Brandon Weeden vs. Luke McCown! I’m sure that’s exactly the matchup NBC had in mind when they designated this Week 4 tilt for Sunday Night Football. But with Tony Romo on the shelf and Drew Brees likely to miss some time as well, it could be these two backups in the national spotlight when the Dallas Cowboys visit the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 4 (8:30 PM Eastern).
Don’t let Weeden’s 7-for-7 line from last week, or McCown’s national advertising campaign, fool you; there is a reason these two are on the bench. In their careers, they have just 30 combined starts (21 for Weeden 21, 9 for McCown), together compiling a 7-23 record and 48 turnovers in that limited action.
The circumstances each QB is wandering into are different, but each is fascinating. Brees could only miss a couple of starts, but the Saints also desperately need a win starting this weekend. So McCown will be a placeholder for a shorter time, but the pressure to get results is high.
The Cowboys opened the year with two big wins over division rivals, spotting themselves a nice early lead in the NFC East. But the earliest Romo can come back is Nov. 22. With this being Weeden’s team for the next two months, Dallas will be looking to develop a rhythm offensively over the next few games, finding out which parts of the playbook Weeden can execute effectively.
Regardless, each team should be relying heavily on the ground game in this one. The Saints boast a ton of talent in the backfield, led by workhorse Mark Ingram; but they’ve failed to get anything going on the ground this year, averaging 3.4 yards-per-carry as a team. While Ingram and C.J. Spiller can also make plays in the short passing game, New Orleans will need to find some success in the run game to help protect the football and set up short third downs.
The Cowboys “backfield by committee” approach hasn’t been any better than the Saints, also averaging 3.4 YPC; but defensively, they’ve been far better at stopping the run. Ranked first in the league through two games, surrendering 2.6 YPC to opponents, Dallas will do everything in its power to make the Saints try to win this game through the air.
Unless New Orleans’ second-year receiver Brandin Cooks has another breakout game on a Sunday night, it’s tough to like New Orleans chances at home, where they have lost six straight now. But with a couple of wild cards at QB, anything could happen. It may not have been how NBC planned it, but this game should be entertaining to watch.
Straight-up pick: Cowboys.
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Originally posted to Flickr.)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].)