The afternoon game on Thanksgiving Day this year brings last season's Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints (7-3) to Cowboys Stadium to face a newly invigorated Dallas team (3-7). It's the second game of the day to feature two teams with opposite win-loss records facing each other -- the 8-2 Patriots and 2-8 Lions will lead off the day's games.
Though the defending Super Bowl champions have been challenged at certain points of the year by teams they should have and could have beaten, the depth of the team improved as a result.
Injuries to key players plague the Saints going into this game, though Running Back Reggie Bush is expected to be back in action Thursday afternoon. While he steps in, fellow back Pierre Thomas may still be out with a bad ankle, and Ladell Betts has a neck injury that should keep him on the sidelines as well.
Players have had to step up on this team to put together amazing performances in order for the Saints to stay viable as a threat to return to the Super Bowl this year and defend their title. Rookie Chris Ivory helped share the running load in the absence of the team's superstar rushers, and running alongside a veteran like Bush on Thanksgiving will surely only help mold this young rookie into a superstar himself.
Though in most professions folks would be itching to get Thanksgiving Day off from work, many of the walking wounded on the Saints team will be looking to come back to work full time on the holiday. The Saints could see the return of safeties Malcolm Jenkins (neck) and Darren Sharper (hamstring). Tight end Jeremy Shockey (rib) could also potentially be back for this game.
The Cowboys will be looking to stay on the rebound and repeat last year's success against the Saints. John Kitna has the passing game working better, but the Saints have the second best passing defense in the league. The Cowboys rushing attack also improved in the wake of Coach Wade Phillips being fired, but it is likely too little too late. The Saints have a better chance of starting this year's Super Bowl at this juncture than the Cowboys do of getting the home start since this season's big game will be held in Dallas.
Drew Brees and the teammates he welcomes back this week should have no problem dismantling the Cowboy comeback and putting a stop to any momentum Dallas had coming into this game. Look for the Cowboys to come in hungry and motivated, but in time the discrepancies in talent, skill, and depth will emerge in favor of the Saints.
The Saints lead the league in passing touchdown output, so they will get it done through the air more than on the ground even if Bush does have a career day in his return debut. Dallas will have to snatch a few key interceptions to have a chance against this steadily improving Saints team. This will be a tactical game, and a blowout win for the Saints is the most likely outcome, though the Cowboys may keep it close if the running game gets untracked again.
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