*Pre-editor post (forgive any typos)
You don’t see many performances like that in 2018 – a total defensive domination by the Dallas Cowboys (and the Saints were pretty good too). The single-best defensive performance (Dallas) of the season in the era of the top offensive teams just boat-racing every opponent, it seems.
This was no fluky win, per se (more on that in a moment)…it was a defense that rendered an opposing offense, some said the best offense in the NFL, into a scared, ineffective mess. Wow…just ‘wow’. I’ve been singing the virtues of the Dallas defense for two years now…and even I didn’t think they were capable of this. It’s one thing to embarrass the likes of Oakland or Arizona…it’s another to humiliate Drew Brees and his crew. Just…wow.
I mentioned it wasn’t fluky, but New Orleans, despite it all, had plenty of chances to win this game. The main reason being…this was quite easily, no debate, the worst officiated game I’ve seen in 2018. It wasn’t just because of any one major botched call…it was more the number of questionable things by the officials all game that made this so bad. Sean Payton used his challenges up quickly, and that burned him…because there were several calls he could have used challenges on all game. If it wasn’t bad calls, it was ‘no calls’ on guys getting plastered helmet-to-helmet all over (on both sides) with no flag.
Dallas led 13-0 at the half with the Saints under 60 yards of total offense. The Saints scored 10 points in the 3rd quarter to cut it to 13-10, with their TD coming on the receiver (Kirkwood) clearly pushing the defender to the ground before the ball came in (no flag, of course). Outside of a TD that should never have been…the Saints didn’t have any TDs. Down 13-10 – the Saints played the entire 4th quarter not scoring…that’s how awesome the Dallas defense was.
Dallas has to enter the Super Bowl conversation. Why? If Dallas is capable of that kind of defensive play, if they can humiliate the Saints, they can do the same to them again…or the Rams or anyone else.
In the year of our Lord 2018…
The Rams and Chiefs offenses to me are ‘wow’. Everything else on offense in the NFL, as a studier of the game, even the Saints before this game, are not ‘wow’.
The Chicago Bears defense has approached ‘wow’ moments this season.
This single game performance is the most jaw dropping ‘wow’ on defense in 2018. The best performance I’ve seen since the things the 2015-2016 Super Bowl Denver Broncos were doing (not Jacksonville last year…they crushed the weak and got popped by the strong). We’ve not seen Dallas do this consistently…so, now we see if this was a launching off point for the rest of 2018 into the playoffs. This could change everything, potentially, on how you view Dallas (and their opponents) the rest of the season.
This game result really shakes up the playoff picture.
Dallas just took control of the NFC East…they can put the East away if they beat the Eagles next week, at home…with 10 days off to prepare. If Philly beats Washington this week, and then Dallas beats Philly…it’s all about Dallas. However, if Dallas flops next week and the Eagles beat them…then Philly catches Dallas and it’s a race to the finish between to 7-6 teams that will have split the season series with each other.
We have to project Dallas winning at home next week/beating Philly and finishing 10-6…a likely #4 seed hosting Carolina or Seattle, potentially in round one. Totally different projection if they fall to the Eagles.
New Orleans is still ‘fine’ for the playoffs but has to be rattled knowing they got manhandled. They should finish 13-3. If you are a holder of Rams things…you need the Saints to keep winning now. If the Rams get well ahead of the Saints, then the Rams can cruise at the end. The way the schedule is set up, even if the Rams lead by two games going into Week 16…the Rams still need to win Week 16 to be sure of their #1 seed…they cannot tie the Saints, they have to finish a game ahead because NO holds the tiebreaker. Both teams play at 4pm in Week 16, so the Rams will likely need to play it strong (unless the Saints collapse from here). Week 17 is when the Rams might shutdown (same for the Saints).
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Let me start the player notes with more defense…
Could I make the argument that a candidate for the league’s Most Valuable Player is Leighton Vander Esch (10 tackles, 0.5 TFLs)?
He might be the best/most important defensive player in the NFL right now. He’s everywhere making every play…tackles in the running the game and he seems to be breaking up every pass thrown over the middle or altering it. His play has been inspired and infectious for the whole team. You thought Dallas was dead without Sean Lee, and recent history said that is the case…but LVE is everywhere doing everything right now and somewhat saved the season – the missing piece to the defense (and Byron Jones finally moved to CB).
We had solid scouting grades on LVE, but I was a bit skeptical that he was a one-year wonder at Boise State…but he’s been fantastic the past few weeks. Which means it’s another win for Dallas VP of Personnel – Wil McClay. The only person I’m worried that is better at this (scouting) than I am. Dallas key players are all organic…except for the addition of Amari.
