On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys, coming off thrilling win over Philadelphia to push themselves back into the playoff picture, are going to face off against the Bengals. Currently, the Bengals stand at 7-5, one game ahead of the Cowboys. However, the Bengals are coming off of four wins, while the Cowboys have won 3 of their last 4. The Cowboys are on a thin line here, at the very edge of playoff contention. Every game from here on out will be very crucial to the outcome of this up and down season for Dallas. Meanwhile, the Bengals face the same predicament. Their record is slightly better, but they are also in need of a few wins in these last weeks if they hope to pull out with a record good enough for the wild card. Both teams will face each other with lots of fire, with the loser suffering a tough blow to their post-season chances. The Cowboys seem semi-vulnerable right now, as they have a weak offensive line and a very depleted defense, with several key starters and backups injured. On offense, the line is having difficulties, but the Cowboys have welcomed the return of DeMarco Murray, who absolutely changes this offense, and have finally harnessed the game-breaking abilities of Dez Bryant, who has popped off his cap and exploded like the elite superstar he was drafted to be. While the Bengals do employ a dangerous passing game with A.J. Green, Cowboys fans should feel a bit of comfort knowing they are attacking with a similar air threat in Dez.
Dez Bryant vs Nate Clements: The Bengals secondary has been suspect for a while, and when faced with a combo of Romo, Bryant, Witten, and a little bit of Austin, there could be a nightmare scenario. Dez has exploded and will eat Clements up. Clements is a good cornerback that can usually take care of business, but when faced against a physical beast like Bryant, Clements will be in for a very long day. He may get the better of The 88 Club on a few plays, but overall will have a poor performance against a great QB-WR punch.
Miles Austin vs Leon Hall: Miles Austin will not have a big, superstar day. He may not do that very much in a Cowboys uniform. It’s not because he isn’t talented, but rather because he has basically become Romo’s 3rd option on a given play. We all know Romo will look for Witten first as long as his tight end plays, and now, will look for the big play to Bryant. Austin is a great receiver who has excellent speed and reliable hands, but he’s just in a spot where he can’t be the main offensive weapon. That said, he is still pro-bowl material. I expect Hall to split this game, because Austin won’t have too many catches, however, I see Austin making a big play against him at least once in the game.
Brandon Carr vs A.J.Green: Brandon Carr has been great for Dallas this year, pairing with rookie Morris Claiborne to give Dallas the 10th best pass defense, despite numerous injuries along the defense. However, Carr has had some slip ups. He had a terrible game in week 4, where Brandon Marshall abused him all day. He did a relatively good job against Anquan Boldin, but allowed a big play near the end of the game. However, he has been very effective. A.J. Green is a very dynamic receiver who can get around any corner, and for that reason, I have him seeing a good day. Carr does a good job against a receiver with this immense talent, but in the end, Green still has a productive day.
DeMarcus Ware vs Andrew Whitworth: Whitworth is a decent left tackle, and Ware is a monster who has been slowed down these last few weeks because of a neck problem. Ware will have to get to Dalton consistently, or else he will find Green over and over again, making the D miserable. I expect Ware to get out of his funk and lay it down on Dalton at least once.
Dallas O-Line vs Bengals D-Line: This matchup could absolutely kill the Cowboys. The Dallas line is one of the worst in the league, and the Bengals D-Line is probably the best in the league. I see the Bengals staying alive in this fight because of the D-Line, as Geno Atkins and company dominate.
Bengals Game Plan: The easiest way for the Bengals to win is to play well on defense. The Cowboys offense has been slow this season, but with the elite-class play of Bryant these past few weeks and the return of DeMarco Murray, the offense has been given new life. The Cowboys will put points on the board. The Bengals job is to limit that as much as possible by destroying Romo with their incredible D-Line.
Cowboys Game Plan: The Bengals will also score on the Cowboys. The Cowboys D looked good at the start of the year, but they have suffered a ridiculous amount of injuries that has decimated this unit and made them look like Swiss Cheese. For them, the offense will have to outdo the Bengals offense. With Bryant, Witten, Romo, Austin, and Murray, the Cowboys have to find ways to score lots of points.
