The Cowboys travel to Cincinnati on Sunday and go into the game as 3-point underdogs. The Vegas oddsmakers generally start with a base 3-point advantage for home teams in the NFL, so the current odds would suggest that on a neutral field, this game would be an even match. But not according to the experts, most of whom like the Bengals for the win on Sunday.
Whether or not those experts have any idea of what they are talking about remains to be seen, but here's a sampling of what they are predicting for Sunday's game:
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
||27-21||The Cowboys are still alive and the Bengals are surging. This is a huge game for both teams. Cincinnati's pass rush has come alive and the Cowboys don't protect Tony Romo. That's the difference here. Look for a few big turnovers for the Bengals defense to be the difference.|
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com
||24-23||Some interconference games are yawners, and some are not. This would fall under the cool category, especially when you look at the matchups. The red-hot Tony Romo faces a Cincinnati Bengals defense that has been playing well for a month, especially in the secondary. Cincy also leads the NFL in sacks. Meanwhile, Andy Dalton had been on a roll before tossing two interceptions in San Diego. He'll face two very talented corners who have been slumping of late in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Speaking of which, the whole Dallas Cowboys defense has struggled without either of its starting inside linebackers. Will BenJarvus Green-Ellis make it four straight games with 100 yards? No.|
Peter King, SI.com
||27-20||I want to pick Dallas and thought long and hard about it, because I think Dez Bryant will run wild Sunday in Cincinnati. But I also think the Cincinnati front, led by Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlop, is going to make life miserable (and force two or three turnovers), and Cincinnati's offense is too efficient right now to blow it. So make it five straight for the playoff-threatening Bengals.|
Andrew Sharp, SB Nation
||- -||It would be very Cowboys to make a late playoff push here and get everyone's hopes up by heading into Week 16 at 8-6, then lose the final two games to go 8-8 and finish 7th in the NFC, then bring Jason Garrett back next year because of the team's progress during the second half of the year. Not saying that's exactly what's going to happen here, but it would be a very Cowboys thing to do.|
Sam Farmer, Chicago Tribune
||27-24||Bengals have won four in a row, and they have more offensive options than simply Andy Dalton to A.J. Green. Cowboys have been better about protecting ball lately.|
|The Fifth Down, New York Times||- -||The Bengals have won four consecutive games, but face a stiff test from the Cowboys, who have Tony Romo playing well and DeMarco Murray finally back to full-speed.|
|Vinny Iyer, Sporting News||24-17||Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer used to work for the Cowboys, and he’ll have some blitzes prepared to make the afternoon rough on Tony Romo. The Bengals’ offense cooled off a bit in San Diego, but A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham will give Dallas matchup problems. Both teams still have big playoff aspirations, but Cincinnati has the better record and better all-around team|
|Greg Cote, Miami Herald||24-23
||Here is a vital game in the playoff chase, with both teams just outside their conference’s top six but each well in the hunt. Both teams are hot, especially Cincy with four consecutive Ws, but I like ’Boys in a road upset on a pure hunch, taking the leap they won’t self-destruct with turnovers. Tony Romo has been really good lately, and having RB DeMarco Murray back from injury is big.|
Many sites publish their picks without providing any specific commentary. The Cowboys do not get a lot of action on most of those panels:
|Pro Football Focus||5||3|
|NFL Around The League||3||2|
|Inside the NFL||2||0|
Summing up the predictions we've polled above, the Bengals look like 53-20 favorites. So what? Anything can happen in a non-conference game. Heck, anything can happen when the Cowboys play, period - they've not exactly been a model of consistency this season.
(Published) public opinion is much more negative on the Cowboys' chances than the Vegas odds suggest it should be. What's your take on the game?