The Arizona Cardinals host the Dallas Cowboys at 4:25pm ET this Sunday (9/24/23) in week 3 of the NFL season. The Cowboys are heavy betting favorites with a spread of -12.5, while the over/under is set at 43 points. This article provides Cardinals vs. Cowboys analysis, predictions and best bets, including a recommendation to bet on the Cowboys against the spread.
Cowboys vs. Cardinals Prediction & Best Bet
No team has been more dominant through the first two weeks of the season than the Dallas Cowboys. They have scored the most points (70), allowed the fewest points (10) and the fewest yards (193/game), forced the most turnovers (7) and committed zero turnovers of their own.
They have benefited from some favorable matchups, including a Jets team that had just lost Aaron Rodgers, and they have another favorable matchup this week against one of the worst rosters in the NFL.
To their credit, the Arizona Cardinals have looked plucky through their first two games of the season. They held leads in the fourth quarter against both the Commanders and the Giants before surrendering late in the game, but at least they managed to cover the spread both times.
That ends this week against the Cowboys, who are going to wreak havoc on an inexperienced QB like Josh Dobbs with a weak offensive line in front of him.
The Cardinals have done a good job so far of protecting Dobbs, who has been sacked just 3 times on 66 dropbacks. Dobbs deserves some of the credit for that, as he has done a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly – he is currently averaging the 10th fastest time to throw at 2.85 seconds. That will be very important in this game with the pressure he’ll be under from Micah Parsons and company.
The Cardinals may have exceeded expectations in each of the first two games, but they haven’t faced an opponent anything like this Cowboys team. Dallas will certainly miss Trevon Diggs on the outside, but his absence will not have a significant impact this week. The Cardinals only have 1 wide receiver worth worrying about (Marquise “Hollywood” Brown), and Dallas still has another elite cornerback in Stephon Gilmore to match up with him.
Led by another dominant performance by their defense, the Cowboys should have no problem covering the 12.5-point spread in this game, so that is the best bet recommendation in this matchup. We would even be interested in teasing that spread up a little higher to get better odds, but the Diggs injury and the Cardinals’ feistiness creates enough uncertainty to feel safe just playing Cowboys -12.5 at -110.
While we lean towards the under at 43 points, we are staying away from betting the total in this game. Both Cowboys games so far have finished at exactly 40 points, with the Cowboys doing most of the scoring. A similar game script could play out in this game, but it’s hard to expect the Cowboys to continue scoring 30+ points every week, and it’s equally hard to expect the Cardinals to score much more than 10 against this defense.
That’s why we lean towards the under, but the possibility of Dallas running it up on the Cardinals’ banged up defense – especially if they force a few turnovers – is too high to confidently bet the under.
Cowboys vs. Cardinals Prediction & Best Bet: Cowboys win 27-13, Cowboys cover -12.5
Cowboys vs. Cardinals Betting Odds
DAL @ ARI
Sep. 24, 3:25 PM
Odds updated September 24th, 2023, at 6:20 pm
This game opened with the Cowboys as -12.5 favorites and has barely moved in either direction. It’s likely to close at that number, but bettors could have some opportunities to get it at either -12 (for Cowboys bettors) or +13 (for Cardinals bettors) by monitoring the line and shopping around.
The over/under has also seen little movement aside from a small 1-point drop after opening at 44.
The implied outcome of these odds is the Cowboys winning 28-16.
Cowboys vs. Cardinals Key Injuries
The Cowboys suffered their first significant injury of the season when star CB Trevon Diggs tore his ACL in practice this week. He is out for the season. Fellow DB Jayron Kearse has missed the first two practices this week and is at risk of missing this game.
Dallas also has a few starters on offense whose status is worth monitoring. The most important one is All-Pro RG Zack Martin, who suffered an ankle injury at the end of the last game and has missed the first two practices this week. Starting LG Tyler Smith has missed the first two games with a hamstring injury, while his backup Chuma Edoga left the last game with an elbow injury, but both players are trending towards being available this week. WR Brandin Cooks missed the last game with a knee injury but is also trending towards returning.
The Cardinals are dealing with several injuries on their defense. Four defensive starters missed the last game: S Budda Baker, DT L.J. Collier, NT Leki Fotu and LB Josh Woods. DT Carlos Watkins also left that game early. Baker and Collier have been placed on IR, while the other three remain questionable.
Cowboys vs. Cardinals Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Cowboys vs. Cardinals below.
Cardinals’ offensive line vs. Cowboys’ pass rush
The Cowboys lead the league so far this season with 10 sacks and they are generating pressure at the 2nd highest rate. Micah Parsons looks completely unblockable.
Micah Parsons speed is INSANE
in the blink of an eye he gets from waaaay outside the LT to the QB’s face absolutely nuts
the move with zero wasted motion 👀 pic.twitter.com/bniTyXEgSy
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 19, 2023
The Cowboys’ pass rush can attack from every direction, and they make great use of stunts like in the above video to create mismatches. Look for them to do the same thing against this Cardinals offensive line, who are stronger on the edges than in the interior. Left guard Elijah Wilkinson is the weakest link on the offensive line, so expect Dallas to find creative ways to get their pass rushers 1-on-1 against him.
If Arizona can’t find a way to slow down the Cowboys’ pass rush, it’s going to be a long day for Josh Dobbs.
James Conner vs. Cowboys’ run defense
The best way for the Cardinals to slow down the Cowboys’ pass rush and make things easier for Dobbs is to run the ball effectively. Arizona has been an effective run blocking team so far this season and they have actually earned PFF’s second-highest run blocking grade through two weeks.
James Conner is averaging an efficient 4.5 yards per carry and is coming off a 100-yard game against the Giants. The Cowboys are better against the pass than they are against the run, but they are still a top-10 run defense so far this season and have held opponents to 3.9 yards per carry.
Arizona may be forced to abandon the run if they fall behind by multiple scores, but it would be a mistake to abandon it completely. The more effectively they can run the ball, the more they can control the pace of the game and limit the number of possessions, which is one of their best hopes to cover the 12.5-point spread.