The Dallas Cowboys (7-4) have lost two straight games for the first time this season and have lost three of their last four games. The Cowboys will be traveling to New Orleans without Head Coach Mike McCarthy as he has tested positive for COVID-19. Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn will take on the head coaching duties in McCarthy's absence.
This marks a problematic start to December, coming off a tough month of November for the Cowboys. They fell victim to the AFC West three times and finished the season 1-3 against the division.
Dallas is looking ahead, though, and is gearing up to play the New Orleans Saints (5-6) this Thursday night. The Saints started 5-2 but have since lost four games in a row. They have suffered a rash of injuries as of late that has left them in disarray.
The Cowboys have suffered a few injuries themselves as of late, leaving them at less than full strength for most of November. The Cowboys will get CeeDee Lamb back from a concussion as he was a full participant in practice Monday. The status of his counterpart, Amari Cooper, who missed the last two games after being placed on the Reserve/ COVID-19 list, is looking up as he's been cleared to play Thursday.
Michael Gallup will look to pick up the pace again after coming off a game where he eclipsed the 100-yard barrier.
Dallas has also been without DeMarcus Lawrence, but he is on track to suit up for this game. Jerry Jones said, “You'll see him this week in New Orleans. My goodness, what a difference a player like that can make. Of course, he'll have to get his game going once he gets back in here.”
The addition of Lawrence should be a big boost for a defense that struggled on Thanksgiving, giving up over 500 yards of total offense, all while being penalized 11 times. Lawrence made an impact in the only game he has played this season with a forced fumble on opening night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Cowboys' defense will most likely be taking on Taysom Hill, replacing Quarterback Trevor Siemian, who had started the last four games for the Saints.
Hill started four games for the Saints last year and led the team to a 3-1 record while averaging 24 points per game. Hill is not necessarily the best passer and probably won't pass for 300 plus yards, but he is very mobile and can be tough to contain.
Last season in the four games Hill started, he totaled 39 carries and averaged a little over 52 rushing yards per game. Containing his running ability will be huge in determining the Cowboys' defensive success in this game.
The Saints don't have much working for them on offense. Alvin Kamara has missed the last three games and is questionable in this matchup as well. If Kamara does miss the game, there is no single player on the Saints offense who offers a game-changing ability. There is no wide receiver or tight end on the roster who has 30 plus receptions or more than 500 receiving yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints are a better team, but they too are struggling as of late, giving up 27 or more points in three of their last four games. However, one thing they have done well throughout the season is stopping the run.
The Saints allow a league-worst 3.4 yards per carry. Perhaps, a repeat of the Cowboys game plan against the Buccaneers is in store. In that game, the Cowboys were very aware of the Bucs' ability to stop the run and were able to throw the ball all over the field.
The Cowboys' rushing offense hasn't been particularly good as of late either, averaging only 86.7 yards per game in their last three outings. There have also been rumors that Dallas is thinking of resting Ezekiel Elliott a game or two to deal with some minor nagging injuries he has been nursing. Zeke was a full participant in practice on Monday, though, so that seems to be unlikely.
Ultimately, Dak Prescott will need to win this game for the Cowboys. He finished strong in the fourth quarter on Thanksgiving but got off to a slow start. Dallas failed to gain a first down on two of their first three drives last Thursday, and in their previous three losses, they have combined for 16 first-half points. Prescott will need to fix this going forward.
With the Saints looking like they are going to start Hill at QB, it would appear that New Orleans is going after the run-the-ball-stop-the-run approach, and trying to limit the number of possessions for Dallas. The Cowboys can't afford a lackluster start in a game that may feature fewer possessions.
Fortunately for Dallas, the Saints pass defense is not anywhere near as good as their rush defense as they are the 14th ranked passing defense per DVOA and are ranked 26th in yards per passing attempt. If the Cowboys' offensive line can afford Dak enough time in the pocket, he should be able to get the job done against this unit.
The Cowboys will end their brief losing streak and topple the Saints on Thursday night. Cowboys over the Saints, 26-16.