As Week 3 is officially underway, the Dallas Cowboys have found themselves with their backs against the wall after an embarrassing loss in Denver. The Cowboys (1-1) will be looking to rebound as they travel to Phoenix to play the Arizona Cardinals (1-1) on Monday Night. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN with Jon Gruden and Sean McDonough calling the game from the booth.
The Dallas Cowboys need this win. Now of course, the season certainly won’t be over if they lose. But after a brutal 42-17 loss to the Broncos which was the largest defeat in the Prescott-Elliott era, bouncing back with a statement win on Monday Night Football is the perfect way to get the mojo back.
All week the media has been harping on the fact that the Cowboys just simply aren’t as good as they were, and that they’re easy to beat. All you need to do is stack the box to eliminate the run game and force Dak Prescott to make tough throws. Sure that works well in theory… if you’re the Denver Broncos defense at home in early September. I do not anticipate the Cowboys getting completely dominated the way they did last week, regardless of how many men opposing teams put in the box.
So this Monday Night prime time game is a huge opportunity for the Cowboys to not only prove to the media that they’re still an elite team, they need to prove it to themselves. Between the bad loss, lingering drama with Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension and now the questioning of Zeke’s efforts after not even trying to tackle the opposing player after an interception, the Cowboys need a statement win to get back on track.
The Arizona Cardinals are a very interesting team. After losing their first game to the Detroit Lions and merely sneaking out of Indianapolis last week with an overtime win, I’m not very sure where they stand. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has looked lackluster at best, having compiled 601 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions over the past two games. Arizona will also be without star running back David Johnson (wrist) and speedy wide receiver John Brown (quadricep) which means their offense is already be bruised and battered.
This is good news for a Cowboys defense that got WORKED last week. Granted, Dallas’ defense isn’t exactly healthy either as corner backs Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) and Nolan Carroll (concussion) both left last week’s game early and their availability for this week is still in question. This is the last thing the Dallas secondary needs as they were already the most inexperienced and thin squad on the field. However, there is some good news – cornerback Orlando Scandrick is expected to play on Monday after missing last game due to undergoing surgery on a dislocated wrist.
Dallas’ defense absolutely cannot let the Cardinals get going on offense. It will be Arizona’s first home game of the year, and University of Phoenix Stadium will be a hostile environment. The Cardinals offense has looked weak, but so has the Cowboys’ defense. It will be crucial to set the tone early by forcing quick three-and-outs, consequently sucking any momentum away and giving the offense the opportunity to control this game.
It is no secret Dallas’ offense is the driver of this team. Personally, I am not very discouraged by last week’s display. Sometimes you need a humbling loss for some motivation and to refocus. If Dak is as strong as a leader that his teammates have made him out to be, he knows that he needs to have the offense clicking on all cylinders come Monday night.
After the Broncos contained Ezekiel Elliott to just eight yards (it still hurts to type those stats) you have to assume that Arizona is going to try and cram the line of scrimmage and mimic Denver’s game plan. Although Cardinals coach Bruce Arians eluded to the fact that you need Denver’s roster in order to play the same style, I’m still expecting to see lots of run-stop formations and blitzes to force the pass.
So what can we expect from Dak this week? For starters, while the Cardinals secondary isn’t exactly up to par with Denver’s, they are still very good as Dez Bryant will be covered by all-pro cornerback Patrick Peterson all game. This matchup will be a key point for Monday night as it was apparent that when Dak felt pressure last week, he forced the ball to Dez. It will be no easy task, but Bryant needs to win the 50/50 balls in order for the Cowboys to get rolling early. The incorporation of some quick-hit slants to Cole Beasley or the ultimate security blanket that is Jason Witten.
If the passing game can at least force the second level of Arizona’s defense to be on their heels, I foresee an EXPLOSION from the rushing attack. Let’s not get too carried away here – Dallas still has one of, if not the best offensive lines in professional football. Keep in mind all of the flack Zeke has caught this week for his lack of effort, which was very upsetting to see, but nonetheless he must be ready to let his play do the talking. I think Zeke gets going quick and the momentum helps the Cowboys dictate the pace of this game while dominating the time of possession.
It’s hard to call a Week 3 matchup a must-win game, but playing in front of a national audience after getting embarrassed is too perfect of a setup for a rebound win. I love the Cowboys in this game (I know, you’re shocked) to win by a couple scores after grinding the Arizona defense down with Zeke having his breakout game for the season, and Dak tossing a pair of touchdowns.
Sal Fama: Dallas Cowboys 34 Arizona Cardinals 20
Chris Torpey: Dallas Cowboys 27 Arizona Cardinals 20
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