This is the seventh time the Cowboys have played Sean Payton's Saints since 2006, with six of those meetings happening on the prime-time national stage. Dallas has won only two of six of these meetings, with the memorable 2009 upset of the 13-0 Saints and then last year's Sunday night affair in Arlington.
The last trip to the Superdome for Jason Garrett's side was humiliation of the highest order when the Saints punted on their first drive and then scored touchdowns on seven of their next eight drives (the other was a missed field goal) on their way to a 49-17 drubbing. On that occasion, new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan kept the Cowboys from converting a third down (0-for-9) the entire evening in his first meeting against his old employer.
The Saints still have several familiar names but have tried to retool amidst salary cap issues in the offseason, trying to invest more in their defense to supplement the final years of the Drew Brees era.
Here are some key players to watch Sunday night who have all been selected in the first round since 2011:
The first round of the 2011 draft was loaded with star talent, and two of those studs will square off when Tyron Smith (No. 9) and Jordan (No. 24) tangle on the blindside of Brandon Weeden. Jordan has an impressive combination of speed and power that allows him to get to the QB. Even more valuable is his versatility, which allows him to move anywhere on the line and, like Greg Hardy, can cause plenty of trouble from defensive tackle. This season, the Saints appear to be short of pass rushers, so the player who has signed a new five-year ,$55 million deal is being counted on to lead the team again.
Cooks just turned 22 last week after being selected with the Saints' top pick in 2014 out of Oregon State. Before missing the final seven weeks of last season because of a broken thumb, he was used all over the field in ways to generate big plays. Often a deep threat, the diminutive speedster threatens a defense underneath with jet sweeps, quick outs and option routes that stress all types of coverages. He has fantastic toughness as well, but if there is an issue in 2015, it would be that Saints QBs have just a 58.2 passer rating on 23 passes intended for him, many of which are forced into coverage. Last week's contest in Carolina ended on an interception into the end zone that was underthrown but intended for Cooks. But, make no mistake, he is a real threat and perhaps the most dangerous weapon the Saints have.
The linebacker from Clemson was selected with the 31st pick in this year's draft, the pick received in the Jimmy Graham trade with the Seahawks. He is as gifted as they come, with a wide receiver's 40 time (4.56 seconds) and vertical leap (37 inches), yet hits with ideal linebacker size, thump and intensity. He is a leader who is going to take a while to acclimate to the NFL, but he appears to be the type of inside LB who will be running this defense for years. A true three-down linebacker in a league that is looking for them, the Saints were pleased to invest in his future when the opportunity presented itself.