The Cincinnati Bengals are in a bad spot. They are 0-4, a nearly insurmountable deficit to climb out of to salvage their season. It's hard to fathom that a team with Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson Ocho Cinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Dhani Jones are having as much issues as they are, especially offensively. A few years ago, this was a playoff team and seemed on the verge of taking the AFC by storm. They just never seemed to recover from Palmer's horrific knee injury. The Bengals' quarterback is widely considered one of the top quarterbacks in the league, yet this year started in disappointing fashion as he was held without a touchdown pass until the third game. The Bengals have had their share of injuries, but it's been obvious that something just isn't right with the team.
So what makes them so dangerous? The Cincinnati Bengals have nothing to lose. They can afford to become aggressive on offense and more opportunistic on defense. You can't keep an offense like the Bengals quiet forever and they are primed to have a breakout game. You could say that they came out of their shell against the Giants, when they forced the game into overtime. Last week was a setback, but they had Ryan Fitzpatrick spastically chunking the ball against the Browns. This week Palmer is back and their players are getting healthier, which would could be dangerous for defenses down the road. The Cowboys pass defense also has a target on their backs. So far, a talented defense has yet to live up to its full potential and teams have exploited soft coverages for big days. Ocho Cinco and company know that this defense is primed for them to bust out against.
On the flip side, the Cowboys have a chance to make big statement with what has all the makings of a blowout game. A lot of the Bengals' troubles can be attributed to the play of the offensive line. The Bengals rank 29th in total offense and 26th in sacks allowed, while managing just 3.5 yards per carry. A Cowboys defense that has been inconsistent in the pass rush and has yet to record an interception has the chance to have a big day against the Bengals' offensive line. The defense is looking to have a big game in the wake of a letdown performance against the Redskins, and should come out aggressive and hungry.
Surprisingly, the Bengals' defense hasn't been their biggest weakness. Their pass defense ranks 4th in the NFL, allowing a respectable 5.8 yards per attempt and just 165 yards passing per game, yet ranks 16th in opponent's passer rating. The run defense ranks 28th yet allows 4.3 yards per carry, a much lower number compared to other teams at the bottom of the league in run defense.
The numbers point to one thing: the Bengals' offense has held the team back. Opponents get ahead on the scoreboard and then just steadily run the ball the rest of the game, not needing big plays to put the Bengals away. The offense is unable to sustain drives and while the defense puts up a valiant effort, they can't maintain their intensity the whole game. But if the Bengals offense gets rolling, this team has the ability to win a number of games.
You also can't discount the fact that this game is against the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for opposing players to have a big game on the biggest stage. Every team wants to play their best game against America's Team and it seems a lot of them do. The Cowboys have to be ready to face each team's best effort every week and on any given Sunday, either team on the field can win. The Bengals will be psyching themselves up for this game and the Cowboys have to be ready to take on a revved up, talented team with a coach who has nothing to lose but his job. Beating the Cowboys would be a great way to maintain some job security. The Bengals are a team on the edge; the Cowboys would be wise to not take them lightly.