IRVING, Texas – What a week for the Cowboys.
Six days after losing to a divisional rival on Monday Night Football, they'll hope to bounce back against the NFC's hottest team in the Arizona Cardinals. Roughly 24 hours after this Cardinals game concludes, they'll hop on a plane bound for London.
The second half of the season promises to be hectic, as five of their final eight games will be played in front of national audiences. Sunday's game against the Cardinals is the last time the Cowboys will kick off at noon (local time, at least) until Week 17. With that in mind, a win against Arizona could be a big boost.
Here are the gut feelings from staff writers Nick Eatman, David Helman and Bryan Broaddus.
Nick Eatman: I think the Cowboys will beat the Cardinals. I've said it before and until I see it differently, I'm going to stick with that. Yeah, I know this Arizona team is much better. The record says that and the way they play on both sides of the ball isn't your normal Cardinals team. I think we can say the same about the Cowboys this year, too. So something has to give -- you wonder if it's going to be Romo's back. Or maybe it already has. As I write this on Friday afternoon I still have a hard time thinking Romo doesn't play even though he didn't practice all week. Either way, Brandon Weeden is going enough to win games in this league and with this supporting cast and a week of practice, I think he'll play well if called upon. Last week, the Cowboys really had no business losing that game but they did. The Cardinals were very fortunate to win against the Eagles. Things in the NFL typically balance out and that's why I think the Cowboys will win Sunday. Interception by Brandon Carr, one carry or reception by Tyler Clutts and Dwayne Harris finally make a big return are my specific predictions. Overall, I think the Cowboys win it 31-19.
David Helman: As I'm writing this, on Saturday afternoon, I'm expecting Tony Romo to play against the Cardinals. Even if he can't, though, I don't expect the gameplan to change a lot. The Cowboys are going to lean on their run game, count on their quarterback to minimize his mistakes and make a handful of big plays when necessary. I think Brandon Weeden can handle that gameplan, especially given how much practice time he's gotten since he arrived in Dallas – not to mention the opportunity he got to knock the rust off last Monday night. Arizona has a tough run defense, but so did Seattle. The Cowboys didn't just have success against the Seahawks – they met their season-long average of 160 yards. I don't know if Dallas will have that much success in this game, but they should be able to run the ball. I think Colt McCoy's mobility was a big part of Washington's success last week, and it's something Carson Palmer doesn't bring to the table. He'll get his passing yards, but the Cowboys should be able to focus on bottling up Andre Ellington and making the Arizona attack one-dimensional. The Cardinals have been great at protecting the football, but they'll have a costly turnover that leads to Dallas points. I'm thinking the Cowboys squeak out a win – something like 23-17.
Bryan Broaddus: There has been plenty made this week about this Cowboys offense and how much the blitz hurt them in the game Monday night against the Redskins. There were some physical errors but what the game tape showed there were just as many mental ones. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles likes to bring pressure, but he is also smart. I can see several snaps where Bowles shows pressure then drops in coverage especially if Weeden is the quarterback. Look for the Cowboys to be much better this week in their pickups and to move the pocket some to help when the Cardinals do blitz.