Gridiron Gab Week Sixteen Preview – Dallas at Arizona

Season Records:

Cardinals: 4-10, 4th in NFC West, Last Week: L @ Carolina, 19-12

Cowboys: 5-9, 3rd in NFC East, Last Week: W vs. Washington, 33-30


Sat., Dec. 25th, 7:30 pm, EST, NFL Network, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ

The Future is not What it Was:

I’m sure when this game was scheduled everyone had a much different match up in mind. Dallas and Arizona were both division winners last year and finished well above 8-8, which would be a dream record for these two clubs this season. Nevertheless, the NFL world will have its eyes on the Cardinals and Cowboys on Christmas night. Although there’s basically no playoff intrigue here, these two teams always play each other tough.

The Cardinals, of course, are just looking to end the season on a positive note, but it’s hard to find a silver lining when the Cards have two touchdowns in their last four games. “I don’t necessarily think it is talent as much as it is we have a lot of young guys, new guys,” Ken Whisenhunt said. “There is a transition that we’re suffering through.”

Arizona’s offense is second worst in the league, only producing 268.5 yards per game. Larry Fitzgerald’s production has dropped sharply as a result of the Cardinals’ poor quarterback play. Despite the inconsistent passers under center this year for Arizona, Fitz only needs 14 yards to reach 1,000 for the fourth straight year. Fitzgerald has five touchdown receptions after amassing at least 10 each of the three previous years. Fitzgerald racked up league lead tying 13 touchdown receptions last season.

The Cardinals have most recently turned to John Skelton to fill the quarterback position over the past two weeks to some acclaim. Skelton, the Cardinals’ fifth-round pick out of Fordham, completed 17 of 33 passes for 196 yards in a 19-12 loss at Carolina last week. He threw his first NFL interception, which led to the Panthers’ lone touchdown. “I think the way he handled himself later in the game is reason to have a lot of optimism about him as a quarterback,” Whisenhunt said.

As for the Cowboys, interim head coach Jason Garrett has given Dallas some reason for optimism. The Cowboys, lead by backup turned starter Jon Kitna, is 4-2 over the past 6 games after starting the season 1-7 under Wade Phillips. Last week the Cowboys almost gave the game up when the squandered a 20 point lead against the Redskins, but took the game on a 39-yard field goal with 50 seconds remaining.

Garrett continues to audition for the permanent job, so he’s definitely going to have his team ready to play against the Cardinals, who have found motivation to be a problem over the second half of the season. “We have to improve in all areas,” Garrett said. “We’ve got to stop the run better, we’ve got to defend the pass better, we’ve got to prevent them from scoring better. We’ll continue to work on all those things.” Obviously, Garrett isn’t giving up a single game and has turned a tumultous situation in Dallas into a somewhat positive half a season.

In terms of injuries, the Cowboys are unsure of the statuses of safety Gerald Sensabaugh and rookie linebacker Sean Lee, both of whom are out with concussions. In addition, receiver Roy Williams (groin) and running back Marion Barber (calf) were inactive last week.

The Cardinals placed receiver Early Doucet on injured reserve with a hip injury Wednesday. It’s safe to say that the often injured Doucet has been a major disappointment this season. In addition, Joey Porter is questionable with a triceps injury.

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