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Cowboys-Saints Is Strength-On-Strength Matchup


Dallas CowboysIt sounds like an incredibly simple concept, but it has been anything but during Jason Garrett's tenure as Cowboys head coach.

The Cowboys enter this weekend's game against New Orleans on a two-game winning streak, and they have a chance to achieve just the third three-game win streak of Garrett's time in charge. The Cowboys won four-straight games in November 2012, and they won three-straight in December 2012. In 2013, they managed two winning streaks of two games, but in both cases they lost the next game. The Cowboys have only managed a record two games above .500 on three occasions in the last three years.

After two-straight road wins, Dallas will have a chance to achieve all these things against a Saints team that hasn't enjoyed the hot start many expected. This matchup should feature a showcase of strength-on-strength, as the Cowboys' No. 3 ranked running game goes against the Saints' No. 9 rushing defense, which is allowing just three yards per carry.

The gameplan against St. Louis seemed simple enough last week – the Ram's No. 30 rush defense called for another steady dose of DeMarco Murray. If the Saints are capable of taking the run away, it'll be interesting to see how the Cowboys respond. Much has been made of Tony Romo's "complementary" role in the last two games, as he averaged just 196 yards against Tennessee and St. Louis. As a result, he's ranked No. 22 in the league in pass attempts and No. 19 in passing yards.

Going along with those stats is the fact that the Saints' offense, currently ranked fourth in the league, is the best the Cowboys will have faced this season. If the game turns into a track meet, can the Cowboys' methodical offense keep up?

New Orleans SaintsThe Saints are a handful of plays away from being undefeated, after falling in overtime in Week 1 and losing on a last-second field goal in Week 2. Instead, they head to AT&T Stadium with a 1-2 record after handling Minnesota in a solid, but unspectacular outing.

The cast is slightly different, but the results look the same for the Saints so far. Jimmy Graham is Drew Brees' top target in terms of receptions, yards and touchdowns, with 24 catches for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Behind Graham, Brees isn't hesitant to get the ball to first-round draft pick Brandin Cooks, who has 18 catches for 168 yards just three games into his career. The result is a passing offense that's fifth in the league and a rushing attack that ranks sixth – though the Saints will have to do without leading rusher Mark Ingram when they face the Cowboys.

The Saints rushed for 108 yards on Sunday against a decent Vikings defense, but they averaged just 3.4 yards per carry – something to keep an eye on with Ingram again out of the lineup.

While the offense continues to hum, the Saints defense has not been the strength it was in Rob Ryan's [embedded_ad]

first season last year. Despite signing safety Jairus Byrd to a huge contract in March, New Orleans' pass defense has been abysmal, giving up 835 yards in three game.

What's more, the Saints are one of just six teams in the NFL that have failed to record an interception this season. As mentioned above, it stands to reason that Romo and the Cowboys might try to exploit this weakness a bit more than they have in past weeks.

Regardless of what the strategy is, history says it should be an entertaining night. The last two times the Saints have come to Arlington, it has resulted in a thrilling game. New Orleans won in overtime in Week 12 of 2012, after a whacky 31-yard fumble that set the Saints up for the game-winning field goal. The meeting prior to that was just as strange – Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins stripped Roy Williams of what looked like a game-clinching catch, which set New Orleans up to march 89 yards for the game-winning score.

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