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Sunday Night Football Preview: An NFC Shootout

Will Brees and Graham put on a show in Dallas?

The New Orleans Saints probably expected to be 3-0 by now. But with a season opening schedule featuring teams that combined to win 13 games in 2013, Drew Brees and company have stumbled out of the gates to a 1-2 start, largely due to defensive inefficiencies.

Thought to be an improved unit after signing Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd to anchor the 2013’s top-10 defense, the Saints have been anything but, putting up the fifth worst Defensive Net Expected Points (NEP) total in the NFL, performing, on average, 11.18 points below expectation. They’ve been dreadful against the pass – third worst in the league – and are allowing 24 points per game, five points higher than their 2013 total. They travel to Dallas to take on the 2-1 Cowboys in what many expect to be a prime-time shootout.

The Cowboys feature two of the NFL’s top offensive players in the league’s leading rusher DeMarco Murray, and consensus top three fantasy wide receiver Dez Bryant. The Cowboys' 2-1 start comes with its fair share of statistical quirks, as Murray, despite being fantasy football’s second best running back, ranks 92nd in our Rushing NEP metric among running backs thanks to his fumbling issues. His fast start is benefitting fantasy owners, but is not helping the Cowboys add more points on a game by game basis. He is, however, sixth among backs with at least 20 carries in Success Rate at 52.00%, meaning that his positive plays are slightly outweighing his negative ones.

Bryant, on the other hand, is 10th among wide receivers in Reception and Total NEP, and is seventh overall in fantasy scoring at the position. After a quiet Week 1, Bryant has contributed at least 89 yards and a touchdown in each of the last two games. With New Orleans struggling in pass defense, Dez should be plenty busy on Sunday Night. In a game with the highest projected total of the week, offenses will be on display.

Let’s see how our numbers see it shaking out.

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