The Saints defensive line had a field day last Thursday versus the Falcons, and they may be set up just right to do so again this week.
After struggling early in the season and disheartening its hopeful fans, the New Orleans Saints defense has turned a corner. The unit has shined lately, holding its last three opponents to an average of just under 13 points per game. Each win has come in convincing fashion, with the offense humming along at its usual elite level and the defense being the pleasant surprise.
Thursday’s primetime showdown with the Dallas Cowboys and their anemic offense already seemed like a great spot for the New Orleans defense to continue their dominance. Now, it may prove to be even more of a smash spot, as NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported that Cowboys star left tackle Tyron’s Smith’s chances of playing are “not looking good.”
The All-Pro lineman has been dealing with a neck stinger and a right elbow injury that prevented him from playing a single snap in last Thursday’s win over the Washington Redskins. In that game, the Cowboys were able to put up 31 points, but quarterback Dak Prescott was sacked four times.
This Dallas offensive line is no longer the feared unit that it has been in recent years. They’re still without All-Pro center Travis Frederick, who was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in August. Smith has battled injury and inconsistency. The offensive line has allowed Prescott to be sacked 38 times this season, tied with Eli Manning for the most in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the Saints defensive line has looked unstoppable, sacking Matt Ryan six times, Carson Wentz three times, and Andy Dalton four times in their previous three games. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has been pulling all the right strings, setting up guys like Cameron Jordan and the suddenly relentless Sheldon Rankins to get after the quarterback.
That could be a deadly combination of circumstances for the Cowboys, who need to give Prescott time to get the ball out. They already face a challenge as the Saints have the league’s No. 1 rush defense. Being that Dallas’ success on the ground is what unlocks the passing game for Prescott, he and the rest of the offense could be in for a rough night.