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NFL Week 12 Predictions: Five Reasons the Cowboys Could Stun the Saints in Big D

Matt TruebloodSenior Analyst IJanuary 15, 2017

NFL Week 12 Predictions: 5 Reasons Dallas Cowboys Could Stun the Saints in Big D

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    It has been a little over 11 months since Drew Brees and the undefeated New Orleans Saints welcomed Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware and the Dallas Cowboys into the New Orleans Superdome for a Week 15 matchup of NFC playoff contenders. The Saints were seemingly unstoppable, having scored an average of almost 36 points per game in their 13 victories. The Cowboys, unimpressed, held them to 17 and won.

    New Orleans got the last laugh, of course, but the sting of that loss likely bites at the back of their minds as they prepare to take on Dallas again Thursday in Dallas. The defending champions stand at 7-3, while the Cowboys have a 3-7 record and no playoff aspirations.

    Yet, the Saints are human this season: Drew Brees has not been himself, and the defense has let the squad down in losses to the Cardinals and Browns. Meanwhile, the Cowboys suddenly have a bit of momentum, having won two straight games—although one of those was against Detroit at home last Sunday.

    Here are five reasons to believe the Cowboys can upend the Saints on Thanksgiving and affirm the idea that misery loves company.

5. Dez Bryant

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Bryant is as touchdown-happy as a rookie receiver gets in this day and age, especially given his place as the team's second wide receiver behind Miles Austin. Bryant has six receiving and two return touchdowns this season, and a receiving score in each of the last three games.

    With Tracy Porter likely locked up defending Austin, Bryant should get a favorable matchup with Jabari Greer or Patrick Robinson most of the time, and the Cowboys can score on the Saints if they exploit that matchup.

4. Brees' Picks

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    Larry French/Getty Images

    Brees leads the league in completions and completion percentage this season. But he has fallen off significantly from 2009 in one way: He is no longer as good at taking care of the ball. Brees threw only 11 interceptions en route to leading the NFL in passer rating last season, but has 14 already this year.

    The Cowboys have not been especially opportunistic in that regard this season, picking off only eight passes as a team. Terence Newman, never an interception machine but usually a big-time play-maker, has only two picks this year. He got one last week, though, and should be ready for any opportunities afforded him by the not-so-infallible Brees.

3. Been There, Done That

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    The win last December should inform the Cowboys' game plan for this showdown, especially because the short week afforded them fewer chances to install a new one.

    In that game, the Cowboys focused on running the ball. They rushed 36 times for 145 yards and scored twice on the ground. Marion Barber had both touchdowns and piled up 62 yards, while Felix Jones added 58 yards on 14 carries.

    Jones is listed as questionable for Thursday's contest, but Barber will be back, and although neither man has had great numbers this season, each should be used to keep the other fresh and get New Orleans uncomfortable in its pass rush efforts.

    Meanwhile, the defense should again focus on getting to Brees often. Ware had two of the team's four sacks last December and should be in the backfield plenty again Thursday. If Ware feasts on Brees this Thanksgiving, the Cowboys will be in great shape.

2. Uncle Mo'

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    It might be momentum, or it might just be confidence. Maybe it really is some sort of special mojo that Jason Garrett has, but Wade Phillips lacked.

    Any way you slice it, the Cowboys have decisively won two games in a row and look reinvigorated.

    Even with Jon Kitna forced to step in after Tony Romo injured his shoulder, the offense has some serious weapons and the defense is very athletic. This team was supposed to compete for a playoff spot, don't forget. The mere fact that they played so poorly early in the season does not guarantee that the talent everyone thought was there at the outset of the year is not there.

1. Defending tHe Home Turf On Thanksgiving

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    The Cowboys are an atrocious 1-4 at home this season, although that first win did come last week against the Lions. They have a lot to prove to their home fans this Thursday.

    The team has always played well on Thanksgiving, going 27-14-1 in 42 years of play. They will certainly be fired up for this game, which looks like the biggest one left this season for a team long gone from contention. A team with nothing to lose is always dangerous, and if the Saints do not come into Cowboys Stadium ready to battle as if they, too, have nothing to lose, they may be upset by a Cowboys team riding high under its new leader.

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