Game Scout: Cowboys at Saints

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Dallas Cowboys (5-4) at New Orleans Saints (6-2)
Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, at Mercedez-Benz Superdome, New Orleans - TV: NBC
*TV announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
*Keys to the game: Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has intricate knowledge of the Cowboys' personnel and will force QB Tony Romo to deliver in the face of pressure. Romo, who has a 115.2 rating in the past two meetings, and the Cowboys are plus-10 in turnover margin. He fed WR Dez Bryant (nine receptions, 224 yards, two TDs) repeatedly in the last meeting, but is progressing to secondary reads more often this season. RB DeMarco Murray could be much more involved after Chris Ivory and the Jets rushed for 198 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry against New Orleans last week. Saints QB Drew Brees has sliced and diced through the Cowboys in recent seasons, including 446 yards and three touchdowns in last year's overtime win. Safety play of the Cowboys, especially in coverage, has been easily exploited and the Saints heavily tax defenses by flexing TE Jimmy Graham and RB Darren Sproles to the slot.
*Matchup to watch - Saints LT Charles Brown vs. Cowboys DE DeMarcus Ware -- It has been an up-and-down season for Brown since replacing Jermon Bushrod. Ware is rested and recovered from a thigh injury.
*Player spotlight - Cowboys RS Dwayne Harris: He's second in the NFL in kickoff returns (34.9-yard average) and fourth with a 15.1-yard punt return average. He's essential in keeping the Cowboys in short-field situations that take away some of Ryan's ammunition.
*Fast facts: New Orleans has won seven of the past eight meetings and are 4-0 at home this season. ... The Cowboys allowed at least 5.8 yards per play in six of their first nine games.
Dallas knows a shootout is its only path to victory, but the raucous Superdome brings out the worst in QB Tony Romo and the inconsistent Cowboys, and the best in QB Drew Brees.
*Our pick: Saints 36-24