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Cowboys at Cardinals: Each team’s X-factor player for Week 3

Fresh off another dominant Week 2 performance, the Cowboys will look to start the season 3-0 against the Cardinals.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a blistering hot start that has the Dallas Cowboys sitting 2-0, the Cowboys head west to face an Arizona Cardinals team that is heading in a very different direction in 2023.

The Cardinals have made some interesting moves this offseason as they shipped off some of their premier talent with their eyes squarely focused on the future. While that may be the plan, in the here and now, despite their 0-2 start and many believing they are “organically tanking” this season, the Cardinals have been a scrappy bunch that was all the Washington Commanders and New York Giants could handle in the first two weeks of the year.

Make no mistake about it - a loss this week for the Cowboys would be a terrible one, but if they are able to handle business as they should, it will go a long way in the Cowboys solidifying who they are amongst the league’s. It will prove that they can avoid trap games.

To help the cause it looks as if the Cowboys are getting healthier heading into Week 3 with the expected return of some starters and significant contributors. With that in mind, one of those expected returning starters is this week's x-factor for the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys X-factor:

Tyler Smith

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Smith hasn’t played a single snap this season due to a hamstring injury he suffered leading up to the Week 1 contest versus the Giants. Despite that, the Cowboys' offensive line has held up well as the team only has one sack during his absence. Smith is practicing in a limited fashion and the expectation is he will be out there on Sunday in his customary left guard spot.

Without minimizing the current opponent, having Smith back and making him this week's x-factor has far greater implications for this team than just in Week 3 against the Cardinals. This will be the first time since early 2022 that the Cowboys will have five starters on the offensive line together as a unit. The left side of Tyron and Tyler Smith is going to be daunting for opposing defensive lines and as those two work together. They will progress into the cohesion that is going to pay massive dividends in the long run.

Smith is an important piece to this offensive line, not only as a starter, but as a depth piece as well. If something were to happen to one of the two offensive tackles, Smith would in likely be inserted as the “swing tackle” in their place as the Cowboys use his versatility and experience as a tackle throughout his collegiate and early NFL career to fill the gap. Getting Smith back into the fold is a huge deal for this offense and for that reason, he is this week’s, and maybe even this season’s, x-factor.

Arizona Cardinals X-factor:

Josh Dobbs

New York Giants v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Josh Dobbs is a highly intelligent veteran quarterback who has been put into a tough situation. He may not be a star but he is capable, and he is proving that much so far through two games this season. Dobbs was traded to the Cardinals just over a week before the start of the year and was thrust into a starting role for a failing team with a new coach. While the team hasn’t won a game yet, their fight and resolve through it all is a testament to Dobbs and the rest of his teammates.

There is no reason why the Cardinals should beat the Cowboys on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean they can’t or they won't. Dobbs has played against this Cowboys' defense before, just last year when he was with the Tennessee Titans. Dobbs, in front of a national audience on Thursday Night Football gave the Cowboys some worry as he finished 20 for 39 with 232 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception in the 27-13 Cowboys win. The Cowboys didn’t look good that night despite the win, and Dobbs played a big part in the sour feelings on Friday morning.

Nobody is expecting the Cardinals to win this game, and when a team has nothing to lose they play loose. Expect to get the best of Dobbs and the Cardinals Sunday, and when it is all said and done, we will all get a chance to see if it was good enough or not.

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