Arizona Cardinals (10-5, 9-6 ATS) at Dallas Cowboys (11-4, 12-3), 4:25 p.m.
Brolley’s Cardinals Stats and Trends
The Cardinals own a 3-5 record since Week 8 after opening the year with seven straight victories, and Arizona has lost three straight games outright and ATS to fall out of first place in the NFC West.
Kyler Murray got home for fantasy with 21.9 FP thanks to 74 rushing yards against the Colts, but he’s averaging just 6.0 YPA in his last two games without DeAndre Hopkins and he’s accounted for one or fewer touchdowns in four of his last five games. The Cowboys haven’t allowed an individual quarterback to reach 125+ passing yards against them in the last three weeks, and Taysom Hill is the only quarterback to throw for multiple TDs against them since their Week 7 bye.
Christian Kirk owns a WR-best 24% target share in five games without Nuk in the lineup, and he’s averaging 6.2/63.0 receiving per game with one TD in those contests. He’s now reached double-digit FP in eight of his last 11 games, including 11+ FP in three straight contests. The Cowboys are giving up a generous 14.4 YPR to WRs this season.
A.J. Green managed just a 33-yard catch last week on three targets, which gives him just one catch three of his last six games. He has 4+ catches in his other three contests in that span so he’s been an all-or-nothing option. Antonie Wesley has stepped into Nuk’s spot in the lineup and he’s seen 12 targets in the last two games, and he posted 2/29/1 receiving last week. The Cowboys are giving up the eighth-fewest receptions per game (11.7) to WRs this season if Kyler dares to throw toward Trevon Diggs on the perimeter.
Zach Ertz has been the biggest beneficiary in Hopkins’ five missed contests. The veteran TE is leading the team with a 27% target share (8.8 targets/game) and he’s averaging 5.8/58.0 receiving per game with two TDs in that five-game sample. He’s been a safety blanket for a struggling Murray in the last two games, totaling 14/128 receiving on 24 targets. The Cowboys hadn’t allowed a TE to reach 8+ FP in four games until John Bates posted 2/45/1 receiving in garbage time last week.
James Conner is dealing with a heel injury and he couldn’t make enough progress to play in Week 16, which elevated Chase Edmonds into a bellcow role. Unsurprisingly, Edmonds had his best fantasy game of the season in his first crack as the team’s only back, posting 16/56/1 rushing and 8/71 receiving for 26.7 FP on a 92% snap share in their loss to the Colts. Conner led the backfield in touches (10 to 6), scrimmage yards (70 to 53), and snap share (44% to 39%) the last time these two played together in their 18-point loss to the Lions in Week 15. These backs will be RB2 options in a difficult matchup against the Cowboys if Conner is able to return this week, otherwise, Edmonds is locked in as an RB1 as the team’s bellcow back if Conner can’t play again.
Brolley’s Cowboys Stats and Trends
The Cowboys locked up the NFC East title before they even took the field in Week 16, and they put an exclamation mark on their title by scoring their most points in a game since 1980 in their 56-14 victory over Washington.
Dallas owns a league-best 12-3 ATS record.
The Cowboys have covered in four straight games.
Dallas is 7-2 toward unders in its last nine games.
Dak Prescott saved his best fantasy performance of the season for Week 16, completing 28/39 passes for 330 yards (8.5 YPA) and four TDs for 31.3 FP. Dak had just 35.7 FP combined in his previous three games in Weeks 13-15 with three TDs and three INTs in that span. The Cardinals have given up multiple TD passes in four straight games out of their Week 12 bye.
CeeDee Lamb failed to get in on the fun with a touchdown catch against Washington last week, and he’s scored in just one of his last eight games. He still has 4+ catches, 50+ yards, and 10+ FP in four straight games since he returned to the lineup off of his concussion. Cooper Kupp (13/123/1 receiving) and Amon-Ra St. Brown have gone off in this matchup in the last three weeks.
The squeaky wheel got the grease last week with Amari Cooper erupting for 7/85/1 receiving on 11 targets against Washington. It was just the second time since Week 8 that Coop reached 5+ catches and double-digit FP. Michael Pittman posted 8/82 receiving in this matchup last week, and the Cards have allowed top perimeter options to post 16+ FP in three straight games.
Michael Gallup has taken a backseat in this passing game the last two weeks with just 5/85 receiving on 10 targets. Gallup had posted 8+ targets and 5+ catches in four straight games in Weeks 11-14 before the last two games. The Cardinals have given up 14+ FP to seven different WRs in the last two weeks.
Dalton Schultz is out of hibernation the last two weeks with 8+ catches, 65+ yards, and one TD against both New York and Washington. The Cardinals are allowing the second-fewest FPG (7.7) to TEs this season, and only George Kittle and Robert Tonyan have produced 45+ yards against them.
Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t reached 80+ scrimmage yards since Week 6, but he scored another two touchdowns last week to give him six scores in that nine-game span to keep him afloat for fantasy. He’s still averaging just 3.5 YPC and 5.7 YPR since Week 6while Tony Pollard is sitting at 5.2 YPC and 8.2 YPR in that same span after posting 10/50 scrimmage against Washington. The Cardinals limited Jonathan Taylor to just 4.0 YPC and they held him out of the end zone, which is no small feat, but they’re still allowing a healthy 4.4 YPC to RBs this season.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 25.3 (7th)
Plays per game: 66.1 (5th)
Pass: 59.8% (19th) | Run: 40.2% (14th)
Pace: 24.1 (3rd)
Plays per game: 68.4 (2nd)
Pass: 63.6% (8th) | Run: 36.4% (25th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
On a championship slate filled with mediocre games with low totals outside of a handful of games, this Cardinals-Cowboys matchup is easily the top matchup of the week. Both Arizona and Dallas are top-8 in pace and play volume, producing the No. 1 game in the model by a landslide.
Arizona has not held a lead since a 1st quarter field goal brought them ahead 3-0 against the Rams three weeks ago. Everyone wants to blame the offense (and that’s fair!), but their three-game slide directly coincides with their defense regressing significantly. Over the last three weeks, the Cardinals have given up a score (FG or TD) on a league-high 55.2% of their opponents possessions. Playing without DeAndre Hopkins certainly hasn’t been easy for Kyler Murray, but their defense is surrendering points at will has resulted in the Cardinals offense constantly finding themselves behind on the scoreboard. As a result, the Cardinals have to throw a ton just to try and catch up. Kyler has 49, 41, and 43 pass attempts over this three game-skid after averaging just 30.1 attempts per game in his first nine starts (where the Cardinals went 9-1).
Dak Prescott busted his mini-slump emphatically on SNF last week and now catches another great draw here against the aforementioned sliding Cardinals defense. This game looks even better for Dallas now considering that Arizona will be down their top-2 boundary CBs. We’ve seen OC Kellen Moore dial up extremely pass-heavy gameplans designed to attack their opponents weaknesses this season (last week was a good example!) and this looks like another one of those spots.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
If the information has yet to reach your doorstep, both Marco Wilson and Robert Alford will miss Week 17 due to injury. The next man up is 2016 UDFA Antonio Hamilton. Wilson and Alford have been on the field for over 1,250 snaps, combined, this season. Arizona will obviously be at a distinct disadvantage. This is good news for the Cowboys’ passing offense.
As for the Cardinals’ offense, The Cowoys are at more than 100% at corner, in addition to Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis, ‘21 second-rounder Kelvin Joseph has been inserted into the rotation, and he has been outstanding in coverage. The level of play Joseph has infused into the secondary is a really scary proposition for any team that draws Dallas in the playoffs.
As for the specific WR matchups, they are anticipated to be as follows:
Antoine Wesley on the left sideline vs. Trevon Diggs/Kelvin Joseph
Christian Kirk in the slot vs. Jourdan Lewis/Kelvin Joseph
A.J. Green on the right sideline vs. Anthony Brown/Kelvin Joseph
Rondale Moore/Andy Isabella (10 personnel) vs. Kelvin Joseph
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Here’s Scott Barrett from The XFP Report on Ertz:
“Ertz, like Mike Gesicki, has a TE-designation for fantasy but is basically an oversized full-time slot WR. He’s run a route on 83% of Arizona’s dropbacks over the last eight weeks, with 63% of his catches coming from the slot.
Since joining the Cardinals in Week 7, Ertz is averaging 7.0 targets (19.1% target share), 12.1 XFP/G, and 11.7 FPG. Among all TEs over this span, those numbers rank 7th- (8th-), 7th-, and 4th-best.
And some of these numbers might be skewed against him, with Kyler Murray playing hurt and then missing time due to injury. And we should continue to expect a bit more from Ertz moving forward, with DeAndre Hopkins out for the remainder of the season and leaving behind an 18% target share.
Over the last two weeks, without Hopkins, Ertz has averaged 12.0 targets, 18.8 XFP/G, 64.0 YPG, and 13.4 FPG. (For perspective, Mark Andrews currently leads the position with 15.7 XFP/G.)”
If Cardinal RB James Conner (heel) can’t play this week, Chase Edmonds is a strong RB2. But if Conner does manage to play, it muddies things up given Edmonds is also playing through a bit of a back injury.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott on right knee: “I’m very encouraged by the direction it’s going. I feel more explosive. I can tell I feel faster. I can tell there’s more stability. …If I keep progressing, by playoffs, I think I’ll be close to 100” percent.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) December 29, 2021
Given the state of the Cardinals’ secondary, I can endorse playing Prescott and his receivers as massive upside plays across the board.