Happy Week 13! The Dallas Cowboys will be searching to put an end to a disappointing two-game losing streak when they meet the New Orleans Saints at the Caesars Superdome for this week's iteration of Thursday Night Football.
The Cowboys were shocked by the Las Vegas Raiders on Thanksgiving, losing an overtime thriller by a final score of 36-33. The Saints, meanwhile, have unfortunately witnessed a once-promising campaign unravel before their eyes due to a variety of reasons, most notably a plethora of injuries suffered by key players. Both teams received a boost on the injury front. The Saints are expected to welcome running back Mark Ingram back into their lineup on Thursday night, while Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott, who was initially expected to miss the match with a recurring injury, appears healthy enough to suit up.
The outcome of this contest will have wide-ranging implications on the NFC's playoff picture. Here are three player-versus-player matchups we’re particularly excited to monitor.
MARSHON LATTIMORE VS. AMARI COOPER & CEEDEE LAMB
Marshon Lattimore regularly serves as New Orleans' top cornerback, and he'll be tested at the highest level imaginable all throughout this contest. The Cowboys may boast the league's most feared one-two punch at the receiver position, and both players appear set to be available for Thursday's highly intriguing contest.
Amari Cooper was recently activated from the team's COVID-Reserve List and is expected to play. His elite running mate CeeDee Lamb is no longer in the concussion protocol and will provide starting quarterback Dak Prescott with another big-time weapon on the outside opposite Cooper.
A three-time Pro Bowler, Lattimore is experiencing a bit of a down year by his high standards. The Saints haven't opted to shadow an opposing receiver with Lattimore in recent matches and that strategy is expected to continue during Thursday's highly-intriguing showdown. It means Lattimore should see a mixture of both Lamb and Cooper on a relatively snap-by-snap basis. Lattimore will need to bring his A-game.
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT & TONY POLLARD VS. SAINTS LBS
Dallas' offense features a pair of extremely talented and effective running backs in Elliott and Tony Pollard. Watching this backfield develop into more of a timeshare has been a fascinating exercise, with Pollard being highly involved on a weekly basis. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has handled the makeover in a rather flawless fashion. Both players have proven to be excellent weapons in the passing game as well.
Elliott has recorded a healthy 12 receptions over his last two contests and has totaled an impressive 38 catches in 11 games. Pollard continues to be equally as productive with 29 receptions to his name. They'll encounter a talented Saints defense that is giving up 343.7 yards per contest. Starting linebackers Kwon Alexander and Demario Davis have routinely been deployed in coverage this season, seeing 132 and 364 coverage snaps respectively, via Pro Football Focus. Both players excel in this area of the game and will be tasked with slowing down Elliott and Pollard.
MICAH PARSONS VS. TERRON ARMSTEAD OR JAMES HURST
New Orleans' three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead's status for Thursday hangs in the balance, as the former Arkansas Pine-Bluff standout continues to deal with an unfortunate knee injury that has held him out of action for several weeks. Armstead failed to practice on Wednesday, which would insinuate he's trending on the wrong side of questionable. Should Armstead be forced to watch from the sidelines, he'll be replaced by backup swing tackle James Hurst.
Although he largely serves as an unknown commodity outside of New Orleans, Hurst has actually performed admirably when called upon in recent showings. He'll face his stiffest test yet in the form of Dallas' Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Micah Parsons.
The 12th overall selection in the 2021 draft, Parsons has absolutely hit the ground running by recording a team-high nine sacks through 11 games. Parsons' newfound success at a position he scarcely played at Penn State is a true testament to his rare athletic traits.
Parsons is rightfully taking the league by storm right now. If Hurst is tasked with protecting the blindside, Parsons will relish his opportunity to leave his mark on Thursday's game.