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Looking Beyond The Hype

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The Cardinals are hoping to knock off the Cowboys Sunday and post a 4-2 record for the first time since 2002.

It's one of 32 NFL franchises that visits University of Phoenix Stadium, a team locked into the same salary cap and forced to play under the same rules as the rest of the league.

Yet the Dallas Cowboys bring with them so much more – a circus with huge personalities, troubled stars and large expectations.

The football itself can get lost in the hype. But the Cardinals have more to gain

When: Sunday, 1:15 p.m.
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium
TV: Fox (Ch. 10)
Radio: News/Talk 92.3 FM and Sports 620 KTAR (pregame on Sports 620 KTAR at 10 a.m.)

with a win Sunday against Dallas, not necessarily because it'd be a win against a marquee franchise but because the Cowboys are one of the NFC's powers this season.

"That's their claim, 'America's Team,' " linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "That's what they go by. But they got to come in here and they've got to play."

Safety Adrian Wilson called the game as close to a playoff game as the Cardinals have been in of late. At 3-2, the Cards are alone in first place in the NFC West and their top competition for the division – Seattle – not only is struggling but now may also be missing starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

The swing that Sunday might provide could be dramatic.

A loss and the Cards would head into their bye week with a 3-3 record. At worst they would be tied with the 49ers top the division (and still technically ahead based on the Cards' head-to-head win) but would still be on a dip with back-to-back road games in Carolina and St. Louis coming up.

A win, however, and the Cards would be 4-2 for the first time since 2002 (coincidentally also after beating Dallas at home) and in early control of the division.

"Obviously (the Cowboys) get a lot of attention -- it's in your face," defensive end Bertrand Berry said. "ESPN does a great job putting them on 24/7, so you can't get past them. It's not like people don't know who they are. It's going to be a little more attention paid to this game for us as opposed to another team, but we're going to try and stay workmanlike and businesslike in our approach.

"More important than the hype around it, what we are trying to accomplish means more."

Dansby and some of his teammates felt the undefeated Bills arrived in Arizona last week overlooking the Cardinals and instead, Dansby said, "ran into a hornet's nest."

Whether the Cowboys could do the same thing won't be known until the game plays out. But in Dallas, the week leading into Cardinals-Cowboys has been about much that wasn't Cardinals-related.

The big story was the off-field incident of cornerback Pacman Jones. There were questions of whether Jones should be suspended, a big deal in a week in which three key Cowboys' defensive backs – safeties Roy Williams and Patrick Watkins and cornerback Terence Newman – all will be out because of injury.

The Cowboys also dealt with disappointment from last weekend, when a less-than-dominant home win over winless Cincinnati drew criticism.

"I think that's just part of the media," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. "We know how hard it is to win football games. You don't just show up and win."

That has become especially true for visitors at University of Phoenix Stadium, where the Cards have outscored the Dolphins and Bills a combined 72-27 this season.

The Dallas game has shootout potential – the Cardinals are averaging 29.4 points a game, the Cowboys 30.2 – and will be Fox's national TV game on Sunday.

The idea may be to treat this as just another game. For the Cardinals, it may not be realistic.

"This stage," Dansby said, "is huge."


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 10/11/08.

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