Cowboys-Saints Sunday Night Showdown

NFC DIVISIONAL FAVORITES COWBOYS/SAINTS MEET IN SUNDAY NIGHT SHOWDOWN

There's still plenty of football to be played in the 2013 season. But, it's already looking very good for both the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints to make the playoffs. Each currently leads their division in the NFC. Each is positioned well for a second half run thanks to experienced quarterbacks and some extenuating circumstances.

DALLAS
The extenuating circumstances here are that the Cowboys play in a horrible division! Even if Dallas loses Sunday to fall to 5-5, they'll still be well clear of Washington and the NY Giants down at the bottom of the NFC East. They'll have a battle with Philadelphia on their hands. But, they just beat Philadelphia on the road to get an early lead in the tie-breaker. And, the Eagles are so fragile that it's hard to see them soaring past the Cowboys to a divisional crown. Dallas could finish 8-8 and still win the East. Dallas may finish better than 8-8.

NEW ORLEANS
The Saints would seem a virtual lock for the postseason at 6-2. But, Carolina is right on their heels at 5-3...and has been playing like a true championship contender over the past month. Maybe fate will knock the Saints down to a Wildcard. But, if the favorites win Sunday when New Orleans hosts Dallas, while Carolina visits San Francisco as a 6-point underdog...then New Orleans will be two games clear of the Panthers.

The percentages say we're looking at divisional winners. Which means, we may also be watching a playoff preview Sunday Night on NBC.

Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)
Dallas: 5-4 (#23 schedule in USA Today)
New Orleans: 6-2 (#27 schedule in USA Today)

Both teams have played relatively soft schedules. Those rankings from Jeff Sagarin provide a true red flag for Saints fans. Yes, a 6-2 record is great...but it's come against a slate of weaklings. You can't yet consider them on equal footing with the other top NFC powers until they score a signature win. They'll have a chance to do just that two Mondays from now when they visit Seattle. Dallas is arguably not a playoff caliber team given those numbers. Somebody has to win the NFC East. The Cowboys would probably be 4-5 right now against a league average schedule, starting at 4-6.

Yards-Per Play
Dallas: 5.6 on offense, 6.0 on defense
New Orleans: 6.0 on offense, 5.5 on defense

Big problems for Dallas there...as they've posted a negative differential against a below average schedule! Good luck going into New Orleans and winning that way. The Saints are on the right side of zero by a good bit. But, again...that's come against a soft schedule. New Orleans arguably drops below championship contendership once you adjust for that factor. They'd only be +0.2 or so against a league average schedule.

Turnover Differential
Dallas: +10
New Orleans: +6

Good job here from a pair of veteran quarterbacks. And, it's HUGE news whenever Tony Romo is getting the best of it in this stat. He will still make badly timed him impact mistakes (as you saw vs. Denver). But, he's not throwing bad passes in volume. That one factor by itself puts the Cowboys in the driver's seat in their weak division.

Market Performance
Dallas: 7-2 ATS
New Orleans: 5-3 ATS

This is pretty amazing. America's Team is actually beating the spread! A team that has been historically overpriced for decades is covering at a 78% clip in 2013! New Orleans is also getting the money, which is a challenge for them because Drew Brees always gets so much respect in the line. Oddsmakers and sharps are struggling this year...which is the only way Dallas could make a run at an 80% cover rate.

Current Line: New Orleans by 6.5, total 54

Sharps have been split on this game. The key number seven is influencing investments...with Saints backers laying -6.5 but Dallas money coming in whenever the line goes to Cowboys +7. That may continue all the way until kickoff. It will be interesting to see how the public bets this one...as BOTH teams are typically public teams on most Sundays.

JIM HURLEY believes he's spotted an edge in this one. Click here for the Dallas/New Orleans release. You can purchase the final word for the NFL Sunday morning before the early games kick off right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about the day, or seasonal offers in football and basketball, call the office Sunday morning at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you tomorrow to discuss the suddenly dramatic Miami/Tampa Bay game set for Monday Night Football this week. Have you ever seen a week of preview coverage talk LESS about football and MORE about turmoil in the locker room? We'll run the game through our stat gauntlet to help you focus on what matters most. A huge sports week follows, including college basketball THRILLERS Tuesday with Michigan State/Kentucky and Kansas/Duke (which we'll preview here in the NOTEBOOK).

November's going to be a wild ride offering not time to rest. JUMP ON THE MONEY TRAIN AT JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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