The happenings in the division this week were especially pertinent to Cowboys' interests, both in the longterm and the immediate future.
It's not very often that your competition for the division lead and your upcoming opponent play each other – and on a day when you're available to watch it, to boot. Sunday's matchup of Philadelphia and Arizona was one of the most entertaining of Week 8, and it gave a daunting picture of what's to come for Dallas.
On one hand you've got the Eagles, who still sit behind Dallas in the NFC East standings thanks to a bye week, racking up 521 yards on one of the league's best defenses. On the other hand you see the Cardinals, who come to AT&T Stadium in five days, rally with some offense of their own – not to mention a late stand by the aforementioned defense.
The Cowboys' loss to Washington on Monday night takes us to the midpoint of the season, but it's still too early to put much stock in division standings. Yes, Dallas did miss an opportunity to take a 1.5-game lead in the division, but the Cowboys and Eagles still have two games to play against each other – those are conversations for late November and December.
I'm more interested in how this serves as a preview for Sunday against Arizona. When Week 9 concludes, the Cowboys will be done with their slate against the beastly NFC West, and they have a chance to finish that stretch at 3-1 – or 2-2 at the worst.
The Cardinals deserve plenty of credit for outlasting one of the hottest teams in the league, but there was plenty to be encouraged about for the Cowboys.
Somewhat amazingly, considering their track record, the Cardinals defense is bringing up the rear in the NFL is pass defense. Three of Arizona's last four opponents – Denver, Washington and Philadelphia – have bombed away for 350 or more yards on them, with Peyton Manning and Nick Foles surpassing 400 yards.
Compounding that is the availability of star cornerback Patrick Peterson, who sustained a concussion in the second quarter on Sunday. That'll be an injury worth having an eye on as the week progresses.
Here's another encouraging sign for a Cowboys team that'll be eager to prove it didn't abandon the run against Washington. Despite a gimpy offensive line, the Eagles were able to run for 110 yards on the day against Arizona's typically stout run defense.
[embeddedad0]The Cardinals are third in the league in rushing defense, allowing 78 yards per game. That comes after LeSean McCoy tallied 81 yards on 21 carries on Sunday. The Cowboys have to feel good about that, as no one they've played this season has been able to hold them under their expected average.
It was an entertaining game to say the least, and Arizona's win is the reason the Cowboys are still first in the East. It also showcased some of the flaws of both of these teams – the Cowboys' next opponent and their longterm competition for playoff placement. It's an encouraging sign for a team that just stumbled at the midpoint of the season.