NFL Monday Night Football: Cowboys/Cardinals Preview

by Alec McMordie

The prime-time Monday Night Football game on ESPN this week has the Arizona Cardinals traveling to Dallas to face the Cowboys.

Arizona made their first-ever appearance on Monday Night Football against the Cowboys in 1970. These two teams were later featured as the fictional MNF matchup in the film Jerry Maguire, where the Troy Aikman-era Dallas dynasty team traveled to Arizona to face an upstart Cardinals squad, whose general manager was the Eagles' Glenn Frey. When Rod Tidwell made an end zone circus catch in the climactic moments, Tom Cruise was finally able to “show him the money” as the movie's title character sports agent, with Cuba Gooding, Jr. later winning the Best Supporting Oscar for his performance as Tidwell.

The playoffs were at stake for that fictional Cardinals team, but this matchup has early playoff implications for both teams. Dallas is just 2-3 on the season, but that still puts them in first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys come off a 37-34 victory over the New York Giants last week in a bittersweet victory for Dallas nation. Quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury in that game that changed the complexion and expectations for the franchise.

Andy Dalton played well in relief. He completed 9 of 11 passes for 111 yards to lead the Cowboys to victory. The veteran takes over an offense loaded with talent that leads the league with a 488.0 yards-per-game average. Dallas is scoring 32.6 points per game, but they are also allowing 36.0 points per game. Their two victories have come against Atlanta Falcons and NY Giants teams that began this week winless on the season.

Injuries have played a significant role already this season for the Cowboys even before the loss of Prescott. Dallas is without three starters on their offensive line with tackle Tyron Smith and La’El Collins along with center Joe Looney all on Injured Reserve. Tight end Blake Jarwin is also out the season with a knee injury, and linebacker Sean Lee is on IR with a pelvis injury.

Arizona has started the season 3-2 after their victory on the road against the New York Jets. However, the Cardinals find themselves in perhaps the most competitive division in the league along with an undefeated Seattle team and the NFC’s last two representatives in the Super Bowl in the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers.

Kyler Murray has continued his growth as an NFL quarterback as he already accounted for 13 touchdowns from either passing or running the football. Murray is completing 69.6% of his passes for 1299 yards with another 296 yards on the ground. However, Murray’s six interceptions are a cause for concern. He leads an offense that is tenth in the NFL with a 395.4 yards per game average, which has led to them scoring 25.6 points per game. The Cardinals are sixth in the NFL by averaging 141 rushing yards per game.

Arizona has also lost a key player to a season-ending injury with linebacker Chandler Jones out the year with a bicep tear. The All-Pro generated 19 sacks last season. Fellow linebacker Devon Kennard is questionable with the calf injury that kept him out last week. Starting safety Jalen Thompson is also on the IR with an ankle injury. On the offense, guard J.R. Sweezy is questionable with an elbow.

BetOnline lists this game as a pick ‘em with the total set at 55. Kickoff is at  8:15 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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