Sunday night’s nationally-televised game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints is must-see TV (7:20 p.m., NBC).
Unless, of course, you are one of the 73,000-plus ticket holders inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, then consider yourself fortunate, indeed.
It is only Week 4 of the regular season but this marquee match-up has a postseason feel to it, and don’t be surprised if these two NFC heavyweights aren’t facing off again in January with much more at stake.
Perhaps a trip to Super Bowl LIV.
The Cowboys (3-0) enter the game as slight road favorites (2 1/2 points, down from an opening line of 3 in most shops), largely because the Saints (2-1) will have backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater under center.
And not Drew Brees.
No disrespect to Bridgewater, who acquitted himself nicely in last Sunday’s impressive 33-27 win against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.
But Brees is Brees, and, well, Bridgewater is Bridgewater, so the narrative goes.
Brees is expected to be sidelined until Week 10 against the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 10 at the Superdome. I suspect No. 9 is eyeing an earlier return, perhaps against the Arizona Cardinals at home on Oct. 27 prior to the Saints bye in Week 9.
He suggested as much during a radio interview this week, saying he thought he could “beat’‘ the projected six-to-eight week timetable.
We shall see. Rest assured, like fine wine, Brees will not play until it’s time.
Meantime, the Saints must try to feed off the momentum they created with the surprisingly easy road win against the Seahawks, who entered the game favored by 5 1/2 points. In the end, New Orleans won all three phases against a foe that looked ill-prepared for the moment.
That won’t be the case with the Cowboys, who snapped the Saints’ 10-game winning streak last season with a stunning 13-10 victory on national TV in Week 13 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The Cowboys dominated on defense, limiting the Saints’ prolific offense to a season-low 176 yards and thoroughly frustrating running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, wide receiver Michael Thomas and Brees in the process.
Ingram has shuffled off to Baltimore and Brees will be reduced to the role of spectator Sunday night cheering on his mates and sharing 19 NFL seasons of knowledge with Bridgewater and No. 3 quarterback Taysom Hill.
The 2019 Cowboys look to be better than the 2018 Cowboys, which is why I suspect there is more pressure on them to win Sunday night. They should win, according to many of the national pundits, prognosticators and oddsmakers, largely because, well, Bridgewater is not Brees.
Dallas is 3-0 for the first time since 2008, albeit its wins have come against three bottom-tier teams, the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins who have an aggregate 1-8 record.
Let the record show that Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has yet to throw an incompletion in the third quarter this season, completing all 22 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns. They have scored a TD on all three opening drives of the third quarter.
Let the record also show that Dallas toyed with those teams, trying not to overwork running back Ezekiel Elliott as he plays himself into game shape and not overburden Prescott who continues to wait on a new contract that owner Jerry Jones said was “imminent’‘ two weeks ago.
Then again, the G-Men, ‘Skins and Fish don’t have Teddy Bridgewater.
But you already knew that.