Quarter by Quarter
Q1 Both offenses will start off with nothing. The Cowboys will take the first possession and run 6 plays before giving it to the Bengals who will do the same. On the next Dallas drive, the Boys’ will use Murray to get some good chunks and take it to the Bengals side of the field. Romo will drop back more, find his way out of pressure and pass the ball inside the 30. However, two runs later, Romo drops back on 3rd down, only to get sacked and kill the TD opportunity. Dan Bailey is able to at least make a field goal to give Dallas a 3-0 lead. The Bengals offense will come back for round two against the Cowboys defense. BenJarvus Green-Ellis will make a couple big plays into the Cowboys territory, before Dalton and Green make a couple big plays to put some receiver in the endzone with possession of the ball. The Bengals take the lead 3-7. The Cowboys offense comes back at the end of the first.
Q2 This time, Romo and the Boys will have some good success again. Riding Witten and Bryant, Romo leads the Boys’ down to the redzone. On 3rd and short, Romo is unable to find the receiver for a first down, and Dallas goes for another field goal, to close the gap, 6-7. The Bengals take the field ready to increase their lead. They look very good, abusing the defense into the Cowboys 30 yard line. Then, Ware makes a big sack, and the defense is able to stop them on third down and force a field goal. The Bengals now lead 6-10. The Cowboys come back to the field, trying to get their first TD of the game. Romo again leads the Boys down to the redzone, but the redzone offense fails to deliver yet again and the Cowboys come off having to go for their third field goal of the day. Dan Bailey makes it 9-10, with the Boys trailing by just 1. The Bengals come on and get stopped by the defense. They give the ball back to Dallas, who takes it into halftime trailing 9-10.
Q3 The Bengals will get the ball to open the second half. They will have a good looking drive and march it down, before Dalton finds a short pass in the endzone for another TD. The Bengals will be in good shape, leading 9-17. The Cowboys will come on the field, hoping that their magical second half success, where their scoring takes a leap, shows up. Luckily it does, as Romo find Bryant in the redzone for a TD to close it back down to 1. The Bengals are stopped on their next drive and give the ball back to Dallas, and Dallas has a chance to take the lead. The get down, but the D-Line gives them problems again as Romo is sacked for the 3rd time on the day and the Cowboys once again only get a field goal to take a 19-17 lead. The Bengals get the ball and take it into the fourth quarter.
Q4 Now, Andy Dalton gets back into a groove and leads the Bengals inside the Dallas 10. BenJarvus Green Ellis puts tough running to work and puts the ball into the endzone to take a 24-19 lead over the Cowboys. Romo and Company come onto the field, hoping to keep it close and score here. Romo, using a big play to Witten, and propels Dallas into scoring position. Romo then feeds the ball to Murray into the endzone and make it a 26-24 game. The Bengals are in need of a score again, but this time, Dalton fumbles the ball after a hit from Spencer. Dallas recovers, with about 9 minutes left in the game. A TD could give them a comfortable lead, and a field goal could put them up by 5. Dallas takes the ball down, and Romo makes the big plays again. This time, he gives the ball to Bryant, who breaks away for a 30 yard score to give Dallas a 33-24 edge with about 7 to play. The Bengals run a quick offense, needing to win this game. Green shows up again, and takes a big play into scoring range. The Dallas defense shows up big time to make a 3rd down stop and only allow a field goal to make a 33-27. The Cowboys will get the ball with about 3 left to play, up by 6. They need a few first downs to seal the deal, or give the ball to Cinci and hope the defense doesn’t let up a game winning TD. Romo and Co. keep it till the two minute warning, and the Bengals start using their timeouts to preserve the clock. With about 40 seconds left, Dallas punts the ball. Dalton come onto the field, equipped with 35 seconds to get a TD to win the game. The Bengals drive down to midfield before having to spike the ball leaving time for one play to score. Andy Dalton takes the snap and looks downfield and dumping it to his back, and the lateral game starts, before the runner is chased down and the Cowboys, despite a struggling line and defense, ride big games from Romo, Witten, and Bryant to victory and improve to a 7-6 record, their first record above .500 since week 3.
Romo: 28/42, 340 yards, 2 TD
Murray: 18 rush, 90 yards, 1TD, 3 rec, 20 yards
Witten: 6 rec, 100 yards
Bryant: 8 rec, 120 yards, 2 TD
Austin: 4 rec, 60 yards
Ware: 1 sack, 4 tackles
Spencer: 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 6 tackles, 2 TFL
Dalton: 26/39, 320 yards, 2TD
Green-Ellis: 22 carries, 120 yards
Green: 7 rec, 90 yards