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Saints vs. Cowboys: Five things to watch

Saints have excelled in prime time under Payton

1. NIGHT TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME: Much like Monday nights in the Sean Payton era, during which the Saints are 11-2 since 2006, the Saints have been pretty good on Sunday nights, too. They're 6-1 on Sunday night since 2006, and had won six straight before a 34-14 loss in Denver last year. Included in the six straight wins were four straight in the Superdome, where Sunday's game against Dallas will be played. Oh, by the way – the Saints are 4-0 at home so far this season, by an average score of 32-15, with no opponent having scored more than 17 points. So if there ever was a perfect setting for the team to cover the smell of two losses in three games (both on the road), this is it.

2. INSTA-GRAHAM: Jimmy Graham is special. He has taken the concept of former-basketball-player-turned-great-receiving-tight-end and supersized it. With 49 catches for 746 yards and 10 touchdowns midway through the season,  he's on pace to smash the tight end records for single-season touchdown receptions and receiving yards (17 and 1,327, respectively, both by New England's Rob Gronkowski, in 2011). Even with opponents devising new ways to slow him, and him having been held without a reception against New England, Graham is averaging six grabs for 93 yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game. Dallas' opponents are passing for 305 yards and 1.8 touchdowns per game.

3. PLUG THE LEAKS: The Jets ran for 198 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries against the Saints last Sunday. For the season, opponents are rushing for 121.3 yards per game and an average of 4.9 yards per carry. Even though the Cowboys haven't run the ball especially well (3.7 yards per carry on 183 attempts), it's not going to be a surprise if they decide to try their luck against the Saints. New Orleans defenders said that against the Jets, they too often had bad run fits, which allowed New York to break off several long ground gains. Obviously, they'll need to fit better against Dallas.

4. BALANCE THE LEDGER: The Saints attempted 53 passes in 66 offensive plays against the Jets. Of the 13 runs, one was an end around by tight end Josh Hill and another was a kneel down by quarterback Drew Brees, so running backs only got 11 carries against New York. That's an imbalance that Coach Sean Payton took the blame for, and said that the team will look to fix. Dallas could be a good starting point. Opponents run for 114 yards per game, on 4.6 yards per carry, against the Cowboys. A balanced Saints offense is a better Saints offense, and it leads to less exposure to harm for Brees.

5. EVEN THE SCORE: Despite what was said this week, if you're Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, it'd be impossible to not want a little revenge against the Cowboys. Ryan was fired after last season and so far, his new defense has outperformed his old one; the Saints allow 333.1 yards per game, while Dallas surrenders 419.2. No one wants to be targeted as a scapegoat and Ryan might have a little something extra up his sleeve for his former team. Opposing quarterbacks have eight touchdowns and nine interceptions this season against New Orleans and while Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has been efficient (20 touchdowns, six interceptions), few know his weaknesses better than Payton, who was with the Cowboys from 2003-05 (Romo arrived in Dallas in 2003), and Ryan.


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