 11 INT), especially compared to what he's done in New Orleans (101.0 rating, 22 TD, 7 INT). Despite last week's 41-point outburst, the team's top two pass catchers, TE Jimmy Graham and WR Marques Colston, did not score a touchdown. Graham's scoring drought has reached four straight games, while Colston has just 1 TD grab over the past five games combined. Dallas has an average pass defense on paper though (225 YPG, 14th in NFL), with that number rising to 285 YPG in the past three home games. The Cowboys allow 115 rushing YPG (15th in NFL), but the Saints 24th-ranked rushing offense (100 YPG) has improved greatly since November with 127 YPG including five games of at least 140 yards on the ground. With both RBs Pierre Thomas (knee) and Chris Ivory (hamstring) questionable, Mark Ingram will likely be the main ball carrier again. Ingram has rushed for 158 yards on 27 carries (5.9 YPC) over the past two games. The Saints certainly need to take care of the football better, as they have committed nine turnovers in their past two road games, a huge jump from the two turnovers they had in the previous four road contests combined. The good news is that Dallas has not forced more than two turnovers in a game all season. The Cowboys have a slew of injuries on defense with the two most recent ailments to CB Morris Claiborne and LB Ernie Sims, who are both questionable with concussion symptoms.
Cowboys QB Tony Romo has played very well during the three-game win streak, completing 69% of his passes for 912 yards, 6 TD and 1 INT. Although he has thrown for a boatload of yards at home this year (346 YPG), he has also tossed 12 INT and taken 21 sacks in these seven games in Dallas. His top receiver, WR Dez Bryant, had some drops last week due to his fractured finger, but he should be able to secure the football better now that he's gotten used to the splint he needs to wear. Bryant has scored at least one touchdown in six straight games, totaling 584 yards and eight scores during this stretch. Another key Dallas player dealing with an injury is DeMarco Murray (foot). But after two shaky games upon his return to the field (3.1 YPC), Murray ran for 81 yards on 14 carries (5.8 YPC) and added 31 more yards through the air in last week's win over Pittsburgh. The Saints have allowed a league-worst 446 total YPG this year, ranking 31st against the run (146 YPG) and also 31st in passing defense (287 YPG). Dallas has committed 0-to-1 turnovers in six of the past seven games, but New Orleans has 12 takeaways over the past five weeks.