Romilly Evans expects Saints not Sinners in tonight's late game from the jazz capital...
"Stud running back, Darren Sproles, has also been given the green light to play after recovering from a concussion against the Jets"
Dallas Cowobys @ New Orleans Saints
Live on Channel 4
On the one hand, this game is one for the offensive purists. After all, quarterbacks Drew Brees and Tony Romo have led their merry men on respective journeys of high adventure this season, smashing through the 2,500-yard barrier for passing yards along the way. Make no mistake these two don't even slow down for children.
On the other hand, however, both the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints are not teams to watch if you're of a more protecting persuasion. In fact, this Sunday late show comes with a public health warning since it contains many scenes of terrible defense which some viewers may find disturbing.
In short, it's the irresistible force versus the all-too-moveable object - no matter whether Romo or Brees is on the park. However, it is the Saints D - somewhat unbelievably - which has actually improved this term. Having given up a league-record 440 yards per game last year, they have restricted those concessions to just 330 this term - moving from from 31st to fifth position in the pass-defense rankings. Keenan Lewis has been the game-changer here, with the cornerback making the crucial interceptions at crucial times.
With big plays in mind, it is likely that Lewis will be given the unenviable task of shadowing dazzling Dallas wideout Dez Bryant tonight. Bryant charts third in NFL for receiving with eight touchdowns (allied to 705 yards off 51 catches) and is clearly in the form of his life. He also owns some handy recent history against the Saints (224 yards and two TDs late last term) so New Orleans certainly need to find a way to contain him, if not stop him.
Of course, head coach Sean Payton can draw some solace from the return of his own star WR, Marques Colston, who returns from knee injury this evening, having performed well in midweek practice. Colston has enjoyed 100-yard receiving games in consecutive outings against the 'Boys and is well-positioned to extend that trend this evening.
Stud running back, Darren Sproles, has also been given the green light to play after recovering from a concussion against the Jets. Brees, then, will be licking his lips with his retooled chain gang now also offering him some offensive balance. Both quarterback and coach admitted that they lazily rested on a one-dimensional passing strategy last week, so expect more hand-offs in general - and more specifically, and more weaving avenues to open up for the elusive Sproles.
Sure, Romo will doubtless continue to rack up the air miles and Dallas have some good news of their own from the treatment table (namely, the returning DeMarcus Ware). Yet the overriding suspicion is that they remain too light on the D line - and too predictable on play-calling (running just 13 times for 41 yards is not exactly the hallmark of variety).
Side with the Saints, therefore, both on the match and first-half handicap rates. Play the contrarian as well, going under total points at a mammoth 53. New Orleans will look to get a better handle on the clock tonight with Sproles, and that fact alone should slow the rapid-fire gains on both sides of the park.
Back New Orleans Saints (-6.5) to beat Dallas Cowboys on Match Handicap @ 2.01/1 or better
Back New Orleans Saints (-3.5) to beat Dallas Cowboys on First Half Handicap @ 2.01/1 or better
Back Under 53 Total Points @ 1.9110/11 or better
Back D.Sproles to be First Touchdown Scorer @ 9.08/1 or better