New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys
Line: Dallas -4.5
Where: Caesars Superdome
When: Thursday, 12/2 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Dallas and New Orleans will both be hoping to get key players back when they square off in primetime on Thursday night.
The Cowboys have dropped three of their last four games following a 36-33 loss to Las Vegas on Thanksgiving. New Orleans also came up short at home last Thursday, losing its fourth-straight game in a blowout loss to Buffalo.
Oddsmakers opened Dallas as a 5-point favorite, but the early betting action has pushed the line down to -4.5. If the line holds, this will be the third-most points that New Orleans has been given in a game at the Superdome since 2015. The total opened at 48 and has been bet down slightly to 47.5.
Dallas is going to be without head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive tackle Terence Steele due to COVID-19, but wide receivers Amari Cooper (COVID-19) and CeeDee Lamb (concussion) are both expected to return for this game. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who has been out since Week 2 with a broken foot, should be ready to play on Thursday night as well.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be the interim head coach for Dallas, although McCarthy will still do the scheming through virtual meetings.
New Orleans is expected to make a quarterback change following four consecutive losses with Trevor Siemian at the helm. The Saints have fallen from 5-2 to 5-6 after Jameis Winston went down, so Taysom Hill is expected to start on Thursday, barring any setbacks with his foot injury.
Hill has only attempted eight passes this season, completing seven of them for 56 yards and an interception. He has been limited to just seven games due to the lingering foot injury. Hill will be hoping to attack a Dallas defense that ranks No. 27 in passing yards allowed per game (262.3).
The Saints offense was held to just six points in the loss to Buffalo last Thursday. They have been without star running back Alvin Kamara in the last three games due to a knee injury, and he is ‘questionable’ to return for this game. Veteran running back Mark Ingram II has been dealing with a knee issue of his own, but he is ‘probable’ for this matchup.
Dallas has seen its rushing attack fall off as well, with the Cowboys failing to crack 100 yards on the ground in four of their last five games. Ezekiel Elliott continues to battle through a knee injury that held him to nine carries in each of the last two games. Backup Tony Pollard ranks fifth in the NFL with 5.3 yards per carry, though.
“I understand your question,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said when asked about Elliott’s status. “The facts are we expect him (Elliott) to have a serious load against New Orleans.”
The Cowboys have used Elliott more in the passing game, as he has caught at least three passes in each of the last five games. They are facing a New Orleans defense that is holding its opponents to a league-low 3.4 yards per carry.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott has completed 69.4 percent of his passes for 2,932 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. Lamb and Cooper have been the top two receivers, so he will be happy to have them back on Thursday. Tight end Dalton Schultz has added 47 receptions for 537 yards.
New Orleans has been excellent as an underdog, going 8-2-1 against the spread in its last 11 games in that role. Both teams are just 1-3 ATS over their last four games, though. Dallas has covered in four of its last five road games.
The total has gone ‘under’ in four of the Cowboys last five games, while the Saints have gone ‘over’ in four of their last five. New Orleans covered as a 2.5-point home ‘dog in a 12-10 win over Dallas in the most recent meeting, which came in September of 2019.
The pick: Dallas -4.5
New Orleans is scrambling for answers as it watches its playoff hopes start to slip away. I do not think a hobbled Taysom Hill is going to be the spark that they need, though. The Saints have not been able to keep pace with Philadelphia and Buffalo during their last two games, so a matchup against a Dallas team that is getting several key weapons back does not bode well. Prescott is going to have his favorite downfield targets back in the mix on Thursday night. The Cowboys are still in control of the NFC East, but they will be focused on snapping their losing skid in this game. They should have plenty of road fans inside the Superdome, mitigating part of New Orleans’ crowd advantage. Quinn has 85 games of experience as a head coach and has faced Sean Payton 10 times in his career, so the absence of McCarthy is not overly concerning.