Free NFL Pick: New Orleans at Dallas 11-25-2010

November 24, 2010

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New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys

Thursday November 25th, 2010 4:15 EST

Line: New Orleans -4

Overview:

The 3-7 Cowboys might not be in the playoff discussion, but they have not removed themselves from the discussion. The Cowboys are 2-0 since they decided to give Jason Garrett the interim coaching position and part ways with Wade Phillips. While the Cowboys might have a renewed sense of urgency, can we really throw away the first eight games of the season and assume the Cowboys are back in action?

For some reason, it seems as though people believe the 7-3 New Orleans Saints are having an off season. Sure, they are in second place in the division and have dropped games against the Cardinals and Browns. The fact of the matter is that the Saints have done considerably well with a target on their back and their 1-2 punch at running back sidelined with injuries for the majority of the season. Their last four victories have been by at least ten points. Can the Cowboys hold them off?

Keys to the Game:

  • The Cowboys need to continue to find production in their backfield. Felix Jones, Marion Barber, and Tashard Choice set the standard for running back trios heading into the season. The Cowboys have had little to no threat coming out of the backfield all season, but have made it clear through their play calling in the last two games that they want to run the ball effectively again. The Cowboys have run the ball and utilized their running backs in the passing game. A huge game by Felix Jones might add another stone to his comeback trail.
  • There is no telling whether or not Reggie Bush is going to play or not. A report was released that said Bush would decide after warm ups whether or not he would go. This may have been a facade to force Seattle to game plan for Bush, though he had no intention of playing. They may ease him back into the lineup this week, but they have already waited for eight games for Bush to come back. They want him back 100% when they need him the most, in the playoffs.
  • Jon Kitna looked miserable when he first took over the starting job upon Tony Romo’s injury, but has been electrifying the past two games. Kitna has utlized the talent around him and has been making throws that I believed were outside his ability. Kitna looks comfortable and has six touchdowns and one interception in his last two games. It is no wonder the Cowboys look like a new team, Kitna is playing lights out.
  • Drew Brees doesn’t have running back option he can depend on in the run game or when he drops back to pass. That being said, he has still managed to find a way to put together victories. Brees has thrown 14 interceptions this week, so don’t be surprised to see him toss an interception of two. That being said, he also has a habit of unleashing an aerial assault when he takes the field. This season only Philip Rivers bests Brees’ 22 touchdowns. Brees might give it away, but he isn’t throwing Brett Favre interceptions.

Key Matchup:

Jermon Bushrod Vs. Demarcus Ware

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers hit Drew Brees seven times and dropped him for a sack twice. While the Cowboys might not pose the same threat at pass rush as the Steelers and not all the blame rests on the left tackle, Bushrod is going to have his hands full with Dallas. The 4th year pro could find himself in a one on one situation with Ware. The Saints feature five wide packages and empty backfield sets. They can leave a tight end in to help in pass pro or leave Chris Ivory in the backfield, but that takes away from the offense.
  • Demarcus Ware might be on a team of underachievers, but his production has remained consistent. Ware has 8.5 sacks this season. Most of the coverage on the Cowboys has been on the struggles of the franchise, but Ware has kept silent and has had a quietly productive season. Ware has a step on nearly every tackle in the game. Being in front of a home crowd could create a situation where the offensive line starts to watch the ball as well. Ware wins that battle nearly every time.

Wrap Up:

It is admirable that the Cowboys have started showing effort, but I don’t see it lasting. Now that Jerry Jones has made it clear that noone is safe, the Cowboys realize that there is accountability for their actions. There will be a lot of new faces in the locker room next season and players are playing for their jobs.

The Saints have always held themselves accountable. They are on a tear over the last few games and would love to go into Dallas and rain on their measly two game winning streak parade. The Cowboys might not be hanging their heads at the moments, but I expect the Saints will make them retract to their usual selves with a swift beating at home.

Free NFL Pick: New Orleans -4


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