The Cowboys haven't started out a season 3-1 after four games since 2008 but that's where this team can be by beating the Saints Sunday night. Obviously it won't be easy considering New Orleans dominated Dallas a year ago with a 49-17 win at the Superdome.
How much has changed in just one season? We're about to find out.
Here are the first gut feelings of the regular season for staff writers Nick Eatman, Rowan Kavner, Bryan Broaddus and David Helman.
David Helman:I feel a lot better about what the Cowboys' defense can accomplish if Rolando McClain, Henry Melton and Justin Durant can all go in this game. There's a huge difference between what the defense looked like in the first two weeks, as opposed to Week 3, and Durant and McClain are a huge part of that. That said, I'm not confident about the pass rush's ability to reach Drew Brees on a consistent basis, and I think that's what needs to happen if you're going to beat the Saints. The Cowboys should be able to score points – in fact, I think this game will be Tony Romo's biggest passing day so far this season. But I don't like the defense's prospects against Jimmy Graham, and I think they'll give up a back-breaking big play sometime late in the game – maybe to Kenny Stills. I think the Saints will win by six to 10 points, something like 34-27.
Bryan Broaddus: If you would have asked me five months ago if Anthony Spencer would ever play another snap in the NFL I would have said there is no way. It has been an incredible journey for Spencer who will play his first snap for the Cowboys in over a year and honestly it couldn't have come at a better time for this defense. What Spencer brings talent wise is something that this defense doesn't have – an edge pass rusher. Call me crazy but I believe that Anthony Spencer is both mentally and physically stronger than when he was a Pro Bowl linebacker in 2012. My gut feeling is that regardless of the number of snaps that he takes against the Saints he will be an immediate impact both playing the run and affecting Drew Brees when he drops back to pass. We will look back on his game and feel good about the results.
Rowan Kavner: It'll be huge if Rolando McClain and Henry Melton can play after practicing Friday against a Saints team with the kind of offensive firepower the Cowboys haven't seen this year. Given the Cowboys' troubles against tight ends, I think Jimmy Graham is going to have a field day even with Dallas preparing for the threat. I think this is a game the Cowboys' complementary players, guys like Lance Dunbar and Gavin Escobar, show up in a big way. Without McClain, I thought the Saints would be capable of a double-digit win, even with the Cowboys answering back through most of the night early on. I don't see either team blowing the other one out as long as 55 is on the field, but I still think the Saints have just a little too much offensively to keep up. [embedded_ad]
Nick Eatman: I've said it numerous times already this year just how much this really is a .500 league. There are exceptions to the rule on both ends of the spectrum but for the most part, these teams are pretty even. That's the main reason I think the Cowboys will have a hard time beating the Saints. It's not that it won't happen or can't, but something tells me the Saints will find a way to bounce back from a 0-2 start just like I see it unlikely the Cowboys will be 3-1. That's really all I've got. I know it's not superb analysis or game breakdown. It's more about the fact I can't see the Saints being 1-3 and the Cowboys 3-1. Specifically, I do see the Cowboys getting a good game from Terrance Williams on the outside. They will try to take away Dez and maybe Witten and Williams will have a big day. As much as I'd like to see Claiborne bounce back from a tough week with a big game, I see multiple pass interference penalties from him. I think Jimmy Graham has a decent day and I think they keep this rookie Brandin Cooks in check. Why do I have the feeling a guy like Kenny Stills hurts them with a big play? The Cowboys hang in there and keep it close but I see more firepower out of the Saints.