Drew Brees declared that he is “very confident” he’ll be under center when the New Orleans Saints vie for their first victory of the season when they host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. Nursing a bruised rotator cuff in his right shoulder, the veteran quarterback made the proclamation on Wednesday during a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Brees has been a limited participant in practice on both Wednesday and Thursday after sitting out last week’s 27-22 setback to NFC South rival Carolina. The Cowboys won’t shed a tear for the plight of the Saints, as quarterback Tony Romo (broken collarbone) will remain a bystander until at least Week 11 while the return of flashy wideout Dez Bryant (foot) is still up in the air. Backup Brandon Weeden fared well by completing 22-of-26 passes for 232 yards, but was unable to stretch the field as Dallas unraveled late and dropped a 39-28 decision to Atlanta. While Weeden is attempting to snap a nine-start losing streak, the Saints are hoping to avoid an 0-4 start for the third time in nine years (2007, 2012).
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened the Saints as 3.5-point home faves. The total is up to 48 from the opening 47.
G Ronald Leary (Probable, groin), LB Andrew Gachkar (Probable, foot), DE Ryan Russell (Probable, groin), LB Kyle Wilber (Probable, hamstring), DE Jeremy Mincey (Probable, concussion), TE Jason Witten (Probable, ankle), DE Randy Gregory (Late Oct, ankle), WR Dez Bryant (Late Oct, foot), LB Rolando McClain (Elig Week 5, suspension), DE Greg Hardy (Elig Week 5, suspension), QB Tony Romo (I-R, collarbone), Terrell McClain (I-R, toe), Chaz Green (I-R, hip), LB Mark Nzeocha (I-R, knee), CB Orlando Scandrick (I-R, knee).
CB Keenan Lewis (Probable, hip), S Jairus Byrd (Probable, knee), LB Dannell Ellerbe (Probable, toe), QB Drew Brees (Probable, shoulder), WR Brandin Cooks (Probable, ankle), DE Cameron Jordan (Probable, back), G Jahri Evans (Out, knee), S Rafael Bush (I-R, pectoral), LB Davis Tull (I-R, shoulder), CB P.J. Williams (I-R, hamstring), LB Anthony Spencer (I-R, undisclosed).
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Cowboys (+3.5) – Saints (+4) + home field (+3.0) = Saints -3.5
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Of Brandon Weeden’?s 22 completions, 18 went to a running back or a tight end. The only Cowboys wide receiver to catch a pass last Sunday was Cole Beasley. The betting markets viewed Luke McCown as nearly a full TD worse than Drew Brees. Will that opinion change after McCown?’s 310 yard effort at Carolina, completing 31 of 38 pass attempts?” Covers Expert Teddy Covers.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “We are pretty even as far as spread action but the moneyline bettors have been taking Dallas at a 3 to 1 clip. I think this stays right on the key number until kickoff. The total has escalated some and it will probably continue to rise.” John Lester, BookMaker.eu.
ABOUT THE COWBOYS (2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS, 2-1 O/U): Running backs Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar enjoyed career performances last week, with the former rushing for 87 yards and three touchdowns while the latter had a personal-best 10 receptions for 100 yards. Tight end Jason Witten has 21 catches to enjoy his best three-game start to a season and looks to exploit a New Orleans’ defense that has surrendered 17 receptions for 268 yards and three touchdowns to tight ends. “(The Panthers moved Greg Olsen) around and were able to hit on some big plays, some good throws and good catches, so you always hope you can kind of capitalize on some areas there,” Witten told ESPN.
ABOUT THE SAINTS (0-3 SU, 1-2 ATS, 2-1 O/U): Mark Ingram has struggled to get untracked on the ground (3.3 yards per carry), but the former Heisman Trophy winner has matched Brandin Cooks for the team lead with 16 receptions. Coach Sean Payton told the team’s official website that they’d like to expand the role of running back C.J. Spiller, who has been limited to four rushes for 11 yards and three receptions for 41 yards in two games since returning from knee surgery. Khiry Robinson, who leads the team with a 4.0 rushing average, amassed 105 total yards in New Orleans’ 38-17 setback to Dallas in 2014.
* Over is 4-0 in the last four meetings.
* Cowboys are 5-0 ATS in their last five road games.
* Saints are 0-6 ATS in their last six home games.
* Underdog is 9-1 ATS in their last 10 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Fifty-nine percent of Covers users are backing the Cowboys.