The Dallas Cowboys finished the oh so important month of December in perfect fashion. With a 4-0 record in the final month of the year, the Cowboys are feeling good coming off the heels of a divisional beatdown the week prior that saw them clinch a playoff spot and the division title before they even suited up on Sunday night.
December is over and in comes the reeling Arizona Cardinals to town. Arizona are losers of three straight, one of which coming at the hands to the lowly Detroit Lions. Ultimately with two games left, and important playoff seeding factors to still be hashed out, don’t expect anything less than the Cardinals’ absolute best. Their roster is full of talent, and it all starts with their dynamic quarterback Kyler Murray. This game is going to be a challenge, and the Cowboys will look to prove they are who we think they are versus another playoff opponent.
Here are five things to watch this week:
1. This defense will have a tough test versus Kyler Murray.
Kyler Murray is different. The way you defend a quarterback like Murray is not your typical preparation, and the Cowboys defense knows that. An athlete of his caliber has game-wrecking speed, with a big, natural arm that can take the top off an opposing defense. Everything flows through the young quarterback, and the Cowboys will have to be focused on making sure they contain Murray and stop him from making the big plays. Look for the Dallas to use Micah Parsons in a spy role this week. They are going to want to match athletes in this game, and with a solid game plan, Dallas can get the best of this offensive unit.
2. Chandler Jones versus the offensive tackles.
Chandler Jones, for a lack of a better word, is an absolute monster on the defensive line. When healthy, Jones is one of the leagues best pass rushers and has all the ability in the world to cause nightmares for an opposing offense. So this is a perfect week for Tyron Smith to be trending in a positive direction toward playing this Sunday as the Cowboys will need all hands on deck to protect Dak Prescott. Look for the Cowboys be aware of where Jones is at all times and do not be surprised if the Cowboys still give their tackles some help by way of running back help and tight end chips to make getting to the QB a bit more of a challenge for him.
3. The Cowboys pass catchers could have a field day versus this defense.
This Cardinals defense, specifically in the secondary, is susceptible to giving up completions. The best ‘completion percentage against’ in their secondary is owned by Robert Alford who is allowing 57% of passes defensed to be completed. Additionally, Byron Murphy is allowing 63%, Marco Wilson is allowing 70%, and even linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Jordan Hicks are allowing 70% and 75% respectively. The bottom line is the Cowboys should have opportunities to win in the passing game and extend drives. Ball control, scoring six rather than three, and playing clean sound football with ensure victory for this Cowboys team, and it very well can be won through the air and by the arm of Prescott.
4. The Cowboys better have an answer for James Conner (if healthy) and the running game.
James Conner has had quite the year this year in Arizona as he has already tallied 14 rushing touchdowns to go with his 700 rushing yards in 15 games. He is a tough back who should be a game-time decision to play at this point, but if he is out there and able to go he provides toughness and a nice one-two punch paired with Chase Edmonds. Whether its through the air with Kyler, or on the ground, the Cowboys will have a lot to prepare for defensively as this Cardinals unit, even with mounting injuries, has weapons all over the field.
5. December was perfect, but this is where the real season begins.
Arizona has always been a game that we all knew could have big meaning. What exactly would be at stake was unclear, but as we approach Sunday, everything the Cowboys have worked hard for is still in front of them. They still have a chance at obtaining a higher seed and reaching the top spot, but it will take a win on Sunday afternoon to keep that hope alive. On top of that is the fact that this a Cardinals team that knows they have been struggling as of late and they have a lot at stake themselves, and they will be looking to right the ship come Sunday. The Cowboys are going to be in a hard fought battle and to come out of this week victorious will go a long way in the Cowboys showing us who they really are as the playoffs approach.