Thursday Night Football Week 13 Preview and Prediction: New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys

Ben Gretch is back previewing and predicting Week 13's Thursday Night Football matchup between the New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys.
Ben Gretch |
Thu, December 2, 8:49 AM EST | 4 min read
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Thursday Night Football Week 13 Preview and Prediction: New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys

New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys Start Time, Where to Watch, and Odds

Date: Thursday, December 2, 2021

Game Time: 8:20 pm ET

Where to Watch: FOX/NFL Network

  • Key Stat: In Taysom Hill’s four starts at quarterback in 2020, the Saints averaged 34 rush attempts against only 28.5 passes, and the games averaged 37.3 total points

Click Here For Saints vs Cowboys Odds

New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys Preview

It sounds like it's Taysom Hill time. Reports this week suggest Hill will get the start at quarterback as the Saints host the Cowboys on Thursday night, and Hill has practiced in full and doesn't have an injury designation.

The switch to Hill should be a positive for a Saints team that is banged up along the offensive line and lacking playmakers at wide receiver and tight end. Mark Ingram is also without an injury designation, while Alvin Kamara and both starting offensive tackles are questionable. Both tackles did not practice on either Tuesday or Wednesday, while Kamara did get in limited practices.

What Hill brings to the offense is less predictability because he's a threat to run both when dropping back to pass and on designed run plays. The threat of mobile quarterbacks tends to positively influence the rushing efficiency of the running backs they are playing alongside. Teams have to be concerned about the quarterback pulling the ball and running to the edge on read options and similar plays. Hill is also likely to take off and run on designed passes, and he totaled 39 rush attempts across his four starts last season.

As a team, the Saints rushed far more than they threw in those four contests, averaging 34.0 rush attempts to 28.5 passes, which slows the game down and limits scoring chances on both sides. Hill's first two starts last year were particularly run-heavy, although one was against a Broncos team that was hit hard by COVID-19 and was forced to start wide receiver Kendall Hinton at QB. Still, Hill threw just 39 total passes across those first two games, totaling no passing touchdowns but running for two in each game. The Saints were a little more balanced in his third start, and then in his fourth and final start, they were actually reasonably pass-heavy.

In Hill's first three starts, the games all totaled fewer than 40 points. I'm expecting the Saints to treat things similarly here, especially with Ingram back and the possibility of Kamara being active. With the banged-up offensive tackles limiting their ability to pass protect, Dallas featuring a strong pass defense but being more average against the run, and Hill not having any recent reps at quarterback, I'm expecting a similar trend to last year, where the offense is run-heavy in Hill's first start, and perhaps slowly opens up to more passing over the coming weeks. One other major factor there is no Michael Thomas, who Hill locked into as his top weapon when throwing over his four starts last year.

You can probably see where this is going. Dallas has an offense that can be explosive in the passing game, and the Saints are very good against the run, so I do expect them to throw a good amount. But the Saints have a good defense overall, ranking in the top five both in Football Outsiders' DVOA and PFF's unit grades. I think Dallas will find some success, but they've struggled offensively at times recently. The Saints might also be efficient running the ball, and Hill's presence did keep them in games last year. But the key factor here is that the Saints should really limit the overall play volume and ultimately points in this game. I'm all over the under.

Saints vs. Cowboys TNF Pick

Ben Gretch
@YardsPerGretch

Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.

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