It wasn’t that long ago that this game was looking like it might be a preview to an upcoming NFC Championship Game. Kyler Murray was squarely in the MVP conversation, the Cardinals were on their way to the NFC West title, and the Cowboys were easily the class of the NFC East.
That last part is still true. Dallas is the class of the NFC East and has already clinched the division. They currently sit as the NFC’s second seed behind the Packers.
It’s the Cardinals that haven’t lived up to the matchup. Three weeks ago, they had a two-game lead in the division and a head-to-head with the Rams to salt away the title. Instead, they lost that game. Then they lost the next one. Then they lost the one after that.
And suddenly, instead of looking like the top seed in the conference, the Cardinals are the current fifth seed and playing their worst football of the year.
Some stats are just random. Others tell a troubling story. It’s unclear exactly which category this next one goes in.
In the first seven games of each of the three seasons that Kliff Kingsbury has been the head coach in Arizona, the Cardinals are a combined 15-5-1. That’s a winning percentage of .714.
In the rest of the season, from the eighth game onwards, the Cardinals are just 8-18. That’s a winning percentage of .307.
And even more disappointing is that when Arizona has had a chance to win a game to clinch a playoff spot, they are 0-4. They clinched a playoff berth on Sunday, but not by any of their own doing. They are promised at least one playoff game as a wild card team because the Minnesota Vikings lost.
What can the Cardinals do to cure what ails them and end this late-season slide before it ends their season? Score points. During their skid, they rank in the bottom-10 in the NFL in scoring. During their 7-0 start, Arizona averaged 32.1 points per game. Since then, they are averaging 21.1 points per game.
It’s been a tale of three seasons for the Cowboys. There was their excellent start, where they were 6-1 and had wins over the Chargers and Patriots and a near-miss against the Bucs to open the season.
Then Dallas had a mid-season swoon when they lost three of four games, including a 30-16 embarrassment at home to Denver and a Thanksgiving loss to the Raiders, 36-33.
Since Thanksgiving, though, only the Packers have been as good in the NFC. Dallas’s defense has been phenomenal, led by outstanding rookie Micah Parsons, and Dak Prescott is finding his groove. Ezekiel Elliott is fighting nagging injuries, but Tony Pollard continues to be a great all-around back and cover for any issues there.
The Cowboys are peaking at just the right time, and they are perhaps the worst team in the NFL to have to face when you are desperate for a win.
Kyler Murray is still playing good football, but not great football. He clearly misses the outside presence of DeAndre Hopkins, and it’s hurting the entire team.
The Cowboys are simply too good at the moment to think they are going to struggle to put away the Cardinals. Dallas has covered four straight-point spreads, and on Sunday, they make it a fifth in a row.
Dallas went over in its last game because the Cowboys exploded for 56 points. They were under in seven of their previous eight games. The Cardinals have been under in each of the last two weeks, and this game goes UNDER as well.