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John DeShazier: Five key ingredients to a Saints victory presented by Domino's

  1. A healthy Drew Breesgives the New Orleans Saints their best chance to win, and Brees is healthy enough to step back into the huddle this week. In his one-game absence, Luke McCownwas about one notch below spectacular – 31 of 38 for 310  yards, and his lone interception was as much a result of an outstanding play (Josh Norman'sleaping, twisting effort which was about a foot away from being snatched by Brandin Cooks) as it was any shortcoming by McCown. But the Saints offense has gone as Brees has gone since he joined the franchise in 2006, and he has had some of his best NFL games against the Cowboys. In six games against Dallas, Brees has completed 181 of 260 passes (69.6 percent) for 2,212 yards and 16 touchdowns, with three interceptions. Something along those lines will go a long way toward helping the Saints break into the 'W' column Sunday night.
  1. The Saints haven't yet won the turnover battle in a game this season, and historically that has been the most telling factor between victory and defeat. So far this season, the Saints have committed six (three interceptions, three lost fumbles) and forced three (fumble recoveries). If forcing them is going to be an issue (last season, the team forced just 17 turnovers), then the Saints absolutely are going to have to be more protective of the football. So far, five turnovers have resulted in field goals, and the sixth was an end zone interception with 1:09 left against Carolina. That trend has to end in order for New Orleans to be successful.
  1. To say that the Saints had trouble locating and defending Carolina tight end Greg Olsenlast Sunday (eight catches for a career-high 134 yards and two touchdowns) would be a monumental understatement. So, too, would be saying that the Cowboys will hope to be equally exploitative of the Saints' secondary with their tight end, Jason Witten. Witten (21 catches for 181 yards a two scores this season) is one of the most productive tight ends in NFL history, and could be called upon even more considering the Cowboys are without their top receiver (Dez Bryant), working with their No. 2 quarterback (Brandon Weeden) and are a tad less reliable at running back with DeMarco Murraynow in Philadelphia. The Saints have to find Witten and neutralize him, and force Weeden to look for other options.
  1. And speaking of the Saints' secondary, Brandon Brownerhas to raise his level of play. He committed three penalties against Tampa Bay, and followed that up with a couple of misplays in zone coverage against Carolina that led to completions of 55 and 52 yards. True, the big cornerback is more comfortable playing close to the line, bump-and-run coverage. But when he's called upon to play zone, he has to be versatile enough to do so without surrendering the kind of big plays that can deflate a defense. It could help that his running mate, Keenan Lewis, should return to the lineup. That, along with improved play by Delvin Breauxand Damian Swann, gives the Saints great depth at cornerback. But they need solid play across the board, especially from a leader like Browner.
  1. Running back C.J. Spilleris an advantage that New Orleans hasn't yet maximized. This could be the game. Coach Sean Paytonsaid he didn't get Spiller enough touches against Carolina (one carry for four yards, two catches for 22) and Spiller could, and should, benefit from that awareness. A nice wheel route resulted in a 19-yard catch against the Panthers, but Spiller can do so much more than that. Possibly, he will against Dallas.
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