-- So, what about the Dallas-DST now…after this?
Wentz-Luck-Winston the next three weeks. I didn’t love it for fantasy because there are no real gems in there. I want to face a Nick Mullens or Cody Kessler where I can. However, THIS Dallas defense could stop anyone.
Wentz is a solid enough matchup. I can’t get excited about facing Andrew Luck and that O-Line, but the way Dallas handed the Saints…it makes you think, but I’m not ready to trust fully yet. Week 16 hosting TB goes from ‘good’ to ‘juicy’ with this Dallas uprising.
-- Overshadowed in all this Dallas-DST euphoria is the Saints-DST…four games in-a-row holding opponents to 17 or fewer points. Held opponents to 20 or fewer points in eight of their last 11 games.
Also, flying below the radar from this game – 7 sacks for the Saints on Dak. Week 14 vs. Jameis Winston may be a lot tastier than we realized.
Weeks 15-16 at Cam Newton then hosting Big Ben…hard to love it, but the Saints are coming on strong. They’re at least viable against most anyone. I could not pull the trigger on them vs. Big Ben.
-- Given this was a big MNF game, national TV and all…did this just derail the Drew Brees (18-25 for 127 yards, 1 TD/1 INT) MVP freight train that was near unstoppable?
Brees is in the conversation for sure, but I continue to place my vote for Andrew Luck with even more confidence now.
At CAR, hosting PIT Weeks 15-16 are not ‘awesome’ matchups.
-- Dan Arnold (2-20-0/2) saw two targets early, but on his 2nd catch he got his bell rung and wasn’t see much after that. It felt like the turn to Arnold from 10-15 snaps, 2-3 targets guy to the next step up was trying to happen in this game…but taken away by the big hit he took.
I’ve been on Arnold since the preseason, but I’ve not felt moved to move on him for 2018. I haven’t seen a real push…this was the first time I sensed…growing the past 2-3 weeks. Still not ready to use just yet, but we might be getting there.
Ben Watson only played 20 snaps…he didn’t see a target.
Josh Hill led all Saints TEs with 26 snaps…and all these odd snap counts may be a function of needing more blockers to hold off the Dallas defense.
-- Like I said…I don’t trust Tre’Quan Smith (0-0-0/1) in this offense. I don’t trust any non-Thomas/Kamara in this offense, for fantasy.
Ted Ginn was a WR3 here – one who went from WR2 to WR4 every other week…and Tre’Quan is no Ginn.
-- Jerry Jones is going to take credit for the Dallas resurgence…and it will lead him to a big contract on Amari Cooper (8-75-0/8) and that will be a big mistake, punitively adding to the mistake of trading a #1 pick for him.
Jerry is in a race with the ghost of him being called a failure in the NFL…because he’s been a failure for 20 years since Jimmy Johnson left – the team has a terrible last 20 years under Jerry, on the field/final results. Jerry is doing everything, future be damned, to win NOW.
Cooper helped this season…but to what end? Maybe Dallas wins the NFC East and gets bounced in the 1st or 2nd round? Then…
Jerry will pay up for Amari, have lost a #1 pick, and extend Jason Garrett…all mistakes. If Jerry just had patience Wil McClay can build a juggernaut, but Jerry has to get his nose in there. Jerry’s impatience and emotional nature is going to kill the franchise, as it has for decades now. Pay Amari big, then Dak, Zeke, Byron Jones, Demarcus with the expensive O-Line – it’s going to be a problem ahead to balance all the overspending.
-- Holy David Onyemata (7 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 2.0 TFLs, 1 FF)!! The Saints DT was a monster in this game. Played 11 games this season prior…and no sacks. This game, he looked like a Pro Bowl’er. I assume the Dallas O-Line issues are deeper than expected…especially with Tyron Smith missing.
-- Fantasy Playoff Notes for these two teams…
Weeks 15-16 CAR-PIT…two top 10 run defenses that effect Ingram more than Kamara.
Dallas’s pass game should keep perking up…Weeks 14-16 facing PHI-IND-TB. They all have secondary issues/injuries and/or fading/dead pass rushes. Dak flirts with QB1 output in any of those games.
Snap Counts of Interest…
40 = Schultz
28 = Jarwin
10 = Gathers
21 = Noah Brown
16 = Hurns
51 = Thomas
44 = Tre’Quan
27 = Kirkwood
15 = Carr
26 = Hill
20 = Watson