Week 13 of the NFL season kicks off with one of our best Thursday Night Football matchups of the year, as the Dallas Cowboys play host to the New Orleans Saints. After a surprise opening day loss, the Saints have had an incredible run, comfortably winning each of their 10 games. America’s team have also noticeably improved in recent weeks, grinding out 3 straight wins to sit atop the NFC East. Both of these sides have playoff aspirations on the line here, with the Saints looking to maintain top spot in the NFC and the Cowboys looking to extend their division lead. In what I expect to be a very exciting matchup, let’s take a look at our 3 best bets on the board.
Where to Watch: ESPN, 7 Mate or NFL Game Pass Friday 12:20 pm
The Cowboys enter this one well and truly back in form, sitting atop the NFC East at 6-5 after 3 straight wins. RB Ezekiel Elliott has been in excellent form in this winning streak, averaging for at least 121 yards and a score in all 3 games and enjoying some Salvation Army shenanigans in the process. Receiver Amari Cooper has added a completely new dimension to this offence, enjoying an outstanding display last week as he went off for 180 yards and 2 scores. QB Dak Prescott also deserves some credit for his improved play of late, completing 70% of his passes and managing a rushing touchdown in each of these 3 straight wins.
Defensively, the Cowboys have been very good and are still yet to allow 30 points in a game all season. They did an excellent job of limiting Redskins QB Colt McCoy last week, registering 3 sacks and 3 crucial interceptions. RB Adrian Peterson couldn’t get going either, averaging under 3 yards per carry. Defensive End Demarcus Lawrence continues to be one of the league’s premier pass rushers, whilst Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have formed an impressive duo inside. The Saints offense is playing at a completely different level this season and represents a unique challenge for this strong Dallas defence.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have looked like the form team of the NFL in recent weeks, enjoying 10 straight victories, 8 of which have come by double digits. QB Drew Brees has put up some truly mind-boggling stats, completing 76% of his passes for 3100 yards and 29 touchdowns so far. In Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, New Orleans also have an excellent Running Back duo that has combined for an impressive 19 touchdowns on the campaign. I’d be remiss not to mention the excellent contributions of Wide Receiver Michael Thomas, who has 1080 yards and 8 touchdowns so far, catching 88% of his targets this season.
The Saints defence has also been much improved of late, holding their opponents to 23 points or less in 7 of their last 8. In fact, the only time they allowed more than 23 was in a victory over the high-flying Rams. They’ve held their opponents to 17 points or less in the last 3 games, completely shutting down the run each week. This forces the opposing offence to become one-dimensional, where their opportunistic secondary can capitalize. Against a Cowboys offence that leans heavily on the run, this could be a recipe for success here.
Based on the early action, this is definitely a contrarian play, but it’s one that I’m more than comfortable to make. Whilst they’ve struggled as a favourite in the Jason Garrett era, the Cowboys have largely been very good as a home underdog. With the incredible recent form the Saints have shown, you’re simply paying a premium to back them here. They were 7.5-point home favourites against Philly a fortnight ago, and now you essentially find them at the same number on the road here.
The type of game plan that Dallas loves to employ is also conducive to keeping things competitive against a high-flying offence. If they can continue to give Zeke 25-30 touches, they can control the time of possession battle and tire out this Saints defence. It’s also been a while since New Orleans has come up against a defence of Dallas’ quality and I expect them to have to work much harder here. I’m confident in this play +7 points, but love it even more if you can get it at 7.5.
Over 53 Points
Usually backing the underdog and the under go together, but I can’t bet under on a Saints game given their recent form. This isn’t your typical short week either, with both of these sides having a full week of rest after playing on Thanksgiving. Whilst I expect things to be tougher for the Saints offence here, they’ve still scored 30 or more in each of their last 5 games, reaching 45 points in 3 of those fixtures.
The Cowboys offence has also noticeably picked things up of late, scoring 22 or more in 3 gritty victories. The strong recent form of Zeke Elliott and Amari Cooper give this offence a completely new dimension, making it much easier to put up points. Combine this with a Saints offence that can’t stop scoring and I’m relatively confident in over 53 points in this one.
First TD Scorer: Alvin Kamara
In a game where the Saints are 7-point favourites, it’s logical to put the odds in their favour of scoring the first touchdown. Out of the available options, it’s hard to overlook Alvin Kamara. He has 15 total touchdowns compared to just 4 from Mark Ingram, indicating that he is by far the preferred back in the red zone. His dual-threat ability through the ground and the air also means that he’s a threat from anywhere on the field. Whilst Michael Thomas is a good backup option, Kamara is simply the best value in this market.
Score Prediction: New Orleans Saints 30-24 Dallas Cowboys