I've already mentioned how this feels like a trap game for the Cowboys. So the key this week will be avoiding the pitfalls that usually result in losing a game like this one. The Cowboys are the better team. I think that is clear. But if they come out lackadaisical or sloppy they can easily lose to the Cardinals. The Cowboys are good enough to play a bad game and win.
So what do the Cowboys need to do to beat the Cardinals? I think the #1 priority needs to be to get out to a fast start. If the Cowboys can put 10 or 14 points on the board on their first few drives and keep the Cardinals off the scoreboard I think this game can be a cake walk. But the longer the Cowboys let the Cardinals hang around the more you can expect a tough battle that won't be won until late in the game.
Tony Romo needs to protect the ball. The Cowboys don't need a banner performance from Romo. It would be nice if he can hit a few big plays but the Cowboys can beat the Cardinals with a relatively conservative game plan if they don't give the Cardinals any easy points off of turnovers. DeMarco Murray will help the Cowboys control the time of possession and prevent 3 and outs. The Cowboys just need to protect the ball on offense.
Patrick Peterson needs to be a non-factor in the return game. Sounds simple enough but certain things have to take place to keep him out of the game. The offense needs to sustain drives. Even drives out to the Cowboys 40 or the 50 yard line allow McBriar to boom the ball inside the 10 yard line and prevent any returns. If the Cowboys do have to punt from deep in their own territory it is vitally important that McBriar gets good hang time and pins Peterson along the sidelines. Again, easier said than done but at least McBriar is getting healthy again.
The defense needs to keep pressure in Kevin Kolb's face. It looks like Kolb will start this game after missing the last few weeks with several injuries to his foot. Kolb doesn't worry me after what I have seen from him this season and against the Cowboys at the end of last season. If the Cowboys can pressure Kolb he will be inaccurate and he'll turn the ball over. The Cardinals have allowed the 3rd most sacks in the league so getting pressure shouldn't be a problem.
The run defense can't let Beanie Wells get going. He is the X-factor that can open everything up for the Cardinal offense. Larry Fitzgerald can be contained by pressuring Kolb but it will take a good performance by the linebackers and defensive line to make sure Wells doesn't force the defense to back off of pressuring the quarterback and focus on stopping the run.
The Cowboys need to play with passion and intensity. There is a good chance that the Cowboys will be playing for the NFC East title next week against the Giants if they can win this game. But they can't get ahead of themselves. I know Garrett has been preaching the one game at a time approach to the season and this is the type of game that will show us if the players have been listening.
I am very nervous heading into this game. The last two times the Cowboys have visited Arizona strange things have happened that have caused the Cowboys to lose. I think this game will be different but it won't be any easy win. I'm picking the Cowboys to win 29-20 but I think the game will be close heading into the 4th quarter.