Scott Shapiro's Week 13 Thursday Night Analysis- Saints at Cowboys
The bye weeks are behind us meaning each squad in the National Football League has just five games left on their 2018 schedules. Some teams have little left to play for given poor performances more times than not through the first 11 games, but two of them with plenty still on the line meet on Thursday in Dallas to kick off Week 13.
The New Orleans Saints are the hottest team in the league. Not only have they rattled off 10 consecutive victories, but they have rewarded their backers by covering nine straight times. It has been quite a run, and there is no reason to think it will stop anytime soon.
The Saints offense, led by MVP contender Drew Brees, has tallied a league high 409 points, and the Saints defense has recovered from a poor first couple of games. In fact, defensive coordinator Dennis Allen’s unit has held the opposition to 17 or less in each of their last three games and outside of a 45-35 shootout against the Rams has held their competition to 23 or fewer points in every game since September 30th. In my opinion, the Saints are a clear-cut favorite to win the Super Bowl and a tough team to bet against as we approach December.
The Cowboys have had their ups and downs in 2018, but they have won three straight games against conference foes, including a 31-23 Thanksgiving victory against the first-place Redskins. During this winning streak, Dallas has committed to giving the ball to their best asset in running back Ezekiel Elliot who has responded with 152, 122 and 121 yards on the ground in each of the last three contests and has caught at least five balls as well. He has been a dominant force.
Zeke’s supremecy on the ground has opened things up for third-year quarterback Dak Prescott, who struggled in 2017 and through much of the first half of this season, but he has played better of late. He will need to be at his best to keep up with the Saints offense, but if he can avoid throwing interceptions like he has in 5 of the last 6 Dallas contests than America’s Team can hang in this one. I just do not know if we can expect him to play error free since he very well could be playing from behind on Thursday night. Like most signal callers, Prescott is much better when playing with the lead.
The Cowboys formula for winning games since their bye week has not only been avoiding turnovers, but running the ball significantly better than their opponent. They have held their last 3 opponents to 80 yards or fewer on the ground, while rushing for at least 130 yards per contest. It will be extremely challenging to make it four straight weeks though against a Saints rushing attack that ranks seventh in the league coming into Thursday averaging 133.1 yards per game and a New Orleans rush defense that has held their 2018 opponents to a league low 3.6 yards per carry and 73.2 yards per game.
Dallas is certainly playing better football of late, but they have not faced anyone that comes close to matching the caliber of the Saints. Expecting them to play mistake free, contain one of the best offenses in recent memory, and control the game on the ground versus an elite rush defense seems a bit too much to ask on Thursday night.
The Saints have long been known as a team that is much better at home than on the road, but a 15-5 record ATS in their last 20 games away from the Superdome tells a different story.
Pick: New Orleans Saints (-7) - 1 unit
Scott Shapiro’s 2018 NFL Record 32-25-5 (+4 units)