Sports

2012 NFL Week 16 Breakdown: New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys

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When the Cowboys were 3-5 there was speculation that Jerry Jones was in the market for a new coach and perhaps a new quarterback. Now, winners of three straight and five out of six, Dallas can win the NFC East with a victory today against New Orleans and next week in Washington. The play of Tony Romo has been nothing short of sensational during the Cowboys' rally. As for New Orleans, a lost season has been magnified by mistakes from Drew Brees.

Precisely what Dallas failed to do during the middle of the season is what they have accomplished during the last three weeks. The Cowboys suffered three close loses between Oct 14 and Nov 4 putting their season behind the eight ball. Over the last three weeks Dallas has won three games by a total of nine points. Romo has been the difference.

In the Cowboys' 27-24 overtime win against Pittsburgh last week Romo completed 30 of 42 passes for 341 yards and two touchdowns. It was the eighth time this season and fourth time in five weeks Romo has completed 70 percent or more of his passes. During a 5-1 run over the past six weeks Romo has completed 67 percent of his throws for an average of more than 312 yards per game while throwing for 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

The road has not been kind to New Orleans signal caller Drew Brees. His coach, Sean Payton, was banned for the season because of his involvement in the bounty scandal. Brees spent much of the off-season engaged in nasty contract negotiations with the Saints. After New Orleans started the season 0-4, they bounced back to win five of six. However, Brees played poorly in a subsequent three game losing streak that all but eliminated the Saints from playoff contention.

When New Orleans won five times in six weeks Brees passed for 18 touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 67-percent of his passes. During three straight defeats he was picked off nine times, tossed four interceptions, and connected on 56-percent of his throws. While Brees rallied in last week’s 41-0 win over Tampa Bay, it is too little too late this year for New Orleans.

Brees and the Saints are likely to be improved next season assuming Payton returns and the stability of a conventional off-season take place. The time is now for Dallas. For all of the early criticism, and recent praise, they control their destiny and the ball is in their court to advance to the NFL's second season.