The New Orleans Saints are another one of the teams at 1-2 no one expected to be there at this stage of the season while the Dallas Cowboys, despite their disastrous opening game, have managed to pick themselves up and find themselves at over .500, with the same hope and optimism pushing them forward that usually ends in disappointment.
The Saints have still not won away from home this season, losing to both Atlanta and Cleveland. They feel a bit more comfortable in Dallas, because of the dome, and because they’ve won their last three games against the Cowboys, two of them coming on the road. Last season it was a 49-17 demolition in New Orleans, with Drew Brees, who is looking sharp once again, throwing four touchdown passes.
Brees is completing 70.9% of his passes so far this season and looked extremely sharp in the 20-9 win over the Minnesota Vikings, completing his first nine passes for 108 yards and finishing the game with 27-of-35 and 293 yards, although there’s plenty of running the ball for the Saints so far this season. They’re 6th in the league with 140.3 yards per game, once again spreading the touches between quite a few guys, led by Mark Ingram who has 143 yards on 24 carries, including three touchdowns.
The Dallas Cowboys look good running the ball as well, unlike previous seasons. DeMarco Murray has rushed for 385 yards on 75 carries in the three games so far, including 100 yards and a touchdown (also a fumble) in the come-from-behind win over the St. Louis Rams, with the Cowboys erasing a 21-point deficit. Murray has a touchdown and a fumble in every game so far this season.
Worrying are the news of Tony Romo not practicing on Wednesday, which means his back issues aren’t going anywhere. No one is telling Brandon Weeden to get ready, but the discomfort Romo showed in the loss to the 49ers when it comes to turning and throwing the ball will probably follow him all season long, maybe for the rest of what’s left of his career. Dez Bryant might be the offensive star of this team (20 catches, 247 yards, two touchdowns) but Murray is slowly getting his fair share of the spotlight due to the average of 25 carries per game.
One issue for both teams has been the defense. The Saints are giving up 380 yards per game, remaining with Rob Ryan and his aggressive blitz-all-the-time defense, while the Cowboys have given up 360 yards per game, although their team’s turnover problems might be making that unit look worse than it actually is.
Things are unclear in the NFC South, so going 1-3 for the Saints isn’t the end of the world, but being unable to beat what seems to be a mediocre Cowboys team will be a serious negative indication of their ability. For the Cowboys, this will be a chance to see and prove that they’re not only about beating the wimps of the NFL, but also teams assumed to make the postseason.