December football is upon us as week 13 takes us to New Orleans in an NFC tilt between the Saints and Cowboys. 12 weeks into the season and the playoff picture has begun taking shape and this week, both squads are coming into this game after suffering home losses on Thanksgiving. In fact, the Cowboys have lost three of their last four as the Saints come into this matchup with a four-game losing streak (New Orleans has never lost 5 straight games within a season in the Sean Payton era).
Fortunately for Dallas though, they still sit atop the NFC East, but Washington seems to be gaining on them, so a loss for the Cowboys on Thursday night will do them more harm than it will do the 10th seeded Saints well.
The Saints’ recent skid seems to be explained as the team has been without starting QB Jameis Winston and star RB Alvin Kamara. It’s worth mentioning All-Pro WR Michael Thomas has and will continue to be sidelined all season long, so the offense has been facing an uphill battle off late. Perhaps starting Taysom Hill at quarterback will give the offense a bit of spark that they so desperately need.
The Saints have scored 7 points or fewer in the first half in each of their 6 losses this season, so perhaps the dual-threat QB can change that on Thursday. Hill will take on a Dallas defense that not only has rookie stud Micah Parsons, but Trevon Diggs in the secondary, and now pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence who has been out since the season-opener due to a broken foot. Reinforcements are on the way for the Cowboys…
Meanwhile, the Saints’ defense is certainly a bright spot that could keep things close down the stretch and may likely test this Cowboys’ offense.
New Orleans will have a tougher task against Dallas than the Chiefs or Raiders did as Dak Prescott and the offense will welcome back their top wideouts in Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. The attention will most certainly be on the passing game, but the run game seems to be an afterthought in Dallas simply because of how stacked this team is at wideout. Although Tony Pollard seems to be emerging as the top back, all eyes are on Ezekiel Elliot as it was rumored that the star tailback was likely to sit Thursday night to get rest, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones weighed in on that…
“The facts are we’re expecting him to have a serious load against New Orleans,” Jones said of Elliott.
Elliott has been dealing with a knee issue since the Cowboys’ Week 4 matchup with the Carolina Panthers. Last week, according to ESPN’s Ed Werder, the Cowboys were sitting him out on Thursday, which would give him a two-and-a-half-week break prior to facing Washington in Week 14.
It’s going to be interesting to see how much workload the Ohio State product gets, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Dallas refrains from overworking Elliot in favor of getting Pollard more touches. It’s worth noting that Elliott has averaged 65.5 rush YPG this season (2nd-lowest of career). To put that into perspective, the 3x Pro Bowl back averaged 96.5 rush YPG from 2016-19 (most in NFL).
The good thing about Pollard is that he can be more of a receiving back coming out of the backfield which could be lethal with Cooper, Lamb, Michael Gallup, and even TE Dalton Schultz. The firepower Dallas has on offense makes this team beyond cut out to bounce back with a much-needed win.