Dallas were thrashed by Denver last week. Can they bounce back in Arizona for Monday Night Football? Perhaps not, as Neil Harvey explains...
"Arizona are not big hitters, but rely on steady performances from old heads such as Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to get them through, allied to some robust defensive play"
Dallas Cowboys @ Arizona Cardinals
Start Time - Tuesday September 26th, 01:30 BST
TV Coverage - Live on Sky Sports
This was a good time for Dallas and Arizona to meet, in the sense that both are coming off uninspiring performances and both could do with vulnerable opponents right now to help rebuild confidence. But of course for one of them there is going to be yet more disappointment. So which team is best equipped to get it's season back on track?
Dallas playing like Cowboys
The Dallas defense got toasted last week in a 42-17 humiliation in Denver, in a game the Texas side were favorites to win. To be fair, they went into that contest carrying numerous injuries. And they finished it with even more. But on top of that they also suffered an inept offensive display. For example, star running back Ezekiel Elliot was a massive flop, garnering a paltry eight yards from nine carries.
Meanwhile in the passing game, there's evidence to suggest that Dez Bryant's days as an NFL stud are well and truly behind him. For example, the receiver has fallen well short of a thousand yards in both of the last two seasons. And the amount of separation the 28 year old is getting from opponents has fallen, to well below the league average. So Bryant is getting slower, or defenses are speeding up. Either way, he's not getting it done like he used to.
Arizona offense dried up
But it's not just Dallas having trouble scoring points, because Arizona have also struggled. To be fair, losing your best player will have that effect. The injury to David Johnson has hugely reduced the team's offensive prowess. And replacement running back Kerwyn Williams looked a poor replacement when given the start last week.
That said though, the Cardinals still managed a win in Week Two, all be it against the flailing Indianapolis Colts, against whom they barely scraped home. That 13-10 overtime victory was down almost entirely to sold defensive play, as Indy were held to 266 yards of offensive production.
That game saw Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer limited to just 19 completions out of 36, against a Colts side that had been expected to roll over quite tamely. The reality is that Arizona are not big hitters, but rely on steady performances from old heads such as Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to get them through, allied to some robust defensive play.
As for Dallas, their defense is simply ravaged at present. Their best cornerback Orlando Scandrick has a broken hand. They lost two more corners to injury against Denver. And that's left them with only a skeleton crew in the deep. Arizona wideouts Fitzgerald and JJ Nelson must be licking their lips at the prospect of facing that.
Nelson is light and spry and should be able to help move the chains with some short to mid range gains against a defense that's likely to play zonally given the key personnel missing. It's tight end Jermaine Gresham though whom I think Head Coach Bruce Arians will look to in the red zone, given his larger frame and experience.
Dallas QB Dak Prescott could turn to veteran tight end Jason Witten once again as a safe pair of hands if Dez Bryant continues failing to get open. Look to Witten to have one of his better days.
This could well be very close. But I feel Dallas are at a low ebb. And with a start, it's the home team and their depth of experience across key positions who look the better value.
3pts Arizona (+1.5) to win at Half Time @ 1.9620/21
3pts Arizona (+3) to win at Full Time @ 1.9210/11
3pts Total Points to be Under 46.5 @ 2.0811/10
3pts Dez Bryant receiving yards to be Under 48.5 @ (5/6)(Sportsbook)
2pts Jason Witten receiving yards to be Over 43.5 @ (5/6) (Sportsbook)
1pt Jermaine Gresham to score 1st TD @ 20.019/1