Posted on September 19, 2017, by Travis Pulver
The Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals both entered the 2017 season with playoff aspirations. But two games into the season finds neither team looking too good. Dallas is coming off a demoralizing loss to the Denver Broncos. Arizona is coming off a win, but it was against the Indianapolis Colts. Indianapolis is so bad this year that the Cleveland Browns are favored to beat them this week, and the Browns are the road team!
Two games don’t make a season, and neither would a third. But both teams could certainly use a nice, strong win to generate confidence among themselves and their fan base. But only one will be able to get it!
Who will it be? Well– it all depends on who decides to show up ready to play.
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Dallas played uncharacteristically bad. Maybe the defense was that bad to begin with. Our only reference is the Week One game against the Giants. New York had a terrible offense last year, and it is still terrible this year. So maybe the Dallas defense only appeared good because the New York offense is so bad?
Lucky for the Cowboys, but the Cardinals offense really isn’t much better than the Giants right now. With David Johnson out, the run game appears like it will be turned over to Chris Johnson (who was cut and resigned following Johnson’s injury). He played well in relief of Johnson a couple of years ago.
But injuries and a lack of effectiveness last year and in the preseason made him expendable when it came time for final cuts. If Johnson is being handed the reigns after getting cut a few weeks ago, that says a lot about how much confidence the Cardinals have in their other running backs.
Since they don’t have a running game, are the Cardinals done before the game starts? Not necessarily. Green Bay didn’t have one last season in the playoffs, but made up for it with a stellar short-to-intermediate range passing game.
In the past, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Carson Palmer doing like Aaron Rodgers and getting the job done. But the Cardinals are built more for the vertical passing game. That, and Palmer really hasn’t looked very good this season. He’s only completed 54.8 percent of his pass attempts, has thrown four interceptions, and been sacked five times.
To be fair, he did get the job done in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Colts. But the Cardinals never should have needed a late comeback and overtime to beat Indianapolis. If they can’t handle a team led by a quarterback whose only been on the roster for a couple of weeks—well, that’s bad.
Dallas suffered a few injuries in the secondary last week, and it remains to be seen who will be available. But that could be the saving grace for Carson Palmer. If Dallas is forced to go with their reserves and he can take advantage of them, the Cardinals will have a shot.
Of course, he may not get the opportunity to do so if the Cowboys offense can get back on track. Ezekiel Elliot will likely be out for blood after having the worst game of his young career last week. Dak Prescott will probably be looking to earn a little redemption as well.
The key will be for at least one of them to have some early success. If Elliot starts to eat up some yards, the Arizona defense will be forced to stack the box. This will, in turn, leave the receivers in man-to-man coverage. If Cole Beasley, Jason Witten, and Terrance Williams can earn their paychecks and give Prescott a window, he’ll hit it.
Denver’s defense didn’t allow them to gain any separation. But the Cardinals defense isn’t even close to being in the same class as the Broncos.
Dallas is going to have some stars on offense looking for a little redemption—and they’ll get it. Between Elliot’s run game and Prescott’s short passing game, the Cowboys are going to eat up a lot of clock on every drive. This will take a ton of pressure off the defense and help make the Arizona offense even more predictable than it is.
Oddsmakers favor Dallas by three, but they will win by double digits.