Dallas Cowboys vs. Arizona Cardinals: What to watch for

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 30: Dak Prescott
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 30: Dak Prescott /

After an embarrassing performance last week on the road, the Dallas Cowboys are back at it again trying to rebound in the desert. Here’s what to watch for..

Welcome to the NFL.  One week you can look like possible Super Bowl champs.  The next, super chumps.

In just two weeks’ time, the Dallas Cowboys have seen both ends of the spectrum.  After an impressive home victory over a divisional opponent, the Cowboys appeared to be picking up where they left off in 2016.  Last week?  Not so much.

It’s hard to truly evaluate a game like the one the Dallas Cowboys played in Denver.  We all know that this team is not that bad.  Denver is a very good team, especially so in their own building.

You’ve probably heard a lot about their unique personnel and that it was a bad matchup for Dallas. While I give the Broncos a lot of credit for their talent, I would not be so quick to say that the result from Week 2 would occur again if the two teams meet in February.

The simple answer is that Denver did exactly what they set out to do, while the Cowboys had about the worst day collectively they ever will.  A not so perfect storm of sorts.

The good thing about such a loss, if there is one, is that it happened early in the season.  There are PLENTY of opportunities for the Dallas Cowboys to right the ship.  This week, they just have to wait an extra day.

The Dallas Cowboys finish Week 3, featured on Monday Night Football, facing off against the Arizona Cardinals.  If you think things will get any easier, think again.  Denver definitely has one of the best defenses in the league but the Cardinals aren’t too shabby either.

Arizona boasts stars such as Patrick Peterson at cornerback and Tyrann Mathieu at safety.  To augment their talents, the Cardinals have skilled pass rushers such as Chandler Jones and Robert Nkemdiche.  They have added youth as well, landing Haason Reddick and Budda Baker in this year’s draft.

So, how do the Dallas Cowboys go on the road in primetime and right the ship against a tough Cardinals team?  Here are some things to what to watch for on Monday Night Football:

  • Things will not get any easier for the Dallas Cowboys rush attack.  The catalyst for this offense was shut down last week in Denver.  This week, they face a Cardinals team that has been difficult to run on as well.  Arizona has finished in the top ten against the run in three of the past four years.

Nothing has changed for the Cowboys.  The strength of this team is the offensive line and the running game.  Dallas has amassed more than 100 yards on the ground in 21 of their last 23 games.  This also helps a questionable defense which still requires the protection of having to defend minimal plays.  If the Cowboys are to win, look for Ezekiel Elliott to get back on track and eclipse 100 yards.

  • The biggest key in this game, however, may be the blitz.  Arizona employs a very aggressive style of defense.  Last season, they brought pressure on over 32% of their defensive snaps, second only to Denver.  Dallas, meanwhile, rarely if ever uses this sort of scheme.

Both teams will be facing quarterbacks that are extremely good against the blitz which makes this showdown all the more intriguing.  In 2015, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer ranked as the best against the blitz.  Last season, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was fourth overall.

It’s very likely that Palmer will not see too many Cowboys blitz packages.  Prescott will almost certainly see many on his end, however.  How Dak handles that pressure will likely correlate to the final result.

  • Defensively, for the Dallas Cowboys, they are in need of a bounce-back performance.  After giving up just three points against the Giants, a very average Broncos offense had their way with them.  The Broncos kept Dallas on the field way too easily, as they were able to amass 26 first downs.  That was double what the Cowboys allowed the Giants in Week 1.

Dallas also gave up over 175 yards rushing to Denver which was the most since Week 16 of the 2015 season.  On the bright side for the Cowboys is the fact that star running back David Johnson will be missing from Arizona’s offense.  If the Cowboys can get back on track and limit the Cardinals run game, they should win this game.

Forcing Palmer to beat you consistently seems to be the Cowboys best bet, even though they’ll be banged up in their secondary.  The days of Palmer picking apart defenses in the passing game are few and far between.

Next: Dallas Cowboys - Offensive keys to beating the Cardinals

Even though both teams are dealing with some early injuries to key parts of their team, it’s hard to envision the Cowboys losing two in a row here.  While Arizona has the advantage of playing at home, Dallas has been a good road team despite last week’s performance.

The prediction: Cowboys 27, Cardinals 21