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Week 4 preview: Cowboys at Saints

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Dallas Cowboys (2-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-3)

Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans – TV: NBC

*TV announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya

*Keys to the game: Saints QB Drew Brees plans to give it a whirl despite a bruised right rotator cuff, and the Cowboys plot to plant him on his back with an active front seven. The counter with Brees is to hand the ball to RB Mark Ingram. Dallas was pushed around by the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive line last week but is giving up an average of just 88 rushing yards per game. If Brees sits, Luke McCown would start and be invited to throw the ball against softer coverage. Ingram is still the lead back for a team averaging only 76 rushing yards per game, but C.J. Spiller is likely to be more involved against the cover-2 coverage of the Cowboys.

The Cowboys are equally limited without QB Tony Romo and WR Dez Bryant. Brandon Weeden was accurate and efficient last week but the Cowboys didn’t ask him to go downfield – only one attempt traveled more than 15 yards in the air. Weeden claims he’ll let it rip if the deep ball is available, and with CB Keenan Lewis (hip) coming back, expect a shot or three against a secondary with zero interceptions.

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan won’t veer from the strength of the team, working to run the ball and set up shorter high-percentage throws for Weeden. The Saints are 26th against the run.

*Matchup to watch – Saints DE Bobby Richardson vs. Cowboys RT Doug Free: Richardson is the beneficiary of the trade that shipped Akiem Hicks to the Patriots on Wednesday. The undrafted free agent is active and aggressive and Free doesn’t have much of a scouting report to work from in preparation.

*Player spotlight – Cowboys RB Lance Dunbar: The third-down back shares the team lead with 21 receptions, averaging 10.2 yards per catch, and is a hot read for Weeden to find when facing a heavy blitz scheme.

*Fast facts: The Saints have lost six consecutive home games. … Witten has 39 receptions in his past six games.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

Dallas does enough early to hush the home crowd and QB Drew Brees’ physical limitations further hinder the New Orleans offense.

*Our pick: Cowboys 30-20.


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