Two years removed from his role as play-caller of the Dallas defense, Rob Ryan has a pretty solid read on the Cowboys, who he'll face Sunday night.
Now the Saints coordinator, Ryan earned rave reviews last season for taking over a moribund New Orleans unit and turning them into a beast. After the Saints allowed an NFL-worst 440.1 yards per game in 2012, Ryan's defense held teams to a fourth-best 305.7 yards per outing in 2013. Dallas, meanwhile, bottomed out last season to permit an NFL-worst 415.3 yards per game in Ryan's absence.
More than a few of us in the NFL newsroom picked the Saints to reach the Super Bowl this year partly because of Ryan's handiwork. The defense, though, has struggled out of the gate to give up 25-plus points in both of their road games while allowing 379.7 yards per tilt -- worse than 23 other teams. More troubling, New Orleans has just one takeaway all year.
Sunday night's result is likely to hinge on Ryan's ability to slow a Cowboys offense that is gashing teams on the ground game behind DeMarco Murray. New Orleans (1-2) badly needs a win on the road to stay afloat in the NFC South, but Ryan -- a realist -- isn't expecting much support from the home crowd at Jerrah World.