Saints, Cowboys look to get back on track

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

The two most popular NFL teams in the area have some work to do. The New Orleans Saints are on the brink of losing all hope and the Dallas Cowboys are still licking their wounds from a disastrous finish on the not-so-frozen tundra.

The 3-7 Saints host defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles on Sunday at the Caesar’s Superdome (noon, Fox) having lost two straight and four of their past five. Head coach Dennis Allen will move forward with Andy Dalton at quarterback, but injuries remain a bigger issue.

Defensive end Cameron Jordan will miss Sunday and is joined by a group that includes at least Marcus Davenport, J.T. Gray, James Hurst, Mark Ingram, Pete Werner and Marshon Lattimore.

“For the most part in this league, you have to have guys that are backups that are able to come in and play,” Saints defensive lineman Kentavius Street told the media. “It’s just kind of part of the game. Everybody deals with it at some point.”

The good news: The Rams haven’t fared well in their defense of the Vince Lombardi Trophy. They are 3-6 and carry a three-game slide into the Big Easy.

“They can be an explosive offense, they’ve got a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, they’ve got some wideouts that can still catch the ball and some of their offensive linemen that started last year are playing in our game,” Saints co-defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen said. “(But) it’s not about them, it’s about what we do. And so the focus has just been on our fundamentals, our focus and the execution of the game plan.”

Meanwhile, the Cowboys are 6-3, but are mired in third place in the NFC East. Last week, they blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter for the first time in franchise history (195-0 previously). Dallas must put the loss to the Packers in the rear-view mirror as it faces the hottest team in the NFL on Sunday.

“We’re in a good spot,” cornerback Anthony Brown told the media. “Even if you look back to last year, we were 7-2 at the time, we’re 6-3. We could easily be 7-2 or more, even 8-1. Just a few plays here and there that didn’t go our way.

“We let that game in Green Bay last week get away, 14 in the fourth quarter. We’ve just got to keep our minds strong and stay confident.”

Minnesota (8-1) will host the Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium (3:25 p.m., Fox) riding seven straight victories.

Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott has missed the past two games with a knee injury, but could find himself back in the rotation with Tony Pollard again Sunday.

“When I think of Zeke, I think of the identity of our football team, kind of wrapped into a player,” Dallas offensive lineman Zack Martin said. “Just, his willingness to do anything asked of him, his physical style of play … he brings all of that to our football team. It rubs off on guys.” 

Today’s games

Saints vs. Rams

Noon (Fox), Caesar’s Superdome

Cowboys at Vikings

3:25 p.m. (Fox), U.S. Bank Stadium

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