The biggest match of the week sees the Dallas Cowboys (11-4) and the Arizona Cardinals (10-5) clash at AT&T Stadium on Sunday. While the Cowboys are standing still in the seed hunt n. 1 in NFC, the Cardinals, on the other hand, seek help in winning the NFC West title.
Nor can they afford a loss if they hope to keep pace within the conference and for their Arizona division. Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury knows how important this match is to his team, who have lost three straight games after starting the season 10-2. This game is so crucial to Arizona that Kingsbury went out of his way to praise the Cowboys roster and coaching staff (minus Mike McCarthy), seemingly trying to catch his team’s attention.
Hence, emphasizing the grandeur of this game is far from an exaggeration. The loser of this game might as well pack it up now and prepare for a wild card outing in the playoffs. OK, maybe that’s a bit much, but this game is huge to say the least.
Here are a couple of different scenarios this game could generate:
If the Cowboys manage to take care of the Cardinals in week 17, their focus would shift to cheering for the Minnesota Vikings to beat the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys would much rather play the Packers at home in late January than at Lambeau Field. If this scenario occurs, it will catapult Dallas past Green Bay and directly to the driver’s seat for the advantage of the home field and the only farewell in the first round on the NFC side of the playoff round.
At this point, the best Arizona can hope for is to win the NFC West, but to do so they will need the help of the Rams. If the Cardinals took care of business and won the remaining two games, they would need the Rams to lose one of the last two and the NFC West crown go to Arizona. The Cards might also be lucky if the Rams lost both of their games to the Ravens and the 49ers, so Arizona just needs to beat the Cowboys or the Seahawks. If I were Kingsbury and the Cards, I wouldn’t bet the latter scenario unfolds too favorably for them.
The best result for the entire conference would probably be Dallas overtaking somehow on Green Bay in slot number 1. Aside Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, no other team really wants to travel to Wisconsin in the division round or NFC championship game. And I’m sure the Bucs would rather not travel this far north in January, but knowing that they have and that they have already prevailed should give them the confidence that they can do it again if need be.
For these reasons, this Cowboys-Cardinals Week 17 showdown has the potential to be a hellish game with so much at stake. I think we’ll find out who is serious and which team masqueraded as a contender all year.