Two struggling teams meet up for tonight’s prime-time matchup. The Dallas Cowboys head to New Orleans to challenge the offensive inept Saints and kick off Week 13 tonight. In this Thursday Night Football matchup, let’s dive into the Cowboys vs. Saints and determine the best pick for this NFL betting prediction.
Thursday Night Football picks: Cowboys vs. Saints prediction
We open Week 13 with two teams looking to get their offenses back on track. For Dallas, if you remove the Atlanta Falcons game, the Cowboys have averaged 19.5 points per game over their last four contests. And yes, that includes their 33-point output last week against the Las Vegas Raiders.
New Orleans, meanwhile, hasn’t been the same since quarterback Jameis Winston hit the injured reserve. Backup quarterback Trevor Siemian has not provided the offensive punch head coach Sean Payton has expected, and they have lost four straight games entering tonight. Can the Saints muster up enough offense to stay toe to toe with the Cowboys to be a viable pick in this Thursday Night Football prediction?
Still America’s Team?
Since Week 8, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has ranked 21st overall when looking at his EPA + CPOE composite (expected points added + completion percentage over expected). Dallas has dealt with numerous issues offensively, with both Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb both in and out of the lineup. Star running back Ezekiel Elliott is also dealing with a knee injury that will likely affect his playing time and production in tonight’s game.
According to both EPA and DVOA (Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric), Dallas owns a top-10 ranked offense on the season. Their top-seven aerial unit leads this offense while the run game sits 20th overall. The Cowboys have employed a two-headed attack on the ground, using Elliott and Tony Pollard interchangeably. That ground attack, coupled with their wide receiver depth, makes this offense extremely difficult to stop.
Defensively, the Cowboys have a top-five unit as well. Like on offense, their defense is bolstered by their secondary. However, when it comes to defending the rushing attack, Dallas ranks 18th in both DVOA and EPA. Considering most teams play from behind against the Cowboys, having a better secondary bodes them well.
Will the Cowboys utilize their potent offense and defense to make themselves a viable pick for tonight’s Thursday Night Football prediction?
Time to Right the Ship
To make the Saints a legitimate pick, Payton needs to come up with some creative play-calling in tonight’s Thursday Night Football battle. They are incredibly undermanned due to injuries, and facing the Cowboys is no easy feat.
Tonight’s matchup will also be Taysom Hill’s first starting appearance this season. He’ll be going up against an elite secondary in Dallas. An interesting stat to consider is that Hill was the fourth-ranked quarterback in 2020 in CPOE. Will he be able to bring some of that into tonight’s game against Dallas?
Offensively, New Orleans comes in with the 20th-ranked unit this season. The Saints’ passing attack (10th DVOA, 16th EPA) ranks much higher than their run game (27th DVOA, 28th EPA) this year, but much of that is due to the lack of Alvin Kamara for portions of the season.
Factor in the missing No. 1 receiving threat in Michael Thomas, and it makes you wonder what this offense could be if they were at full strength. New Orleans will have their work cut out against Dallas’ above-average defense tonight.
Saints defense has the ability to shut down the Cowboys
On defense, the Saints are legit. They have a top-five unit, primarily due to their ability to stop the run. New Orleans ranks No. 1 overall in run DVOA and second in EPA. Their secondary isn’t far behind either.
The Saints have the 13th-ranked secondary in DVOA and 11th in EPA. This defense can shut down the Cowboys’ run game, and with an injured receiving corps, can make them a one-dimensional offense.
They could make this game closer than most expect. Add in a few timely turnovers, and the Saints may have a legitimate chance to win this game outright with the home crowd behind them.
Can New Orleans rely on their stout defense to keep this game close and squeak out a win as a pick for tonight’s Thursday Night Football prediction?
Cowboys vs. Saints prediction and pick
The Saints are entering this contest off a four-game losing streak and are desperate for a win. The New Orleans defense is elite and can shut down even the best offenses. I expect them to shut down the run and force the Cowboys to rely on a receiving corps coming off missed weeks and the potential rust factor.
Payton should have plenty of exotic play-calling for his new starting quarterback, and Hill’s ground-threat ability should keep the Cowboys’ defense reeling for much of the game. Give me the home dog with the 6.5 points and make the Saints my official pick for tonight’s Thursday Night Football prediction.