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Dallas at New Orleans

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DALLAS COWBOYS (5-4) at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (6-2)
 
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: New Orleans -7 & 54.5
Opening Line & Total: Saints -7 & 53.5
 
The Saints look to remain undefeated in the Superdome when they host the Cowboys on Sunday night.
 
Dallas is coming off of a tight 27-23 home victory over the Vikings, but New Orleans was unable to beat the Jets on the road. The Cowboys are just 1-3 SU on the road, but 3-1 ATS, and have another tough matchup against the Saints who are 4-0 (SU and ATS) in their own building and beating visitors by 17.2 PPG.

Last season, New Orleans earned a 34-31 win as an underdog in Dallas in a game that featured 400+ passing yards for each team. That continues the Saints' dominance in this series where they are 7-2 (SU and ATS) versus the Cowboys since 1994, including 4-1 ATS (3-2 SU) at home. New Orleans is also 17-4 ATS in home games over the past three seasons, including 11-1 ATS as a home favorite of seven points or less. However, Dallas has been a great underdog wager under Jason Garrett, going 7-1 ATS when getting between 3.5 points and 9.5 points from the lines.

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The Cowboys defense should benefit from the return of DE DeMarcus Ware (quad), but WR Miles Austin (hamstring) is doubtful to play for the Cowboys. Both SS Roman Harper (knee) and WR Marques Colston (knee) could be out for the Saints, but RB Darren Sproles (concussion) has already returned to practice and should play on Sunday night.
 
With just 35 seconds remaining against the Vikings last week, QB Tony Romo connected with WR Dwayne Harris for a game-winning touchdown. Romo is having a great season, throwing for 2,553 yards (7.4 YPA), 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also lit up New Orleans last year with 416 passing yards (9.7 YPA) and 4 TD. WR Dez Bryant had 224 of those yards and two scores on nine receptions (24.9 avg.), but he caught just six passes for 64 yards last week. With the Vikings keeping Bryant in check, Romo turned to his old go-to pass catcher in TE Jason Witten, who finished with eight receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown in the win.

The Cowboys ran a franchise-low eight times in the game, and will need to get back to using RB DeMarco Murray against the Saints. Murray is averaging 4.8 yards per carry this season and in his four rushing attempts against the Vikings, he ran for 31 yards (7.8 YPC). He also caught six passes out of the backfield for 19 yards.

The Dallas defense will have a tough time stopping Saints QB Drew Brees on Sunday if they don’t tweak some things. The club is allowing 305.2 YPG through the air (2nd-worst in NFL) and Brees leads the Saints offense that is third in the league with 317.6 passing YPG. The return of DE DeMarcus Ware (115 career sacks) should help put more pressure on Brees.
 
New Orleans suffered a disappointing 26-20 loss to the Jets last week, but now Drew Brees gets a dream matchup with a Cowboys defense that really struggles against the pass. That was certainly the case when these teams met last year when Brees completed 37-of-53 passes (70%) for 446 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT. Brees has thrown for 2,672 yards, 21 touchdowns and just seven interceptions this season, but two of these picks came in last week's defeat. TE Jimmy Graham, who caught two touchdowns as part of 116 yards against the Jets, remains his go-to option, especially with both RB Darren Sproles (concussion) and WR Marques Colston (knee) slowed by injury.

The Saints would like to have both Sproles and Colston back after they each tallied more than 100 receiving yards in last year's win in Dallas. But Graham, who had 88 receiving yards in the 2012 meeting, has been completely dominant this season, catching 49 passes for 746 yards and an NFL-best 10 touchdowns. The Saints will need to find a way to get their ground game going, as they rushed for just 41 yards in the loss to the Jets.

New Orleans’ defense doesn’t have a favorable matchup against Tony Romo and the explosive Cowboys offense, but they have done an excellent job against the pass so far, allowing just 211.9 yards per game through the air (5th in NFL) and a lot of the credit should be given to Rob Ryan, the team’s defensive coordinator. The Saints defense was miserable last season, and is now one of the league’s best in terms of defending third downs (34.7%, 6th in NFL) which has prevented long drives and led to its meager 27:05 time of possession on defense (2nd-best in league). SS Roman Harper would be a tough loss for New Orleans, however, as it will need all of its secondary players available to defeat pass-happy Dallas.

  
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