FRISCO, Texas – Ah, yes. My least favorite week of the year.
There are a lot of reasons why this is a fun matchup. The Cowboys and the Saints are two of the best teams in the NFC, and this game could go a long way in determining the conference playoff picture.
It's also a regional rivalry. Texas and Louisiana are right next to each other. There are countless Saints fans that have relocated into Cowboy territory for one reason or another. And on the flip side, there are untold numbers of people living in Louisiana who decided to root for the iconic franchise next door. This is a game that means a lot, to a lot of people living in this part of the country.
For me, it just adds up to a no-win situation. When you grew up in New Orleans but work for the Dallas Cowboys, nobody seems to like you very much this week. Everyone back home thinks you're a no-good traitor, and everyone at work thinks you're a spy working on the inside.
Neither of these things is true, mind you. I'm just a guy trying to provide entertaining, insightful analysis on the Dallas Cowboys. But, like I said, nobody ever believes me during this particular week.
From my very selfish perspective, here's hoping for a good game, and then we can get on to focusing on literally any other opponent.
Here's some stuff I'm thinking about:
1. Maybe it's because I'm from Louisiana, but I'm really intrigued to watch Dak Prescott play a game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
In Louisiana, the Dome is a sacred spot. Not only is it the home field of the only professional team in the state, the New Orleans Saints, but it's also where Louisiana decides its high school football champions at every level. Every December, teams from across all across the small towns and cities of Louisiana make their way to New Orleans to try to etch their names in the record books.
Dak played his high school ball at Haughton, just east of Shreveport, La. From Haughton the drive to Dallas is actually 150 miles closer than it is to New Orleans – which probably helps explain why the guy grew up a Cowboys fan and not a Saints fan.
Even still, I guarantee you Dak had dreams of playing in the Superdome. His senior year of high school, he guided Haughton to an undefeated regular season and a 12-1 overall record. Their only loss came in the 4A quarterfinals, a 49-41 shootout to a Franklinton team that would go on to win state in New Orleans against Edna Karr – a school that's about a mile from where I grew up, coincidentally enough.
Anyway, enough with the tangent. The point is that on Sunday, Dak's going to get a chance to show his stuff in a building he's likely been wanting to play in for a long time. Add in the fact that he's got a chance to help the Cowboys make a statement about their place in the NFC pecking order, and it should be awfully fun to watch.
2. Speaking of the Dome, that stadium has been a bit of a horror show for the Cowboys over the years.
I was kind of surprised to learn that, because let's be honest: the Saints were horrendous for most of their history before Sean Payton and Drew Brees showed up, and the Cowboys have won five Super Bowls.
But you wouldn't know it from looking at the series history. The Cowboys have played 10 games in the Superdome since it opened in 1975, and they're a surprising 3-7 in those games.
They've managed to lose in every way imaginable, too. There was the Christmas Eve Miracle back in 1999, when Jake Delhomme outplayed Troy Aikman and a terrible Saints team beat the Cowboys, 31-24. There was the 2013 debacle, when Brees & Co. racked up 625 yards of offense and 40 first downs in an absolute beat down of the Cowboys' defense. There was the most recent visit, back in 2015, when it looked like Brandon Weeden was going to deliver an unlikely road win in Tony Romo's absence – only for C.J. Spiller to break the Cowboys' hearts with an 80-yard walkoff touchdown.
3. Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't visit the flip side. The Superdome also played host to one of the most famous regular season wins in recent Cowboys history. Dallas was fighting for its playoff life and DeMarcus Ware had been carted off the field the week before – which was not a good sign for a Cowboys team that was about to face the 13-0 Saints.
Not only did Ware wind up playing, he terrorized Brees to the tune of two sacks. Miles Austin went off for 139 receiving yards, and the Cowboys hung on to give the eventual Super Bowl champs their first loss of the season.
Prior to that, though, the Cowboys' other two wins in the Superdome came in 1994 and 1976. I don't care who's playing quarterback, I'm guessing this game isn't going to be easy.
4. With all due respect to my guy Bobby Belt, I'm essentially going to rip off his stat. It makes me really sad that untimely penalties have prevented Randall Cobb from being a big talking point this season. Flags have cost Cobb four catches for 110 yards and an extra touchdown – highlighted by the 74-yard score he nearly had against Miami last week. If those catches had counted, Cobb would be top 25 in the league in receiving and second on the team.
It's not a big deal. The Cowboys scored three plays after Cobb's touchdown was negated, and he will have plenty more opportunities to make big plays. His ability to turn a routine catch into a 74-yard touchdown is proof of that. But I hope his chances come sooner rather than later, after suffering so many near misses these last few weeks.
5. I'm so ready for more 20 personnel. I'm ready to see Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard getting snaps at the same time.
I know this isn't Madden. I know it's not feasible to trot two running backs out there on a regular basis – not with the monsters that are routinely trying to kill your quarterback in the NFL.
But in watching game tape of the Saints this week, it was hard not to be intrigued by the varied way New Orleans uses its backs. There was Alvin Kamara, motioning across the formation with Latavius Murray lined up in the backfield. On one occasion Kamara was simply a decoy, giving the Seahawks defense and extra look on a routine play. On another occasion, Kamara took the handoff on a fly sweep off the right end and gained six yards.
It worked pretty well, and that was with Murray in the backfield – not Zeke. There's no telling the different ways Kellen Moore could frighten opposing defensive coordinators by putting Zeke and Pollard in the lineup at the same time. It doesn't need to be a staple of the offense, but it'd be a really fun wrinkle.
They've tinkered with it at times during these first three weeks. I bet we'll see some more before it's all said and done.