Even though they didn't make the playoffs, the 2017 NFL season was a watershed moment for the Dallas Cowboys in terms of their long-standing rivalry with the Arizona Cardinals. A 20-18 win in the first preseason game between the Cowboys and Cardinals not only marked the first time the Cowboys and Cardinals had ever played an exhibition game in Dallas, it marked the first victory for the Cowboys over the Cardinals in their preseason history against each other.
During Week Three of the NFL regular season, the Cowboys went into Arizona and whipped the Cardinals 28-17, ending a four-game losing streak against the Cardinals. You had to go all the way back to 1989-90 to find the last time the Cardinals had successfully defeated the Cowboys in four straight games. As the St. Louis Cardinals, they fashioned a six-game winning streak over the Cowboys in the first six regular-season meetings between the two teams from 1960-63.
The Lowdown - When it comes to Cowboys-Cardinals games, you best get under it. Eight times in their last 11 regular-season meetings, the total between Dallas and Arizona has gone under. Only twice in the last 12 games have both the Cowboys and Cardinals put at least 20 points on the scoreboard. In six of those games, one team got to 20 points and on four occasions neither team was able to muster up more than 19 points. In 1992, the Cardinals took a 9-6 decision from Dallas in overtime.
The lowdown on preseason action between these two teams is that it gets down even lower. Last season's 20-18 Dallas victory marked the highest total ever posted in a Cowboys-Cardinals exhibition contest. In the previous three games, the total combined score was 56 points, an average total of 18.6 points per game. During that span, the Cardinals averaged 12.6 points per game, while the Cowboys were good for a measly six points per game.
Close Calls - The Cowboys and Cardinals keep the score low in preseason play, and they generally keep it tight as well. The last three preseason games have been decided by an average margin of three points per game, and two of the last three meetings were two-point outcomes - a 20-18 win by Dallas last season and a 13-11 Cardinals triumph in 2005. In the first two Cowboys-Cardinals preseason games, the average margin of victory was much higher, 10.5 points per game.
Lately, the regular-season outcomes have been more lopsided, and also identical. The Cowboys toppled the Cardinals 28-17 in Arizona last season. In their previous game, the Cardinals were 28-17 winners over the Cowboys at Dallas in 2014. But the average margin of victory in the previous three games was 4.3 points per game. Five of the last 10 Cowboys-Cardinals meetings were decided by a margin of a converted touchdown or less. The other five finished with an average margin of victory of 15.4 points per game.
Will They Or Won't They? - The Cowboys went into the 2017 NFL season as defending NFC East champions, but stubbed their toes and finished 9-7, second in the division and out of the postseason picture. The Cardinals were also considered to be legitimate playoff contenders in 2017. After all, they'd been to the post season as recently as 2014 and 2015, playing the 2015 NFC Championship Game, and won at least 10 games every since between 2013-15. But they went 8-8 and were also postseason outsiders.
Will we see these two teams rebound into postseason contention in 2018? Bovada isn't at all bullish on the chances of the Cardinals doing so, listing Arizona as +800 to make the playoffs, and a whopping -1600 to miss the playoffs. As for the Cowboys, Bovada puts Dallas at +150 to make the playoffs and -180 to miss out on the postseason. Bovada sets the Cowboys win total for the season at 8.5 and the odds are -115 whether you go over or under. The Cardinals are at 5.5 wins. Over is worth -160 and under +130.
Suddenly Sam - With the retirement of 2002 Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, the Cardinals have handed their quarterback reins to veteran Sam Bradford. Arizona will be fourth NFL team for this oft-injured journeyman. MyBookie has pegged Bradford's chances of leading the NFL in passing yardage this season at +6000. After a strong rookie campaign, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is looking to rebound from a sophomore slump. MyBookie has Prescott odds of +4000 to lead the NFL in passing yardage in 2018.
Sizing Up EE - One player who MyBookie figures is a strong bet to be an NFL leader in 2018 is Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. He was the NFL's top rusher as a rookie in 2016, going for 1631 yards, but Elliott was handed a six-game suspension for domestic violence charges in 2017 and fell to 983 yards, good for 10th in the league. But with no suspension hanging over him this season, Elliott figures to rebound strongly and MyBookie puts him as the chalk to be the NFL rushing yardage leader at odds of +330.
You will find Cardinals running back David Johnson well down the list at +1500. He also endured a trying 2017 season. A wrist injury in the opening game against the Detroit Lions last season scuttled his entire campaign and Johnson ran for just 23 yards on 11 carries. In 2016, though, Johnson rambled for 1239 yards and was seventh overall in the NFL. But history is not on Johnson's side. The last Cardinal to lead the NFL in rushing was Doug Russell of the Chicago Cardinals in 1935.
Hello Larry - The active leader with 15545 yards, veteran Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald will get a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. Ohio when his playing days end, but MyBookie doesn't see Fitzgerald busting out with a banner year in 2018. They list Fitzgerald as +5000 to lead the NFL in receiving yards. Although he's gone over 1000 yards in nine of his 15 NFL seasons, including the last three in a row, Fitzgerald has never finished higher than second in the league in receiving yardage.