ATLANTA - DECEMBER 13: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 and Mark Brunell #11 of the New Orleans Saints take the field against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 13, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Saints won 26-23. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
With the chips down and any real hope of a playoff berth hanging in the balance, now would be a good time for the Dallas Cowboys to draw a line in the sand, step up, and make a statement against an undefeated team on the road. It would be a lovely story, to be sure, with Dallas as the hapless underdog and the Saints looking every but like an unbeatable machine.
The only trouble is, the Saints really look like an unbeatable machine, particularly in the cozy confines of the Superdome, their fans boisterous and boozed up after an entire Saturday to prepare for this one. Now, I'm a sucker for a schmaltzy Cinderella story, but even she only had a wicked step-mother and two wicked step-sisters to compete against.
The Dallas Cowboys are facing history, a looming regime change, and a very, very (very) good football team on the road.
We've all heard the "December records" bandied about on the worldwide leader since the calendar turned from November. Granted, the numbers don't paint a pretty picture. What should be more alarming, though, is Dallas's recent history in games of this sort--with playoff-implications, and motivating factors galore. And by 'recent', I mean last season.
Dallas lost a game that was all but in the bag against Baltimore in the final game at Texas Stadium. Then, 44-6 happened, against an Eagles team that was good, but not nearly as good as these New Orleans Saints. Perhaps Wade can rally the troops into a fervor. Perhaps Dallas will come out playing hard, smart, disciplined football.
It's not impossible. It's just that it hasn't been seen out of this regime--in December--in some time.
For New Orleans, this game may be the key to perfection. After Dallas, the Saints have Carolina and Tampa Bay, who have combined for six wins on the year. Make no mistake: the Saints want that perfect record--they've said as much, openly--and they seem geared to put it all on the line in getting there.
My hesitative, unsure prediction: Saints 24, Cowboys 17.