In the second installment of Turkey Day pigskin we see the resurgent Dallas Cowboys take on the powerful New Orleans Saints in what should be a very entertaining match. Interim head coach Jason Garrett has the Cowboys in pads in practice on Wednesday’s now, and viola, a two-game win streak has followed. The (7-3) New Orleans Saints will look to bring home a victory in their first-ever Turkey Day game against the (3-7) Dallas Cowboys, kickoff slated for 4:15 PM EST. Although Dallas leads the series 15-8, New Orleans had won five in a row before the visitors built a 24-3 lead and held on to win 24-17 in the Superdome last Dec. 19. The Saints started off a little slowly, but have won three straight, beating Pittsburgh 20-10 and whomping Carolina and Seattle by a combined 68-22 to remain with a game of Atlanta in the tight three-way race in the NFC South.
Do not look now but New Orleans suddenly appears primed and ready to defend its Super Bowl title after a less than super start. The Saints have won for out their last five games including a 34-19 romp over Seattle their last time out in a game that they covered as an 11-point home favorite. New Orleans is now 7-3 straight-up for the season and 5-5 against the spread. The Saints are currently tied with Tampa Bay and one game behind Atlanta (8-2) in the NFC South. Injuries at running back have been a problem for New Orleans although Reggie Bush, who had 162 yards from scrimmage in the 2009 matchup, may be back. The Saints are hoping Bush returns Thursday after he sat out his eighth straight game Sunday with a broken bone in his right leg. Bush worked out on the field before the Seattle game, but New Orleans decided to make him a late scratch.
Quarterback Drew Brees (2,969 yards, 22 touchdowns, 93.3 passer rating) and receiver Marques Colston (62 catches, 705 yards) continue to excel. Brees passed for 384 yards and five touchdowns in his only start at Dallas back in 2006. Tight end Jeremy Shockey set career-highs with 12 catches for 129 yards in his last game against the Cowboys when he was with the Giants in 2007. After forcing 39 turnovers in 2009, the Saints have just 15 takeaways. Still, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma remains a force. Tackle Sedrick Ellis leads New Orleans with just four sacks but end Will Smith had five sacks in three games against Dallas. And after ranking 25th in yards allowed and 20th in points allowed in 2009, New Orleans is fourth in the former and third in the latter this season.
Dallas dug itself an early hole with its 1-7 start, but interim head coach Jason Garrett is a perfect 2-0 in relief of Wade Phillips, who was let go after the Cowboys humiliating 45-7 loss to Green Bay. The big question is, were their wins over New York (Giants) and Detroit a result of a temporary spark, or is this team ready to play up to its capabilities on a week-to-week basis? The fact that everyone on this team is still playing for their job has appeared to provide the necessary motivation for the latter to be the case. After being shredded for 121 points in Weeks 7-9, the Cowboys have allowed just 39 points the past two weeks. Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who has 8-1/2 sacks this year, remains the big-play man while cornerback Terence Newman had four interceptions in the past six Thanksgiving games. Additionally, rookie corner Bryan McCann has become the first Cowboy to win Player of the Week honors in two straight regular season games and the first to do so in two different aspects (defense and special teams).
Although Dallas remains without Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo (broken left collarbone), veteran backup Jon Kitna has been brilliant over the past two games with ratings of at least 120.0 and three touchdown passes in each. Dez Bryant, who leads all rookies with eight touchdowns (two on punt returns), is teaming with Miles Austin ( seven catches, 139 yards in 2009 game) to give Dallas two major downfield threats. Kitna has thrown three touchdown passes in each of the last two games, and the Cowboys have put up back-to-back 30-point efforts after reaching that mark once in their first eight. Kitna is benefiting from a resurgent ground game. Dallas has averaged 117.0 rushing yards in the last two games after totaling 130 in the previous three. Tight end Jason Witten topped 100 receiving yards in the past two Thanksgiving games. Felix Jones seems to have supplanted Marion Barber as the Cowboys’ No. 1 running back.
Saints vs Cowboys Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
New Orleans Saints -4
@ Dallas Cowboys +4
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Saints vs Cowboys Prediction for Week 12:
Spread Prediction (TOP PLAY) – The Cowboys have looked pretty impressive after dismissing Wade Phillips. They have hammered off two dominant wins over the Giants and Lions and are poised to make the 2010 campaign a little less dismal. There is little to no chance Americas team will see any postseason action but they can build towards next year and play spoilers to a few. The Saints are not as dominant as their Super Bowl team last year and they are no longer able to run away in games this year with their offense. New Orleans is 6-12 ATS in its last 18 games and is 2-5 SU in its last 7 games when playing on the road against Dallas. The Saints come into this one with a slew of injuries; they are completely depleted at the running back position. I believe we will see a very close affair in this one, I like how the Cowboys large defense matches up against a rather small offense in the Saints. The Cowboys have not played well at home this season, going 1-4 SU and ATS, but the annual Thanksgiving Day game usually brings out the best in this team. We will consider the Cowboys holding the Saints to a field goal in this one.
Game Total Prediction – Both teams here have firepower and can score at will when their offenses are clicking. The Cowboys have rallied behind interim coach Jason Garret and the offense has exploded the last two outings. The biggest surprise has been the play of back-up quarterback John Kitna, who is filling in for the injured Tony Romo. Kitna has thrown for 474 yards and six touchdowns in the last two games. More importantly he has only thrown one interception and been sacked two times, which is a dramatic improvement from Romo’s seven interceptions and seven sacks in the Cowboys first five games. The total has gone OVER in 5 of Dallas’s last 5 games and the total has gone OVER in 5 of Dallas’s last 5 games at home. The Saints have the potential to score in bunches in any game they enter and with RB Reggie Bush most likely returning this week the chances only get better for points. The Saints are currently ranked fifth overall and third in passing, but they have fallen to 26th in running the ball in the absence of Bush and Pierre Thomas, who is still sidelined with an ankle injury. I believe we are in store for a high scoring affair in this one, I expect big numbers from both Brees and Kitna. Cheers!
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