Fresh off their most dominant win of the season, the Dallas Cowboys (11-4) head into their final home game of the regular season against the Arizona Cardinals (10-5).
Before the two teams square off, here are three bold predictions for Sunday’s matchup.
1) Cowboys attack Arizona on the ground, rushing for over 135 yards as a team
During their four-game winning streak, the Cowboys still have not gotten their running game completely back on track. Dallas rushed for 153 yards as a team against New Orleans (much of which was gained on one single run), their second-highest rushing total of the season, but have not been able to establish a consistent presence in the running game since.
That changes Sunday when they face the Cardinals. Over the last six games, Arizona has struggled to stop the run, giving up almost 120 rushing yards per game. Even during their 7-0 start to the season, Arizona’s rush defense was not performing well surrendering over 150 rushing yards three times.
Pro Football Focus ranks the Cardinals as the ninth-worst run defense in football, recording a team run defense grade below 60 in six of their last eight games.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen the duo of Elliott and Pollard really break out, but we’re about to see it again on Sunday. Despite rushing for just 37 yards on nine carries, Ezekiel Elliott looked as healthy as we’ve seen him since early on in the season on Sunday. Elliott has looked much more comfortable over the last two weeks as he works his way through a knee injury, and this will be the week we finally see him explode.
Zeke runs the ball 15 times for 85-90 yards, accompanied by Pollard adding a 30-yard touchdown run.
2) Kyler Murray’s struggles continue, as the Cowboys force him into two interceptions
DeAndre Hopkins not being available certainly hurts, but Kyler Murray just isn’t playing good football right now. For the second straight year, Murray has looked like an MVP up until October and then cooled off down the stretch after coming back from an injury.
It’s astonishing when you look at just how good Murray was early on compared to what he is doing now. In the first seven games of the season, when the Cardinals were 7-0, the former number one overall pick completed nearly 74% of his throws, tossing 17 touchdown passes to just five interceptions. Murray also ran for 126 yards and scored three touchdowns on the ground.
In his last five games, Murray has come back to earth. The signal-caller has completed just 63% of his throws and tossed four touchdown passes to five interceptions. Murray’s quarterback rating during the first seven games of the season was 116.8. During his last five, it’s dropped all the way to 80.4.
The Cowboys defense is on a roll right now taking the football away, recording 14 takeaways in their last four games. This hot streak will continue on Sunday, as the Cowboys take advantage of the slumping Murray and force him to throw two interceptions, courtesy of Trevon Diggs and Anthony Brown.
3) Dallas walks out with a double-digit victory and a chance at the NFC’s No. 1 seed
Injuries have clearly hindered their success, but the last month of the season has shown, right now, the Cardinals are a struggling team. You can’t lose to the Detroit Lions and expect to be seen as a true Super Bowl contender, and this just feels like a game with two teams going in opposite directions.
Even though they have clinched a playoff sport, Arizona is watching their playoff hopes go down the drain as the Cowboys are climbing the ladder as one of the league’s best teams. With Murray struggling and injuries on both sides of the ball, Arizona just won’t be able to keep up in this game.
The Cardinals are able to keep it competitive for the first half, but Dallas pulls away in the end, walking out with a double-digit victory and keeping their hopes at getting the NFC’s No. 1 seed alive.