By Zach Walker
Arizona Cardinals vs. Dallas Cowboys
Sunday – November 2 – 12:00 pm
AT&T Stadium – Arlington
Who do the Cowboys need to shut down?
WR Josh Brown – Take your pick, the speedy Brown, the savvy veteran Larry Fitzgerald or explosive Michael Floyd. Brown caught the game-winner a week ago against the Eagles, and really showcased his jets. Larry Fitzgerald is always going to be on the quarterback’s mind and Floyd has shown his ability to catch in traffic and take the ball out of the air. The Cardinals spread the ball extremely well, Floyd and Brown each have 43 targets, as does the running back Andre Ellington, and Larry Fitzgerald has 49 targets. Floyd is a mop for first downs, having basically 75% of his catches moving the chains. But Brown is a matchup nightmare, only 5 foot 10 and having speed on his side, he might be too much.
Who on the Cowboys, needs to step up?
RB DeMarco Murray – Whether it’s the crumpled Tony Romo or Brandon Weeden, the onus shifts to DeMarco Murray. Not to say that they’ll limit the throws of either quarterback, but giving Murray the ball is going to relegate pressure from the air to the ground. Hidden, or maybe it just felt like it to me, in the loss to Washington, was an epic performance from Murray and the run blocking, 19 carries for 141 yards. Adding to it, 4 catches for 80 yards, the man was hot. But the fumble, and it being a constant threat to creep up and absolutely ruin a drive, is a full-blown epidemic. On one hand, he sheds that third tackler and scores a touchdown and he comes out looking like a beast, but at this point, Murray just has to know that the play can’t get more positive and ease back. He does it along the sidelines, just bails out of bounds. It’s a two-sided problem, I’m not willing to scale him back and change him, but what he doesn’t get with that extra effort, we all know, based on the performance of the o-line this season, they can pick up on the next play.
Which group will give the Cowboys fits?
The Cardinals Pass Rush – “The blue-print is out!” No, there’s no blue-print, it just might seem that way, because the Cardinals are going to be after it on Sunday, but they’ve been blitzing way before it was “cool.” The Cardinals only have as many sacks as they have games played, but if anyone thinks it hasn’t been effective, they’d be dead wrong. The rush effects everything, it has forced 10 interceptions, and the great Patrick Peterson doesn’t have one. Expect to see more island, one-on-one, man coverage with the Cardinals, and their cover men have more skins on the wall in this sort of blitz-coverage than Washington does. The rookie, Deone Bucannon is a wild man, and this secondary has 4 of the team’s top-5 tacklers, so they are going to try and anchor DeMarco to minimal gains. I couldn’t even imagine this unit if they had Daryl Washington on the field for them, it would be stifling to say the least. For Cowboys’ fans, think of this defense as the Cowboys rushing offense, might not bust one off anyone, but just a smash crew of team players.
Which group will give the Cardinals fits?
The Cowboys Offensive Line – This group of men is going to want to prove that, that Washington game is far behind them, and its time to start to dominate. Unfortunately, Ron Leary didn’t finish the Washington game, and might not play against the Cardinals, which means the Cowboys would be down two regulars and Mackenzy Bernadeau would be forced into action. Just stick with what got the team here, and all is well. To say that the group of first-round linemen let themselves and the team down is an understatement, but in my head I see that game fueling these men into a frenzy that they’ll take into the Cardinals game. The barrage will be as constant as the Washington game, and if the quarterback can get the lanes that weren’t open a week ago, to open up, the Cowboys could end up smiling.
What will it take for the Cowboys to win?
Above-average quarterback play. Tony Romo is going to be a zero-hour decision to play. And it’s going to have to be based on the way he can perform, not his tolerance for pain. Romo knows that he can take the pain, but no one is going to take his tough-guy card, if that perfect hit to his “OH NO” zone shelves him for this game. I feel that most people watched Brandon Weeden come into the game, and tie up the game, and would feel pretty good about Weeden’s game management skills. For Brandon Weeden, it’s his chance to step up and help the team beat, arguably, the best TEAM in the NFC. And if it is Weeden, the coaches will have needed to coach their buns off during the week to make as many in-game possibilities as straight forward and manageable as possible during the week leading up to the game so that not much is a surprise. Bruce Arians is a truly great head coach, and will have his guys ready to play either option.
Prediction: Arizona 21 – Dallas 24: Despite losing Durant, and having Bruce Carter break a finger, I feel that an offense inspired by their previously poor performance will lead a fourth quarter drive to win a tight game. Dan Bailey, for the win.