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Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys Pick.
New Orleans Saints (6-8 SU, 7-7 ATS) vs. Dallas Cowboys (8-6 SU, 6-8 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Sunday, December 23, 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, TX
TV: FOX/DTV 705
by Vesper Abadon, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NO +2.5/Dal -2.5
Over/Under Total: 51.5
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The Dallas Cowboys can win the NFC East title and make the Playoffs if they either win their last two games or beat the Washington Redskins in Week 17 and have the New York Giants lose in Week 16 or 17. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Saints can make the Playoffs if they win out and have eight other improbable things happen that would result in them being in a five-way tie (with the tiebreaker) at 8-8 for the NFC’s sixth seed. In other words, the Cowboys control their own destiny while the Saints do not.
The Cowboys obviously have the better chance of making the postseason, so they’ll definitely be fired up this week against the Saints-especially after an emotional 27-24 win last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime. The Cowboys enter with the 8th-best offense in the league, averaging 375.1 total yards per game (YPG) including 294.8 passing YPG and 80.4 rushing YPG.
Regarding the passing game, quarterback Tony Romo is having a surprisingly good year going 379 of 568 for 4,269 yards, 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions-good for a 90.2 rating (11th in the NFL). Catching his passes are two of the league’s best receivers-Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten. The former is already over a thousand yards, catching 79 passes for 1,087 yards (13.8 Avg) and ten touchdowns, while the latter has 97 receptions for 923 yards (9.5 Avg) and two touchdowns.
Unfortunately they don’t have a run game to compliment their 4th-ranked passing game; in fact, the Cowboys are second worst of all 32 teams on the ground. Their measly 80.4 rushing YPG has come from DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones, neither of whom is having a spectacular year. Murray has carried the ball 133 times for 547 yards (4.1 Avg) and reached the endzone four times, while Jones has 106 carries for 378 yards (3.6 Avg) and three touchdowns.
Defensively the Cowboys are ranked 15th, holding opponents to an average of 340.3 YPG, which is quite a bit better than the Saints, who allow 433.3 YPG and are ranked dead last in the NFL. With that said, the Saints make up for it with a high-octane offense, one that is ranked 3rd in the league averaging 397.9 total YPG (298.1 passing YPG and 99.9 rushing YPG).
The Saints may struggle on the ground, but their 24th is still better than the Cowboys. Second-year running back Mark Ingram has been shouldering the load, carrying 125 times for 510 yards (4.1 Avg) and four touchdowns, though Pierre Thomas has complimented him nicely by rushing 98 times for 457 yards (4.7 Avg) and a single score.
Where the Saints are truly impressive is through the air; in fact, they’re ranked 2nd overall in that department. That’s because quarterback Drew Brees has went 356 of 574 for 4,335 yards (most in the NFL), 36 touchdowns (also the most in the NFL) and 18 interceptions-good for a 93.1 rating (10th among QBs). His favorite target? That’d be wide receiver Marques Colston, who has 68 receptions for 949 yards (14 Avg) and eight touchdowns; however, Lance Moore is not far behind with 57 catches for 890 yards (15.6 Avg) and five touchdowns.
Vesper Abadon’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This game has all the ingredients for a shootout. Neither team has an effective run game, so that’ll force both to take to the air. They’re fairly balanced in that department, which means the defense will make the difference. I don’t think either defense will do a good job holding the opposing offense in check, but I do believe the Cowboys have a slight edge as they’ll be able to hold Brees in check easier than the Saints will Romo.
Throw in the fact that they have home-field advantage and control their own fate headed to the Playoffs, and I reason the Cowboys win this game. What’s more, the line is just about perfect as it’ll be close enough that a field goal makes the difference.
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