Thursday Night Outcome Could Shake Playoff Picture
Last Thursday night, the Dallas Cowboys faced off against the NFC leading New Orleans Saints to begin the Week 13 matchups. Dallas came into the game on a three-game win streak after a rough 3-5 start to the season, while the red-hot Saints were riding a 10-game win streak after a loss to the Buccaneers way back in Week 1. Before the game, the Saints were tied with the Los Angeles Rams for the best record in the NFC and also had the head-to-head win, leaving them with home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Cowboys were tied for the lead in a weak NFC East division with the Washington Redskins and looking to distance themselves from the pack. Although the Cowboys were at home, the majority of people still had the Saints as the favorite due to their high powered offense fueled by Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram.
With the Saints being a very average team on the defensive side of the ball and also currently having the highest scoring offense in the NFL, many believed this game would have been a high-scoring shootout. However, Dallas’ defense held the Saints to only 176 yards of total offense in the 13-10 victory. Drew Brees was held to 127 passing yards while being sacked once and picked off at a key moment with a few minutes left in the game. The dynamic running back duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram was also held to 63 combined rushing yards. Despite pulling out the win, the Dallas offense did not have much more to show for in the game than New Orleans. Quarterback Dak Prescott was held to 248 yards and a single touchdown pass to running back Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot was also held to 76 rushing yards in the game. The Cowboys got the rest of their points on a pair of field goals from kicker Brett Maher. The loss was certainly not from a lack of effort by the Saints defense, as they kept the pressure on Prescott all game with seven sacks. The key to the game was certainly the Dallas defense, which was fueled by rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and second-year linebacker Jaylon Smith. The two racked up a combined 19 tackles, with multiple of them coming in the open field to stop big gains and potential touchdowns by New Orleans receivers.
The outcome of the game on Thursday night has multiple implications on the playoff picture moving forward. Not only does the loss for New Orleans snap their 10-game wins streak, but they now no longer have home field advantage guaranteed through the play. If the Rams win this week, they will take over the number one spot in the NFC. This game also pushes the Cowboys’ win streak to four games and gives them a one game lead in the NFC East. If the Cowboys can stay consistent, they should easily win the East. The next best team in this mediocre division lost their quarterback, Alex Smith, to a gruesome leg injury two weeks ago that put him out for the season. The Saints should still easily win the NFC South division, but will now have to worry about the impending rematch with Los Angeles being played outside of the familiar Superdome.