Sunday, December 23, 2012
W2W4: Cowboys vs. Saints
By Calvin Watkins
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cowboys play their final home game of the 2012 season Sunday when they host the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium. It's also the biggest home game of the season because a Cowboys victory keeps their playoff hopes alive. A loss doesn't end their season, but they would need help to keep their playoff fight alive.
Here are a few things to look for Sunday:
The series: This is the 25th meeting between the Saints and Cowboys. Of the 24 previous meetings, 11 have been decided by two or more touchdowns. But 10 of the last 14 games were decided by 10 points or less. The last time the the Saints lost in Dallas was 1991. The Cowboys have lost their last three home games to the Saints.
No Sean Payton: Saints coach Sean Payton is under suspension for his role in Bountygate and is banned from attending the game. In his place is Joe Vitt, who served a six-game suspension for his role in the scandal. Payton was a major influence in the development in Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Romo has downplayed the significance of Payton not attending the game.
DeMarcus Ware dinged up: Most players are nicked up this time of year, and Ware is no different. The Cowboys' talented outside linebacker is dealing with a hyperextended elbow and a shoulder that pops out from time to time. It did last week. Ware, who hasn't missed a game this season, has had two multi-sack games and has had a sack in the same game with Anthony Spencer five times this season.
Defending the Saints: The Saints have the third-best passing offense (397.9) in the NFL, but quarterback Drew Brees -- who leads the NFL with 4,335 passing yards -- is tied with Andrew Luck for the league lead in interceptions with 18. Will the Cowboys add to that total? The return of safety Charlie Peprah should help the secondary slow down the big plays and maybe force some turnovers. But the Saints have plenty of talent on offense. Receiver Lance Moore will be difficult to cover in the slot, and of course Marques Colston is a big-play threat with 13 receptions of 20 or more yards.
Romo's hot streak: Sure, Dez Bryant has been on a tear (he's got a touchdown in the last six games), but Romo has been almost as hot. Romo has thrown 12 touchdowns the last six games with just three interceptions. Romo has also thrown for over 300 yards thee times and over 400 yards once.