The Dallas Cowboys have started off the season well and now take on the New Orleans Saints. With every game of the season there will be things to watch and pay attention to. Here are five things to watch for in week 4.
1. Byron Jones’ Play
New Orleans will have a backup in Teddy Bridgewater starting this game in place of the injured Drew Brees. Bridgewater played well for the Saints against the Seahawks last week and will need to do so again for the Saints to win. It will be up to Byron Jones, and the rest of the secondary, to make sure that Bridgewater isn’t as successful this week.
Jones and co. will be tasked with shutting down one of the best receivers in football, Michael Thomas. Thomas has 266 receiving yards on the season. Bridgewater’s favorite receiver in week 3 was Alvin Kamara out of the backfield, but the Cowboys will need to make sure Bridgewater doesn’t start to heavily target Thomas. Luckily for the Cowboys, Jones doesn’t get beat very often.
2. Can the Defensive Line Get to Bridgewater?
Bridgewater has 342 yards passing this season with two touchdowns and no interceptions on 63.8 percent completion. By leading the Saints to a victory in week 3, Bridgewater has shown that he can keep the Saints winning, even without Brees. The way to ensure that the Cowboys come out of New Orleans with a win is to get pressure on him.
Unfortunately, Dallas hasn’t registered many sacks this season. They have just five sacks in three weeks. With Robert Quinn knocking off the rust after being out injured in the first two games, the Cowboys’ pass rush should improve. The Saints have a solid offensive line, but Dallas should still be able to get to Bridgewater.
3. Will any Turnovers be Forced?
Turnovers are huge for any football game, but especially for the Cowboys, who like to control the clock. It makes every possession matter more with fewer in the game. Against the Saints, who will want to put up a lot of points, any turnover could be the difference-maker.
So far this season, the Cowboys are one of five teams without an interception so far. With the quarterbacks they have played against (Eli Manning, Case Keenum and Josh Rosen/Ryan Fitzpatrick) that is a little concerning. They do have three fumble recoveries, but need to turn it up to be more successful. With Bridgewater still getting refamiliarized to starting games in the NFL, the Cowboys have a chance to force some turnovers.
4. Can the Offense Stay on Fire?
The Cowboys offense is one of the best in football this season, even if they haven’t played the toughest competition. They have one of, if not the best offensive lines in football. Dak Prescott has started the year on fire with 920 passing yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Ezekiel Elliot is currently averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Amari Cooper already has four receiving touchdowns on the season.
Those stats and facts are all nice and well, but if the defense does break down and gives up points to the Saints, the Cowboys will have to answer. It is not likely they will play this well the rest of the year, but in a road game in a tough environment, it would be nice to see them keep this momentum going.
5. Will Dak Continue to Take Chances?
Prescott is a main reason the offense is on fire. He looks like a much better quarterback this season, again albeit against lower-level competition. Because he is in a contract year, Prescott will want to keep playing well. This season, he is taking more chances and that was evident against the Dolphins.
In what amounts to the first big game of the season, it will be interesting to see if Jason Garrett, Kellen Moore and Dak Prescott continue to take chances. With Elliot running the ball so effectively, it makes sense to keep throwing the ball downfield semi-frequently once the defenders get sucked up to try and defend the run. If Prescott continues to hit on a high percentage of those throws, the Dallas offense can continue to be dynamic.