Every week during the season, we’ll scout out the Cowboys' next opponent. This week, that opponent is the New Orleans Saints.
The Opponent: Unless you've been spending your time in a Tibetan monastery, you're aware that the Saints spent most of the last year being punished by the NFL for running a bounty program offering cash for hits knocking players out of the game. If you have been in a zen state somewhere else, you've missed both the real complaints about the way the league ran its investigation and some very selg-pitying complaints about organized efforts to crush the Saints. You're much better for having missed it, even if the end result seems like the fairest resolution and one the NFL should have implemented from the start.
The Line: Cowboys by 3
Last Game: The Saints crushed the Buccaneers 41-0, snapping a three-game losing streak and getting Drew Brees back on track after several shaky weeks. They could be in a groove offensively or they could just be inconsistent/capable of beating bad teams, as evidenced by the blowout win against the Raiders that preceded that skid.
The (Interim) Coach: When people look back on Joe Vitt's contributions to professional football, it will be hard to ignore the solarium on Sean Payton's house. Whether Payton, suspended for the year and holding an invalidated contract extension with the Saints, gets huge money to stay or winds up somewhere else, it will be thanks to the leverage gained from the work done by Vitt and interim interim head coach Aaron Kromer.
The Offense: When it's cooking, as it was last week, it's still as dangerous as any in the game. It cooks with less frequency than it has in the last few seasons, however, and it's hard to tell exactly why that is. They've had injuries on the line and tight end Jimmy Graham isn't right, but it might also be that Brees has moved into a stage of his career where he has to learn to make do with a little less. No conclusions can be drawn until Payton is back as his guru, but he's played poorly enough to raise the question.
The Defense: Pay no attention to that zero by the Bucs last week. That was Josh Freeman trying to get one of those GQ covers Mark Sanchez got a couple of years ago. The Saints defense is bad and hasn't shown any sign of improvement as the year progressed. Any damage they do comes with the express consent of the opposing offense.
Key Matchup: Cowboys offensive line vs. Saints defensive line - This is a week where riding DeMarco Murray makes sense. Ball control keeps Brees off the field and the Saints defense isn't good enough to stop a well executed offensive scheme straight up. They'll need to crowd the line and their corners are as toast-worthy as your daughter's wedding day.