Dallas Cowboys Countdown to Arizona Cardinals

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Central Time

WATCH: ESPN (Sean McDonough & Jay Gruden)

LISTEN: Dallas Cowboys Radio Network; Sirius 81, XM 225; Cowboys app

FOLLOW: @BobbyBeltTX@CamiAnnG@JonahTulsNFL@therealmarklane


10: Dallas’ rank in turnover differential — The Cowboys are plus-1 in the turnover differential, tying them for 10th-best in the NFL along with five other teams. Dallas has had at least one takeaway to start the season. It is unlikely the club will reach the 40-takeaway mark for 2017, but if they can stay ahead of Arizona in that department on Monday night, they can trend towards a 2-1 mark to start the year for the seventh straight season under head coach Jason Garrett.

9: Number of targets Dez Bryant had against the Giants — Nine is a good number. It shows the Cowboys are being deliberate in getting their playmaking receiver the ball. 16, like he had against Denver, shows a complete emphasis much to the detriment of the offense. There were times when Prescott stared down Bryant as though he were in walk-through during his rookie training camp looking for Andy Jones on a slant. Prescott needs to evaluate the rest of his reads and not have tunnel vision for No. 88.

8: Losses Bruce Arians has at University of Phoenix Stadium — The 64-year-old head coach doesn’t lost often at home as his Cardinals have compiled a 24-8-1 record since 2013, including playoffs. A large part of the wins have come from takeaways: 23/24 wins featured at least one takeaway. Among the losses (and last year’s tie), 5/9 featured zero takeaways. If Dallas can protect the football, they increase their chances of winning for the first time in Arizona since 2006.

7: Jaylon Smith’s tackle count — At least, according to our friends at ProFootballReference.com. The second-year “rookie” linebacker has been a pleasant surprise as he has manned the middle linebacker spot in the absence of fourth-year veteran Anthony Hitchens. Smith’s snap count has increased on defense, going from 37 in Week 1 to 68 in Denver. The Cowboys’ best chance to win is if Smith is on the sidelines more, meaning the offense dominates time of possession.

6: Sacks Damontre Moore has on first down — The fifth-year defensive end on his fourth team has produced 10 career sacks and six of them have come on first down. It would be helpful to the Cowboys defense if they could generate pressure on first down, which they have done so 32.8 percent of the time in 2017. If the Cowboys could set the tone on first down and put Arizona behind the chains, it would help use the Cardinals’ mediocre 38.7 percent third down conversion rate against them.

5: False starts on the Cowboys — It is also Dallas’ rank for most false starts in the NFL. Penalties on offense put the team behind the chains and erase big plays that extend drives. The perpetrators include left tackle Tyron Smith (two infractions), left guard Chaz Green, right tackle La’el Collins, and tight end Jason Witten. The penalties were on display last week in Denver. They need to be curtailed or eliminated to achieve victory in Arizona.

4: Number of teams that have yet to rush for over 100 yards in 2017 — And one of them is Arizona. The other teams are Green Bay, Indianapolis, and the Giants, who have produced a combined 3-6 record. Dallas surrendered 178 rushing yards to Denver in Week 2. While the prospects of Arizona eclipsing the century mark are slim given running back David Johnson’s placement on injured reserve, shutting down the run must remain a point of emphasis for the Cowboys.

3: Number of sacks Dallas defense has on third down — The Cowboys defense, thanks to edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, is tied for the ninth-most sacks on third down in 2017 with three. When the Cardinals drop back to pass on third down, it will be imperative for Lawrence and his teammates to pressure Carson Palmer, who has a 56.6 passer rating in 2017 on third down.

2: Most misses Dan Bailey has had in a game — This ignominious distinction was first carried out on Dec. 4, 2011 at University of Phoenix Stadium. Maybe it is the grass grown in the desert. Whatever the case, Bailey has only duplicated this feat one other time: last year against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dallas needs Bailey to be automatic if the Cardinals defense keeps them out of the red zone.

1: Dallas & Arizona’s rank for worst red zone defense — Can’t leave out the Browns as they are also split with the Cowboys and Cardinals for most permissive red zone defense in the NFL. All three teams have allow touchdowns in the red zone on 80 percent of their opponents’ trips. Monday night’s game will be a staring contest of which team blinks and lives down to their initial two-week reputation inside the 20-yard line.

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