The Cowboys have the lead in the NFC East, but there is little margin for error, especially against a Cardinals team with a poor record, but the ability to pull an upset at any time. Here are three keys to Sunday's game.
Cowboys: Don't punt to Peterson
Everyone remembers week 17 of last year. The NFC East came down to two teams, the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles in a one game playoff...for the playoffs. How did it end? A DeSean Jackson punt return for a touchdown...and an ANGRY Tom Coughlin.
Fast forward to week 9 (in a game that no one watched), the Arizona Cardinals faced off against the St. Louis Rams. The new D. Jack (whose the new Devin Hester), Patrick Peterson, took back a punt in OT to the house FTW!
Bring your TiVo to last week where the Rams played the Cardinals again, and who did they punt to in the 3rd? Patrick Peterson, who took it 80 yards to the fans; tieing a rookie single season punt touchdown return record of 4.
The Cowboys CANNOT punt to Patrick Peterson under ANY circumstance. If they do, they are giving a free 7 points to the Cardinals, hurting their defense, and opening up the door for the Giants to take the NFC East back.
Cardinals...Get the defense off of the field
The Cardinals are giving opponents NINE extra plays a game...NINE. This week they are going against a team that not only has more plays per game, but averages 6.1 yards per play. The Cardinals have to tighten up on defense, get some three and outs, and let Bennie Wells set the game tempo from the offensive side of the ball.
It'll be interesting to see how good of a job the Cardinals can do of keeping their defense rested, and how well they play in the fourth as a result. The Cowboys consistently win the play margin giving Tony Romo an opportunity on worn down defenses.
If Arizona can't keep their D rested, then they should work on substuting; and subbing in a way that doesn't hinder their overall performance. The last thing the Cardinals want to do is keep the defense rested in a 35-7 game.
Both teams...The Run game
For BOTH teams the key is the running game. Dallas has found a real gem in DeMarco Murray, and with him has come the wins. In the four games that the Cowboys lost,Murray had: 2, 4, 11, and 8 attempts. In game games the Cowboys won, Murray has averaged 17.5 rushes per game...and that total will likely go up. In games where Dallas gave it to this guy 20+ times they have a 5-0 record (with Murray running for 669 yards and 5.9 yards per rush).
On the other sideline, Bennie Wells ran for 228 yards and a staggering 8.4 yards per rush last game. Going against a weak Cowboys secondary, Dallas will likely add help on the back end to contain Larry Fitz. With Fitzgerald taking the 8th guy out of the box, Wells will have the ability to have a MONSTER game. If he can, he will wear down the Dallas' front seven, and keep his defense rested and ready for Romo.