Will Cowboys Invade Arizona's Home Turf?

The Cardinals have built quite a home-field advantage at University of Phoenix Stadium. They've sold out all 24 games that have been played there since the stadium opened in 2006, and they are 8-2 there in two seasons under coach Ken Whisenhunt. But it could be a different story this Sunday when the Cowboys come to town.

The Cowboys are incredibly popular in the Phoenix area. There are a healthy number of Cowboys' fans, and some Cardinals season-ticket holders might try to cash in by selling their tickets for a profit.

"I know from people having discussed this with me, that this is something that's happened in the past here," Whisenhunt said, "and I hope all our fans hold onto their tickets and support us. We have another good team coming in this weekend, and it's definitely to our advantage to have the crowd behind us."

The crowd has made a big difference over the last three seasons. When the roof of the stadium is closed, as it will be Sunday, the place is incredibly loud and has induced a number of false starts.

"We want our advantage," quarterback Kurt Warner said of fans possibly selling tickets. "The fans have done a tremendous job sticking with us and now we're developing something. I just hope we can get to the point where it doesn't matter who comes into this building."

The Phoenix area is a melting pot of people who moved from other places, and when it comes to the NFL, they've kept their hometown allegiances. For the Cardinals, it's been a constant battle to win over those fans.

"Whether half the town is from Dallas or anywhere else, that somehow we can turn them into Cardinals fans to the point they say, 'I don't care what you're offering me, I want to go see my Cardinals play,'" Warner said.

SERIES HISTORY: 84th meeting. The Cowboys lead, 55-27-1 and have won the last three, dating back to 2003. The Cowboys are the Cardinals' biggest rival, but it's a one-sided rivalry. It's doubtful the Cowboys regard the Cardinals as much of a rival. The Cowboys traditionally have drawn large crowds when playing in Arizona, partly because many of their games were shown on television in Arizona before the Cardinals arrived. Ten years have passed since the Cardinals beat the Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs. That victory, in 1998, was the Cardinals first playoff win since they won the 1947 championship.


--QB Kurt Warner admitted the hit a week ago on Anquan Boldin prompted him to think more seriously about retiring. His wife, Brenda, has wanted him to retire for a few years, but Warner stayed in the game for the opportunity he's enjoying now: directing a powerful offense. "If I'm going to play," he said, "I'm going to play here (Arizona)." After Warner looked sharp in the victory over the Bills, his wife teased him. "She goes, 'you're never going to retire now, are you?"

--The Cardinals have yet to capture the imagination of the Phoenix area, but they came close in 1998 when they made the playoffs and beat Dallas in the first round. "I remember how much excitement there was in town," said Vince Tobin, the coach then. "It was great for the fans. They had watched us have to win three in a row to get in the playoffs and then to beat Dallas, it was something."

--The Cardinals likely will wait until after next week's trading deadline to begin negotiating contract extensions with several key players. Quarterback Kurt Warner and inside linebacker Karlos Dansby are the top priorities. Both are due to be unrestricted free agents. Dansby will have to wait until the end of the year, because he's the team's franchise players and rules forbid him from re-signing before the end of the year. Defensive end Antonio Smith and cornerback Eric Green are due to become free agents, but the club wants to wait to see how they perform this season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 20 - The number of years that have passed since the Cardinals have had sole possession of first place after five or more games. At 3-2, they have a one-game lead over San Francisco.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It gives me a chance to see what the defense is doing, mix it up. I can mix and match different things, work to different receivers in certain situations. I appreciate the freedom they give me to call plays." --QB Kurt Warner.


--RB J.J. Arrington was active for the first time this season last week and produced as the single back in the four-receiver formation. Arrington converted two third-and-long situations, one on a screen pass and the other on a draw. Coaches had kept fullback Tim Castille active instead of Arrington, but Castille contributed little offensively. Arrington also returned kicks.

--WR Early Doucet played for the first time last week and enjoyed a productive day. Doucet caught six passes, including three third-down grabs that kept drives alive. Doucet likely will be active again because Anquan Boldin is not expected to play.

--NT Gabe Watson likely will make his first start of the season. Watson made his season debut last week, taking part in about a dozen snaps.

GAME PLAN: Offensively, the Cardinals need to show the explosiveness and balance they had last week.

The Cowboys have some injuries in the secondary, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Cardinals spread the field with receivers. That also helps the running game, because the Cardinals like to run the draw play out of that formation.

Defensively, the Cardinals need to emphasize stopping the big play. They have to make the Cowboys work for everything. That means playing smart in the secondary. That group has given up big plays the last two weeks, mostly because of mental errors.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Cowboys LT Flozell Adams vs. Cardinals DE/OLB Travis LaBoy -- LaBoy has been the Cardinals most productive pass rusher, and Adams is regarded as one of the NFL's best left tackles. The Cardinals must get some pressure on Dallas QB Tony Romo.

Cowboys WR Terrell Owens vs. Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers- Cromartie: Rodgers-Cromartie is likely to play a lot, given the groin injury to starter Rod Hood. Rodgers-Cromartie is still adapting to the speed and intricacies of the game and fell for a double move last week. Look for the Cowboys to try and match Owens against him.

Cardinals DE Darnell Dockett vs. Cowboys G Leonard Davis: The two are former Cardinals teammate, and it's the stereotypical battle of quickness vs. strength. Dockett is very quick and fast and is relentless.

INJURY IMPACT: WR Anquan Boldin probably won't play on Sunday as he continues to recover from surgery to fix a facial fracture. Boldin hasn't been ruled out but it seems more likely that he will return after the team's bye next week.

--DE/OLB Bertrand Berry remains out with a groin tear. He likely won't return until after the bye week.

--CB Rod Hood suffered a groin injury last week and likely will be questionable for Sunday. If he can't play, rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will start.

--TE Ben Patrick is dealing with a knee injury and likely will be questionable for Sunday. His injury leaves the club thin at tight end. Starter Leonard Pope is coping with a sore foot/ankle and Jerame Tuman practiced for the first time this season on Wednesday.

--SS Adrian Wilson was limited last week by a hamstring strain. He played only in some nickel packages and participated in just six plays. He will be at least questionable for Sunday's game against the Cowboys.

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