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Dallas Cowboys Vs. Arizona Cardinals: Five Keys to Victory

Derek MajorCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Jon Kitna #3 of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals play on Christmas night, as both teams look for a few more positives before the season ends. 

Cardinals

1. Get Skelton in rhythm early: John Skelton isn't going to make many 40-yard throws, so he has to get in rhythm with his receivers for his short passes. The Cowboys run a lot more zone than they used to, so there will be more holes than usual. He just better be careful; if he's not accurate, this could turn into a three interception game. 

2. Let the defense provide a spark: In the last two games, the Cards have scored less than 15 points, so it's fair to say that even with Dallas' poor defense, they won't score much. Therefore, the defense will have to provide a spark for the offense with sacks, big plays and turnovers. 

3. Maintain drives: The Cards are 31st in passing yards and 30th in rushing yards, so they don't have a lot of 80-yard drives. If the Cards can get into third and short situations, they can mix up their play calling and not be one-dimensional. The Cards should have a shot on third down, if they can avoid mistakes and busted plays on first and second down. 

4. Throw the Cowboys some twists: An onside kick, a fake punt, going for it on fourth down in the first quarter. The Cardinals need to throw a surprise at the Cowboys in order to have a chance to win this game.  

5. Keep the game close: The Cards defense is among the worst in the league and although the Cowboys are 5-9, they have a potent offense. That means the Cardinals will have to try to stay with the Cowboys, but if they can keep the game close it may give them an opportunity to win.

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Cowboys

1. Do the small things: The Cowboys don't have to get exotic in order to beat the Cardinals. If they run the ball well, catch passes, convert third downs and generate turnovers, the Cards will fall simply because these are all things they can't do. 

2. Stop Cardinals receivers: The Cowboys give up a lot of yards through the air and the Cardinals receivers are good at sitting in zones, so this could be a bad matchup. If the Cowboys can play a "bend but don't break" defense, they should be fine; the Cards don't go too long without making a mistake or two. 

3. Take advantage of Skelton's mistakes: Skelton is more of a game manager than a game changer, so you won't see him throwing 40-yard bombs to Larry Fitzgerald. He's more likely to throw a 10-yard comeback; with the Cowboys playing more zone than ever, there'll be chances to make plays on short passes. 

4. Take the lead early: The faster the Cowboys can get a big lead, the faster the Cardinals will mope, get down and think "here we go again". When that happens, the game will be over faster than you can say University of Arizona.

5. Avoid a letdown: This is the first game in a long time that the Cowboys know they should win, so they can't have another fourth quarter letdown like last week (or like in 2008 against the Cards). If they take care of business early, it'll give them some room to ease up late, but they'll still need to play hard or they'll make Skelton look like Rex Grossman last week.

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