The Dallas Cowboys (6-2) are set to face off against the Arizona Cardinals (6-1) today at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys will have to go against this mighty opponent without Justin Durant who was lost for the year with a torn Bicep. They also will most likely, be without Tony Romo who has now went from a bruise, to a contusion, to fractured back. These are two of your top six players on your team now. But so be the grind of playing in the NFL. Injuries happen. Either you are lucky to have the injury bug hit where you have depth or good enough that it doesn’t hinder you from achieving success. The Cowboys are hoping for both.
Brandon Weeden will get the start for Dallas. Last week he performed well in what was a sample size of playtime. This week Weeden will be fed a main course. The Cowboys hope that what they are loosing in play making ability and knowledge of Defenses will be negated by Weeden’s arm strength and momentum.
On Defense, the Cowboys look to Anthony Hitchens, rookie out of Iowa, to step up in the place of Durant. He has already shown he can make plays when asked, and has started this year. The Cowboys were mocked for picking Hitchens, but they knew exactly what they were getting and the pick has payed off.
With Romo out and DeMarco Murray leading the league in rushing, you would think that the Cowboys will just run the ball down the Cardinals throats. Easier said than done. Arizona only gives up 77 yards on the ground a game, second in the NFL. They have yet to see a runner go over 84 yards (LeSean McCoy) and only one team has rushed for a 100 yards on them. (Eagles) So even with this line, it will be hard to win the edge in the running game. The other dynamic is that while they are stellar at rush defense, they are dead last in passing yards per game at 311. These numbers are misleading in the fact that they played Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers.MNot only that, but you have one of the best Corners in the league in Patrick Peterson back there who is dynamic as any corner we have seen in the last 15 years. If Dez is looking to redeem his self and release some frustrations, now would be a good time. Or maybe Weeden can use his arm strength to go deep to Williams or fire it in to Gavin Escobar who was quite Monday. This receiving corp will have to come up with plays to help out their quarterback.
Weeden and this Cowboys offensive line will also have to Combat the Cardinals blitz packages. Last year, the Cardinals blitzed more than any other team at 49% of all drop back passes and they show no signs of letting up. Last week, the Cowboys struggled to find the answer to Washington’s blitzes. With a backup QB who sometimes locks onto receivers, look for Arizona to not only bring the blitz but be creative with it. The Cowboys need to get the plays in to Weeden fast, avoid 3rd and longs, pick up the blitzes better than they did the last week. The line will have to hold their lives edge blocks longer since Weeden does not possess the ROMO-bility to extend plays and avoid rushers. The pocket needs to be set and allow him to make plays there. Overall, the Cowboys have a good offense. They can run or pass and are ranked 6th in the NFL in scoring efficiency. With all the Talent Weeden has around him, he doesn’t need to wow anyone. Do his job and trust his team mates and preparation.
Carson Palmer is playing terrific football right now. He is showing excellent control in Bruce Arian’s offense. He has been savvy and efficient and the Cardinals have yet to lose with him under center this year. They are one of the most talented offensive teams on paper. Two studs at wide receiver and a blazing rookie who is eager to gain targets and make a name for himself, a TE who gets over looked sometimes, and two running backs who can beat you any type of way coming out of the back field in Arrington and Taylor.
This Cowboys Defense will face its toughest task yet. Though they are tied 4th in pass deflections and 12th in pass defense, they are 19th in stopping the run and overall efficiency. To become a better Defense, they need more front line attack and better play from their suspect secondary. They have the ability to play better than what we have seen. Is today the day that it all comes together for them? One thing to look forward to is rather those deflected passes will turn into more intercepted passes.
Those familiar with the Cowboys know how well they have played in the November the last week ten years, Tony Romo has a 24-5 record in November. The question is rather the trend will continue or will the Arizona Cardinals get the best of Brandon Weeden and the Cowboys? We are about to find out…