The 10-1 New Orleans Saints are set to face off against the 6-5 Dallas Cowboys in less than 4 hours in Dallas, Texas. To this point, there has been a lot of hype placed around this game. Jerry Jones, the owner of the Cowboys, stated that this game should be viewed as the Superbowl for the Cowboys, considering the team that they’re playing.
“Each play, we’ve got to think it’s the Super Bowl play. If every player on every play in this game says, ‘When we put that tape on Monday, it’s going to look like one of my best plays of the year,’ it’s really going to take that kind of focus to beat a team like this.”
Furthermore, there has been a lot of “trash talk” by the Cowboys with DeMarcus Lawrence starting it all. On Tuesday, Lawrence was asked if the Saints have the best offensive line and here’s his response:
“They’re going to have to match our intensity. S—, for 60 minutes straight. If you hit a m—–f—– in the mouth and then they ain’t doing what they’re regularly doing, putting up 50 points, they start to get a little distressed. Now you got them where you want them at, and then you f—ing choke their ass out.”
With so much hype and talk around this game, it’s without a doubt that both teams are more than inspired to play football tonight. The question remains, who needs the win more? Is it possible that the 10-1 Saints need this game more than the 6-5 Cowboys?
Well, let’s look at it from the Saints perspective. The New Orleans Saints are without a doubt, the best team in the NFL right now. They’re clearly the favorites to win it all, although there are other major contenders in the picture like the Chiefs, Rams, Patriots, and others. Taking this into consideration, this game is very important for the Saints playoff picture.
Right now, the Saints are 1st in the NFC because of their victory over the Rams. Although the Rams and Saints both have 10-1 records, that direct win over the Rams gives the Saints the #1 seed. With that in mind, the Saints want to make sure that they do everything they can to keep that home-field advantage for the playoffs.
Everyone knows how difficult it is for a team to come into the New Orleans Superdome and earn a victory. It gets that much more difficult when it’s in the playoffs and the crowd and intensity is just that much more amped. With that in mind, if the Saints lose to the Cowboys tonight, they will be demoted to the #2 seed with the Rams promoted to #1.
There’s still more football to be played and that could switch up again, but going forward, the schedule doesn’t favor the Saints either. After the Cowboys, the Saints still have to face the Steelers, Buccaneers, and Panthers twice. Other than the Bucs game, the 3 remaining games are all against worthy teams and the Saints can definitely end up on the wrong side of those games.
On the other hand, the Rams schedule is much easier. The Rams only have to face 1 team with a winning record, the 8-3 Bears. Other than that, they’re up against the Lions at 4-7, Eagles at 5-6, Cardinals at 2-9, and 49ers at 2-9. The Rams can definitely win out so even one loss for the Saints can be the difference between a home-field playoff game and an away game in the playoffs.
Furthermore, the Bears even have a shot at earning a Divisional-bye because their schedule is also easier than what the Saints have to go through. The Bears still have to face the 3-8 Giants, 10-1 Rams, 4-6-1 Packers, 2-9 49ers, and 6-4-1 Vikings. There are three difficult games in that schedule, but it is possible that the Rams end up with the 1st seed, Bears with the 2nd, and Saints with the 3rd. Thus, the Saints really have a lot to lose today if they don’t earn the victory.
On the other hand, the Dallas Cowboys are 6-5 and leading the NFC East at the moment. This NFC East Division has been anything but consistent. Every team, even the 3-8 Giants, still actually have a shot at winning this division. However, if we are to put aside the long shots, the Cowboys are definitely favored to win this division. The Giants have problems everywhere and are 3-8. An 8-8 team is not going to win this division and more importantly, the Giants are not going to win out and finish 8-8.
In terms of the Redskins, they were the favorites to win this division until Alex Smith was done for the season. They have already lost grasp of the division after losing to the Cowboys last week 31 to 23, and are quickly losing hope of making the playoffs. Their schedule does’t include a team with a winning record, but without their starting quarterback, it’s just a losing situation. Furthermore, they have two games left against the Eagles. If the Redskins and Eagles each win one of those games, they ultimately both help the Cowboys remain atop. Only one other team can rise to contend with the Cowboys so if these teams beat each other, it will be great news for the Cowboys. A team needs to go on a winning streak to contend with the Cowboys and without Smith, the Redskins are not that team.
This leaves us with the Eagles, the most sub-par team of the year. After winning the Superbowl last year and getting back their starting quarterback, they were favored to run away with this division, yet they sit at 5-6 right now. The Philadelphia Eagles are done. They still have to face the Rams and Texans which will put them at 5-8. Even if they win the rest of their games, which they won’t, they’ll finish at 8-8. That’s not going to be enough for this division.
The Cowboys are primed to win this division, being the most complete and healthy team who are getting on a streak at the right time. The Cowboys have won their last 3 games and have the 5-6 Eagles, 6-5 Colts, 4-7 Buccaneers, and 3-8 Giants left on their schedule after the Saints tonight. If the Cowboys win tonight, they put extreme pressure on the Redskins and Eagles to win out. Remember, the Eagles and Redskins still have two games against each other so one team needs to win both games. If they beat each other, the Cowboys will for sure remain atop.
Even if the Cowboys lose tonight, they’re still favored to win this division because they’ll hold their own destiny. They’ll have the Eagles come in to town the following week for a match-up with the division on the line. It’s just extremely difficult to think that the Eagles are going to do anything with a secondary that has been injured all year long and doesn’t seem to be repaired. The Cowboys should stomp on the Eagles in that game and finish the final hope that the Eagles have. Thus, the Cowboys will still have their destiny in hand even if they lose this game. They aren’t going to do any better than a 4th seed so losing tonight isn’t going to affect their playoff seed.
Hence, if we really think about it, this hyped Saints vs Cowboys game is really more important to the Saints. If the Cowboys lose, it’s okay, they still hold their own destiny in their hands. If the Cowboys win, it’ll be an extreme confidence boost and pretty much guarantee them the division although they will not do any better than the 4th seed.
On the other hand, the Saints have much higher aspirations than a 4th seed. If they were to win tonight, they continue to remain atop the conference and keep the race for the #1 seed alive with a difficult road ahead. However, if the Saints lose, they give up the #1 seed with 3 difficult game still ahead, paving the way for the Rams and possibly, the Bears to lead the conference. The Saints need to win this game tonight to remain Superbowl favorites and keep their path to the Superbowl as easy as possible.