The Dallas Cowboys have turned their season around with a three-game winning streak. They have positioned themselves as the favorite to win the NFC East. Tonight Dallas will face the red-hot New Orleans Saints, winners of ten straight games. This game isn’t about Dallas winning the NFC East. While a win would increase their odds of being division champs, even with a loss they would still be the favorites and control their own playoff destiny. What tonight’s game is about is proving that Dallas can compete with the top teams in the NFC if/when they do make the playoffs. So how does Dallas defeat the 10-1 Saints? Here are my five keys to victory.

1. Control the clock.

The New Orleans Saints have one of the highest powered offenses in the NFL. They average 37 points per game. The best way to stop Drew Brees from putting up points if to keep him on the sidelines. If Dallas can dominate the time of possession and limit how many possessions New Orleans gets, their odds of winning will increase.

2. Establish the running game.

The best way to control the clock is to establish the running game with Ezekiel Elliott early. The Saints are ranked number one against the run but that’s a little deceiving. The main reason they are ranked number one is that teams get down big to the Saints early and abandon the run game altogether. Dallas must continue to run the ball even if they get down early.

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3. Convert third downs

The other key to keeping the offense on the field is to convert third downs. Since Dallas traded for Amari Cooper they lead the league in third-down conversions. The Cowboys will need to continue that success on third downs if they want to pull the upset tonight.

4. Defense needs to have their best game.

The Dallas Defense has played very well this season. Tonight will be their toughest challenge of the year. New Orleans is averaging 37.2 points per game and they are scoring on an astonishing 61 percent of their drives. Dallas’ Defense is only allowing 19.4 points per game and they are also the only team in the NFL not to allow a 30 point game this season. If Dallas can hold the saints under 30 they will have to be viewed as an elite defense and they will have a great shot at winning the game.

5. Play loose and free.

Dallas enters this game as the underdogs. Nobody expects them to win. Dallas should play this game like it has nothing to lose. That means take some chances. Try a surprise onside kick or a fake punt. When it’s fourth and 3 or less around midfield don’t punt the ball, go for it. If you lose people will just say the Saints are a juggernaut. However, if Dallas takes some chances and pulls off the upset the narrative will change. Dallas will go from being viewed as the NFC East favorites to a team that can make some noise come playoff time.

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