After the shellacking the Dallas Cowboys took from the Denver Broncos last week, they look to get back on track against the Arizona Cardinals Monday night. This will be their second road game of the 2017 season, but home or away, this Cowboys team has to be at their best in order to put another W in the win column.
The Arizona Cardinals might not be as talented overall as the first two teams they’ve faced this season, but they do have some players that could give the Cowboys some problems. I put together a list of five matchups I think the Cowboys must win in order to ensure a victory over the Cardinals Monday night. Continue to read below to see which matchups I believe are the key to a victory.
Dez Bryant vs. Patrick Peterson
Dez Bryant is arguably the best playmaker the Dallas Cowboys have on the offensive side of the ball. There has been a lot of talk lately that he is washed up and not as talented as he once was, but that is completely inaccurate. He may not be the focal point of the offense anymore, but that doesn’t take away how important he truly is.
Bryant will draw the opposing defenses best cornerback ever week. He has already faced Pro Bowl CBs in the first two games of the season and will see another one in Patrick Peterson this week. This is a tough matchup again because Peterson is physical and can carry Bryant in coverage anywhere on the field.
Peterson of course won’t have to do this alone, because the Cardinals defense will undoubtably role extra coverage Bryant’s way every time he’s on the field. Bryant just has to do enough in order to keep the Cardinals defense rolling extra coverage in his direction, because that will open up things for the rest of the Cowboys offense. But, Bryant simply can’t allow Peterson to win the one-on-one matchup.
Cowboys Secondary vs. Cardinals WRs
The Dallas Cowboys will be a little thin in their secondary tonight against the Arizona Cardinals. Both Nolan Carroll and Chidobe Awuzie will miss this contest due to injuries, which means some of the young defensive backs will have to step up.
Luckily, Orlando Scandrick will be back on the field, which provides more veteran experience against a talented group of Cardinals WRs. Scandrick can’t do it alone though. Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and maybe even Xavier Woods will have to be on top of their games in order to keep the Cardinals WRs in check.
The Arizona Cardinals offense likes to push the ball down the field, so the Cowboys secondary will have to keep the plays in front of them and make sure tackles. This was a problem last week, but I’m sure defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has emphasized this week how important tackling is. This matchup just might be the most important for the Cowboys.
DeMarcus Lawrence vs. John Wetzel
Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has been simply outstanding the first two weeks of the 2017 season. He has pretty much dominated any offensive lineman he has gone up against and should continue that impressive streak this week against the Arizona Cardinals backup left tackle John Wetzel.
Wetzel will be filling in as an injury replacement and as a former practice squad member of the Dallas Cowboys, should know what he’s up against. Unfortunately, that works both ways. Lawrence should know all too well Wetzel’s strengths and weaknesses and how best to win the match up. I’m expecting Lawrence to have another good game getting after the QB and you can bet Carson Palmer is paying extra close attention to where he is lined up every play.
La’el Collins vs. Chandler Jones
The Dallas Cowboys absolutely have to win the battle of the trenches against the Cardinals tonight. The Denver Broncos were able to beat them at their own game and control the line of scrimmage last week. That can’t happen this week and La’el Collins might just be the key to the entire offensive lines performance.
The Arizona Cardinals have a talented defensive line, but I believe that it will be Chandler Jones who might just be the most impactful. I think Jones and Collins will square off against one another the majority of the game and this is a battle Collins has to win. Luckily, Collins has performed above expectations and has already proven himself against some of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
It may be unfair to single out Collins, because I believe the entire offensive line needs to up their game after last week’s performance. But, I believe the Collins and Jones matchup will go a long ways in determining how the Cowboys come out in the battle of the trenches. If the Cowboys can win that battle, it will open up the passing and running game, making things that much more difficult for the Cardinals defense.
OC Scott Linehan vs. DC James Bettcher
It’s no secret that I’ve been extremely hard on Scott Linehan in the past. I think he was largely responsible for how the Dallas Cowboys offense performed last week against the Denver Broncos defense, which is why I think he has to do better this week.
Offensive coordinators against defensive coordinators is always a chess match. You have to anticipate what the other is going to do and come up with the right counterattack move. Linehan was unable to do that against the Broncos, but the Cardinals defense doesn’t have the same kind of talent on that side of the ball as Denver did.
Linehan has to do much better job of getting Dak Prescott settled down early, because he has been a little inaccurate to start the first two games of the season. He also has to find ways to get the ball in the hands of his best playmakers, Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott. When they are involved early in the game, it helps the entire offense and puts the opposing defense on their heels.