(Editor's Note: Each Tuesday, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will present "The Big Picture" for the upcoming game, presenting an overall update for each team as they head into the upcoming contest. This week, the Cowboys and Saints square off in a Week 4 battle in New Orleans.)
WHAT:* Dallas Cowboys (2-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-3)* WHEN: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. (Central) *WHERE: *Mercedes-Benz Superdome TELEVISION: NBC
Life without Tony Romo (fractured collarbone) and Dez Bryant (foot surgery) will continue this week, and the Cowboys will try to duplicate their offensive success from the first half against the Falcons (28 points, 131 rushing yards), not their second-half struggles in Sunday's 39-28 loss (0 points, minus-4 rushing yards).
Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden was an efficient 22-of-26 for 232 yards minus his first-half interception that led to a Falcons touchdown, but the Cowboys' offense couldn't find anything close to a rhythm running only 19 plays in the second half as Atlanta sustained long drives and ripped off 22 unanswered points.
Defensively, the Cowboys expect to be without rookie pass rusher Randy Gregory (high ankle sprain) again this week. Defensive end Jeremy Mincey missed Sunday's game with a concussion, and linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive end Greg Hardy both have one game remaining on their NFL suspensions.
Rod Marinelli's group will have to make do against a Saints offense that may or may not have quarterback Drew Brees.
The Cowboys and Saints have met nearly annually since 2009, the Saints' Super Bowl championship season, when the Cowboys upset them on the road that December. Dallas has won three of the last five matchups since 2009, including last year at AT&T Stadium, 38-17.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints are off to an 0-3 start after losing a tight road game at Carolina last Sunday without Brees. It's uncertain if Brees will be able to play against Dallas with a bruised rotator cuff in his right shoulder. He's never missed a start since joining the Saints in 2006, and in seven career starts against the Cowboys, he has averaged 345.9 passing yards with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Backup Luke McCown played well in the Saints' 27-22 loss to Carolina, completing 31 of 38 passes for 310 yards and one interception.
Like the Cowboys, New Orleans' roster has a different look since last year's Sept. 28 meeting. Gone is star tight end Jimmy Graham, whom they traded to Seattle in the offseason for Max Unger and a first-round pick. Acquiring Unger helps fortify the offensive line and the running game featuring starter Mark Ingram.
The Saints also signed running back C.J. Spiller to help fill some of the versatile duties Darren Sproles had during his time in New Orleans. Second-year receiver Brandin Cooks is another multi-purpose option for the offense.
Former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan enters his third season running the Saints' defense. He could get linebacker Dannell Ellerbe back for his Saints debut soon; Ellerbe was acquired from Miami for receiver Kenny Stills in the offseason but has been dealing with a toe injury. Cornerback Keenan Lewis and safety Jairus Byrd have also missed time with injuries. New Orleans signed veteran cornerback Brandon Browner in the offseason to improve the secondary.
The Cowboys and Saints have several personnel connections: Saints head coach Sean Payton was a top assistant in Dallas in the mid-2000s before taking the New Orleans job; Ryan coached the Cowboys' defense from 2011-12; Cowboys cornerback Corey White played the previous three seasons for the Saints.