It’s hard to believe, but we’re now entering Week 13 of the 2021 NFL season. This week’s edition of “Thursday Night Football” leads the NFC East Dallas Cowboys, who have lost three of their last four matches, against New Orleans Saints, who are desperately trying to keep their playoff hopes in the haphazardly crowded NFC after losing four games in a row.
Dallas is getting closer to being all-around as it brings some players back from injury (CeeDee Lamb and Demarcus Lawrence) or COVID-19 (Amari Cooper), but will also be without head coach Mike McCarthy (COVID-19) and several assistants. New Orleans is still dealing with some major injuries, but at least it will Mark Ingram back to the lineup, and maybe there Alvin Kamara also.
So, which of these two teams will get back on track? We are eager to find out. Let’s break down the game.
How to watch
When the Cowboys have the ball
For the first time, the Cowboys will have each Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and La’el Collins – aka the core players of their offense – in the starting lineup together. They’ve had games where only one or two of those players have played, but never have they had all eight on the field together. So it would be a fun game to watch alone at that level.
Of course, not all of those players are completely healthy. Elliott has been dealing with a knee injury for several weeks, and although Jerry Jones has repeatedly asserted that it’s OK to get back into running, he’s clearly not. Before saying goodbye to the team, Elliott averaged 5.1 yards per take. Since then, he’s only been at 3.4 per carry. Tony Pollard has also underperformed more recently than it did earlier in the year, but not to the same extent as Elliott. And Pollard has at least broken some major plays during that time. Zeke hasn’t broken a run of more than 11 yards since Week 6 and has only made two runs of 10 yards or more in that time.
Running behind a powerful attack (with Collins in the lineup in place of Terrence Steele, who is on the sub/COVID-19 list and confusingly unable to start ahead of Collins) will help both players. . Facing the Saints’ #1 rated defense (according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA) probably won’t help, but if there is any offensive line attacking the seemingly immovable front of the Saints, it could have been the Cowboys. Dallas came in second in the Football Outsiders Modified Runs category and first in Pro Football Focus’s blocking. That didn’t help the team run the ball late, but it could have something to do with the absence of at least two of Smith, Collins, Cooper, Gallup and Lamb in their recent games.
The squad is in good shape that should give Dak Prescott the best defense he’s had in recent weeks. It wasn’t a big deal for the Cowboys, but when the front group was actually cooking and Prescott had time to put his feet up and look down the field, he was as dangerous as any laner in the league – like we have seen earlier Season.
We still don’t know if we’ll see the full workload for Cooper, who is returning from the COVID list. Mike McCarthy told reporters earlier in the week that Cooper is still not feeling well and has a bad cough, and that he only does a limited workout a week. It seems reasonable to expect Lamb and Gallup to play most of the snaps in a two-receiver set, while Cooper joins them on the field as Dallas goes three wide (most of the time) – even if just to conserve energy. Cooper’s quantity.
Cooper’s ability to return puts Lamb back in place, which gives the Cowboys a big advantage. The Saints allowed 66 catches from 690 yards to a receiver aligned in the slot, per PFF. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was the most used slot wrapper on the team and he allowed his completion rate, yards per goal, and passer rating to reach career-highs.
It will be interesting to see if the Saints use Marshon Lattimore, their top corner, on Cooper or Gallup on the outside. Cooper is the better player, but he’s also a worse opponent for Lattimore (like Stefan Diggs was a week ago). He could do better for the New Orleans defense by going deeper into Gallup than trying to stay with Cooper on the short and midfield. That will make Cooper have to work with rookies Paulson AdeboHowever, and the Saints may not want to give him that responsibility. However, New Orleans ranked above, Dallas should have an external advantage.
While, Demario Davis should be able to do a solid job at making passes to one of Prescott’s favorite stores midfield: Dalton Schultz. Davis continues to play in extreme form even as he nears his 30s, and while he’s not the coverage player he was at his peak, he’s still pretty good.
When the Saints Have Shadows
Looks like the Saints will change course and start Taysom Hill in midfield, instead of Trevor Siemian. Many expected Hill to open the season as the team’s starter, only for Sean Payton to choose James Winston instead of, replace. When Winston was injured, it was assumed that Hill would start again, but he was still dealing with the aftermath of a concussion at the time, so the Saints rolled with Siemian. Only averaging 6.3 yards per attempt and having set a 0-4 record at the start, he will now come on from the bench.
Hill had some success starring in the last season, but it’s remarkable how much his supporting cast then differs from none. For one thing, Michael Thomas released during the year. Also Andrus Peat. Jared Cook is on Charger, and Adam Trautman offended. Both Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk listed as having issues, but seems to be unplayable after recording DNPs on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Alvin Kamara is also suspected after being confined for a whole week. If he does play, he can’t seem to see all his praise.
Hill performed better than expected as a passer when he filled in last season (82 of 114 for 834 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in four games), but he He is likely to challenge the Dallas defense more with his abilities as a runner – especially under these circumstances.
Dallas’ defense is almost as uncertain against a run (18th in DVOA) than it is with a pass (fourth), and it has yet to face a midfielder who can threaten defense like a fast runner. as Hill can. The only two mobile midfielders the team has faced are Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes, each person runs the ball as a last resort. It will be interesting to see how Dan Quinn’s defence, already extremely aggressive on the pitch, copes with the threat from midfield in both the midfield and periphery. (It will also be interesting to see if being on the sidelines, rather than in the booth, affects Quinn’s calling.)
Bringing Demarcus Lawrence back on the pitch would certainly help. Lawrence was considered the team’s best defensive player of the season, and he hasn’t played since Week 1 after breaking his leg the following week. The Cowboys succeeded thanks to a breakout season from Randy Gregory (who is currently on injury reserve) and the outstanding talent of Micah Parsons, but it’s worth noting that Lawrence easily became the team’s best full-back on the run. That will be of great help against Hill.
Dallas used Trevon Diggs to polish the opponent’s top receiver quite often this year, but it’s hard to determine who will be in this case. Tre’Quan Smith It seems to have taken the lead in recent weeks, but that is with Siemian at the center. Hill locked Thomas out last year, but he wasn’t in the squad. The Cowboys might be better served playing things straight until seeing how the Saints want to attack in the passing game, and then adjusting to that plan.
New Orleans Saints +6
Prediction: Cowboys 27, Saints 17
https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/cowboys-at-saints-how-to-watch-pick-time-tv-live-stream-everything-to-know-for-thursday-night-football/ Cowboys at Saints how to watch: Picks, times, TV, live streams, everything to know for ‘Thursday Night Football’