The third week of NFL preseason action will come to an end Sunday night when the Dallas Cowboys host the Arizona Cardinals. The game can be seen nationally on NBC at 8:00. The Cardinals are listed as 2-point favorites at home with an over/under of 40.5 points.
Under first-year coach Steve Wilks, the Cardinals are 2-0 in the preseason, albeit in a pair of close games. In their first game, the Cardinals took advantage of four Chargers turnovers to win 24-17. The Arizona starters then helped the Cardinals get out to a 20-3 lead against the Saints, ultimately hanging on beat New Orleans 20-15.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, have lost both of their preseason games this year. Dallas started strong in their preseason opener but allowed 14 unanswered points to the 49ers in the 4th quarter to lose 24-21. The Cowboys got off to another fast start against the Bengals last week, leading 10-0 at the half. However, the backups couldn’t do their part in the 2nd half, as the Cowboys fell to the Bengals 21-13.
The third preseason game is usually a dress rehearsal for NFL teams during which they give their starters at least a full half of action, possibly more. However, the Cowboys are not abiding by that. Both quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott will be held out of the final two preseason games. The Dallas offensive line is also banged up at this point in the preseason, so they will be far from full strength against the Cardinals.
Those injuries and absences change the equation drastically for Dallas. Despite their 0-2 record this preseason, the Cowboys have out-played their opponents in the first half of their games. Normally, that would give them an edge in the third preseason game when the starters get most of the action. But the Cowboys don’t have the kind of depth, at least on offense, to match up well if Prescott and Elliott don’t play and the offensive line has injury issues.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have also looked sharp early in games. Quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen have both impressed during the first two exhibition games. Rosen is questionable to play due to a hand injury, but he should see some action, even if Bradford takes most of the snaps in preparation to begin the season as the starter.
To be fair, the Dallas defense should be less affected by injuries and absences, and they have a chance to play well against the Arizona starters, especially with the Cardinals having modest talent on their offensive line. But Arizona’s defensive starters have also looked good during the preseason. The Cardinals have a strong secondary and several capable pass rushers, both of which could cause serious problems for an under-manned Dallas offense.
Staying on Track
If the Cowboys were at full strength, they would likely be the favorite and the team to pick. But without Prescott and Elliott in action, the Arizona defense shouldn’t be troubled too much. Even if the Dallas defense continues to play well, the Cardinals are more likely to score the points they need to win and cover a modest 2-point spread. Bet on the Cardinals to cover on Sunday night.