Following their week two loss to the Denver Broncos, the Dallas Cowboys travel to Arizona for a Monday night showdown with the 1-1 Cardinals.
After losing their opening game at Detroit, the Cardinals bounced back with an overtime win over the Indianapolis Colts last week. Despite opening as high as an 8 point favorite against the Colts, Arizona's offense was unable to finish drives with any type of consistency, resulting in their close 16-13 win.
On paper, the Cardinals look to be a team which could potentially upset the Cowboys this week, especially considering that they are home. With a few talented offensive playmakers like Larry Fitzgerald and J.J. Nelson, as well as some serious defensive talent in Markus Golden and Patrick Peterson, Arizona should be better than they've been.
Still, a key injury to running back David Johnson, and some awful quarterback play from Carson Palmer have set the Cardinals back further than expected.
The Cardinals' Offense
The first place we have to go when discussing the Arizona offense is to their offensive line. Due to injuries to both their starting left tackle and guard, backups John Wetzel and Alex Boone had to fill in and start against Indy a week ago.
The results weren't pretty, as the Colts found ways to keep rather consistent pressure in Carson Palmer's lap all game long. With DeMarcus Lawrence playing how he is and Damontre Moore returning from suspension, the Cowboys defensive line should have ample opportunity to sack Palmer on Monday night.
Speaking of Carson Palmer, he has been pretty awful so far this season. Throwing three interceptions in the season opener and a fourth last week against the Colts, he has almost single-handedly sabotaged a 2-0 start for Arizona.
The Cowboys defensive backs should get chances for turnovers on Monday, but after their performance last week, Arizona may be looking at this group as a chance to “get right” after a sloppy start.
Dallas has to make sure this doesn't happen by getting pressure on Palmer and forcing the errand throws he's become accustomed to making.
The Cardinals' Defense
This is where things get really interesting.
After facing off with Janoris Jenkins and Aqib Talib to start the season, Dez Bryant now will have to deal with Patrick Peterson this week. Though some have argued Peterson has lost a step with age, he was still a top ten cornerback in 2016, and has played very well through two games this season.
Then, of course, Arizona boasts Tyrann Mathieu, the versatile safety/slot cornerback who may draw Cole Beasley in man coverage throughout the night. Mathieu came away with what became the game winning interception of Jacoby Brissett last Sunday in overtime, jumping an in-route.
Upfront, the Cardinals feature one of the league's more underrated edge rushers in Markus Golden. Golden is without a sack through the first two games of 2017, but has racked up some solid pressures and quarterback hits. He will be yet another tough match up for La'el Collins when lining up on that edge.
Arizona ranks tenth against the run this year, and finished ninth in that same category a year ago. They also rank 8th against the run in Football Outsiders defensive DVOA metric. Clearly, they possess a solid defense which won't be easy to penetrate, but I do believe they are a step below what Dallas had to face a week ago in Denver.
There are holes for the Cowboys to exploit this Sunday, and they shouldn't have to deal with anywhere near the number of weapons they had to defend last Sunday. Still, this game won't be easy for Dallas whatsoever. Arizona is coming off of two disappointing performances, but could have the personnel to make this a tough game for the Cowboys on Monday night.