Cowboys - Cardinals Preview & Prediction

After a tumultuous bye week that included a team meeting, the Cardinals appear to be on the brink of total collapse riding a seven-game losing streak.


TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan

SERIES: 84th meeting. The Cowboys lead the series 54-28-1. The Cowboys have won 21 of the last 27 meetings. Dallas had a 13-game win streak over Arizona (1990-96), the longest win streak against an opponent in club history. The Cowboys have faced the Cardinals just three times since Arizona moved from the NFC East to the NFC West.

2006 RANKINGS: Cowboys: offense 5th (5th rush, 8th pass); defense 4th (5th rush, 10th pass). Cardinals: offense 27th (32nd rush, 16th pass); defense 24th (22nd rush, 24th pass)

PREDICTION: Cowboys 30-21

KEYS TO THE GAME: After a tumultuous bye week that included a team meeting, the Cardinals appear to be on the brink of total collapse riding a seven-game losing streak. But if they were able to shore up their offensive line a bit during the break, they are rested and can keep this matchup interesting. Dallas should be able to run the ball, so the Cardinals must be able to follow suit when they're on offense. RB Edgerrin James is yet to produce a 100-yard game, but if he can be effective it will take pressure off rookie QB Matt Leinart. The Cardinals should also get a boost with the return of WR Larry Fitzgerald, who can help test a Dallas secondary that has allowed far too many big plays due to a lack of strong cover skills at safety. Still, if Cowboys QB Tony Romo is efficient and avoids critical mistakes, Dallas should earn a methodical victory.

FAST FACTS: Cowboys: Coach Bill Parcells is 11-4-1 against Arizona. ... Of WR Terrell Owens' 30 receptions, 15 have come on third down. Cardinals: Coach Dennis Green is 11-2 over and 2-0 with Arizona in games following a bye week. ... Former Cardinals SS Pat Tillman, who died while serving in Afghanistan, will be inducted in the Cardinals Ring of Honor.

PERSONNEL NEWS: Cowboys: --WR Miles Austin will replace Skyler Green as the primary kickoff returner. Green will not be active for Sunday's game at Arizona.

--WR Pat Crayton will be the punt returner against the Cardinals, and he will remain the third receiver. Even if Terry Glenn (knee) doesn't play, Crayton won't start, because the Cowboys don't want him to play more than 34 plays a game.

--WR Terry Glenn (knee) did not practice for a second consecutive day. He is still listed as probable for Sunday's game, but if he doesn't practice Friday, he won't play. Look for Sam Hurd to start in his place.

--DE Jason Hatcher played seven plays last week in his first action since spraining his ankle. Hatcher is expected to get a lot more action against the Cardinals in hopes of solving the team's pressure woes.

--DE Chris Canty is not living up to expectations, according to Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. "I just liked to see a little bit more from Chris than I'm seeing," Parcells said. "He's a solid player. He's not doing things to get us beat. My expectations for him a little bit higher than the production I'm seeing."

Cardinals: --QB Matt Leinart has completed just 40 percent of his passes in his past two starts. He's had several passes dropped, but he also has not been sharp.

--OG Deuce Lutui will start for the second consecutive week on the right side. Lutui's strength is run blocking, but his pass protection skills are improving.

--NT Kendrick Clancy is expected to return after missing three games with an ankle injury. That should help the run defense, which has been porous the past two weeks.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald is expected to return after missing three games with a hamstring pull. Fitzgerald might not be 100 percent, however, and coaches might limit his playing time.

--FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo is doubtful for the Dallas game because of a leg contusion. A.J. Schable had been used as a short-yardage back, but he's back working as a defensive end in practice. Coach Dennis Green wouldn't say who would play blocking back in short yardage situations.

INSIDE THE CAMPS: Cowboys: Wide receiver Terrell Owens acknowledged that he hasn't lived up to expectations so far.

Certainly he has had a season filled with drama, considering the accidental overdose, the fights with receivers coach Todd Haley over his involvement and the litany of dropped passes.

Owens has been good with 44 catches and six touchdowns, but he was expected to be great.

The capper came last Sunday when Owens dropped a potential 74-yard touchdown pass that would have given the Cowboys a victory against the Redskins.

Owens said he lost the game and that he owes the Cowboys one. He vowed that he will more than make up for it in the second half of the season.

"It'll be something personal," he said. "I won't be standing here again saying I lost the game for the team. I promise you that."

Owens blames his first-half problems on not being involved in the offense and dealing with a hamstring injury and a broken hand. He says the broken hand was to blame for the drops but said he wasn't going to make excuses.

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells acknowledged that the team expected more.

"I know we're ready to get everybody under the bus, but I'm not going to do it," Parcells said. "Let's just say he's made a pretty good contribution, and I'm hoping we can get better in the second half."

Owens said he will be better partly because he has a good relationship with new quarterback Tony Romo.

He has 20 catches and three touchdowns since Romo took over 2 1/2 games ago.

"I think the first six games of the season, I was just out there," Owens said. "I really wasn't involved. But now, I'm involved. I expect to get the ball. It's coming. It's coming."

Cardinals: The Cardinals hope receiver Larry Fitzgerald's return from a hamstring injury provides a jump-start to an offense that's produced almost nothing the past two games.

Fitzgerald has missed three games because of the injury. With him gone, opponents have been able to concentrate on stopping receiver Anquan Boldin, who has seen more double coverage, bracketing and combination coverage than in previous weeks.

With Fitzgerald, the team is more likely to use an abundance of three- and four-receiver sets than in past weeks. Even before Fitzgerald's injury, the Cardinals were relying more on their tight ends and fullback.

Still, they couldn't run the ball. It's hard to say what the offensive plan for the second half of the season will be, but it's likely the team will return to its roots: three- and four-receivers set. It will spread the defense out and try to move Boldin around to create favorable matchups.

If that works, it could open things up for the ground game and running back Edgerrin James.

The Cardinals think they cleared up some of their emotional problems with a players-only meeting Monday. The players have raved about the quality of practices the past few days and said there has been increased attention to detail.

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