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Cowboys News: Can Bengals Stop Rookie Sensations Dak Prescott And Ezekiel Elliott?

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Latest Cowboys headlines: Dak Prescott is making believers out of everyone in the football world; DeMarcus Lawrence 'hasn't skipped a beat'; can Cowboys get the ground game going?

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Cowboys rookie QB Dak Prescott playing with poise - Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati.com
A look at Dak Prescott through Bengal eyes.

"They’re not making mistakes,’’ said Bengals linebacker Karlos Dansby. "And if you are making mistakes, they’re making you pay. Prescott is fast, man, He has an ability to see down field, find open windows. He makes checks at the line. He hasn’t made a mistake.’’

Kids aren’t supposed to do that, I suggested.

"Nah,’’ Dansby said. "They’re not.’’

Unlike Wentz, whose Philadelphia Eagles obliterated the Steelers two weeks ago, Prescott has done more than perfect the horizontal passing game.

From the smart guys at Pro Football Focus: Against Pittsburgh, Wentz threw a screen on 33 percent of his pass attempts and his average depth of target was just 5.1 yards downfield. The same week Prescott’s average target depth was 10.2, one of the higher ones in the league, and his season average of 8.3 is middle of the pack.

Prescott is more than a bubble-screen YAC-er (yards after catch). The numbers say his best throws are intermediate tosses, between 10 and 20 yards.

Ranking six teams that missed NFL playoffs last year and chances to make it in 2017 - Jared Dubin, CBSSports.com
Six teams are in position to make the postseason after missing it last year, and one of them is the Dallas Cowboys of course.

Dak Prescott is making believers out of everyone in the football world, Ezekiel Elliott is living up to expectations, and the defense (led by Byron Jones, Sean Lee, and the resurgent Morris Claiborne) has been merely below-average, as opposed to awful like it was last season.

They've been steady in a way that seems eminently sustainable [...] before taking a look at the schedule. In four of their next five games, they'll play the Bengals, Packers, Eagles, and Steelers. Dallas' three wins are over Washington, the Bears, and the 49ers, not exactly the class of the league.

The Cowboys are about to come up against a considerably tougher slate.

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10 things to watch in NFL Week 5: Travis Frederick and Zack Martin versus Geno Atkins - Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com
The Cowboys O-line will face a big challenge against the Bengals D-line, Prisco notes.

If the Cowboys want to run it like they did last week against the 49ers, they will need to block Atkins. Frederick and Martin are two of the best inside players in the league. Ronald Leary, who is now starting at left guard, will also spend time dealing with Atkins, who is special.

Five matchups that will define NFL Week 5: Can Cowboys get the ground game going? - Michael Middlehurst, USA Today
This article argues that the game will be determined by the Cowboys ability to get Ezekiel Elliott going.

Even with rookie Dak Prescott at the helm instead of Tony Romo, this iteration of the Cowboys' offense is something close to a best-case scenario. Elliott has the most rushing yards (412) of any player through four games, and the second-ranked attack has protected a vulnerable defense.

Cincinnati will try to stack its defense against Elliott, but winning up front against Dallas won't be easy. Bengals cornerback Adam Jones told ESPN this week the Cowboys' offensive line was creating holes "so wide open that my little girl could run through there."

Stopping Elliott also likely would force Prescott out of his comfort zone. With wide receiver Dez Bryant's ability to contribute uncertain, the Cowboys likely want to limit Prescott to around 30 throws he has been averaging, rather than the 45 attempts he was forced to make in the season's lone loss to the New York Giants.

Cheat Sheet: Ezekiel Elliott vs Vontaze Burfict - Kevin Patra, NFL.com
Patra explains why Vontaze Burfict's return to the field will be intriguing vs. Ezekiel Elliott.

With Tyler Eifert out another week, A.J. Green is sure to see a bevy of targets again this week. The NFL's receptions leader faces a Cowboys defense that has been solid this season under Rod Marinelli. Morris Claiborne played well against the likes of Odell Beckham, DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery this season. Green is another beast. The Bengals' stud pass-catcher can win with route precision, speed and size. To open the season, Cincinnati's offense has been far too Green-or-bust. A.J. has earned 35 percent or more targets in each game this season. That number won't dip in Dallas.

After giving up 100-plus yards rushing the first two weeks of the season, the Bengals' defense stiffened the past two weeks. Facing an anemic Dolphins team helped, but getting Vontaze Burfict back on the field can't be understated. The linebacker's clashes with Ezekiel Elliott should be epic. The rookie leads the NFL in rushing entering Week 5. Zeke has been more patient hitting the holes and has used his combination of power and speed to the outside to mow over second-level defenders. The Cowboys will ride Zeke again. On Sunday, Elliott should become the first rookie in the Super Bowl era to have 20-plus carries in each of his first five games.

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DeMarcus Lawrence 'hasn't skipped a beat' in preparation for season debut - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Last year Greg Hardy was frequently double-teamed, opening things up for Demarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys are hoping for the same effect from Lawrence this year.

With Hardy no longer on the roster, Lawrence is now expected to be the one drawing double teams when he makes his 2016 debut Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"He's the premier pass rusher over here, so it's going to free up a lot for other guys," defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford said. "There's a lot more we can do, just because he's a really good pass rusher. Teams always know who is coming back and who is in the mix in the pass rush, so they're definitely talking about him and probably changing their protection."

"He could be huge for our defense," linebacker Sean Lee said. "The way he played, especially toward the end of last year really helped us. He was unbelievable, causing a ton of pressure. He's a big part of our defense. I think he's ready to play. I think he'll have a big impact."

Cowboys will stick with injured Dan Bailey for Bengals game - Drew Davison, The Star-Telegram
The Cowboys didn't sign a kicker after all.

Dan Bailey, who has been dealing with a sore back, has shown enough that he should be able to play.

The Cowboys worked out a couple kickers earlier this week as a contingency should Bailey be out.

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Bigger tests await the surging Dallas Cowboys - Charean Williams, The Star-Telegram
Williams argues that the next two games, against the Bengals and Packers, will be a true measuring stick for the surging Cowboys.

They provide a measuring stick for the Cowboys before a bye week and Tony Romo’s expected return to the lineup.

"Yeah, we know we’ve got a pretty good stretch coming up starting with this Sunday and the Bengals," Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott said. "They’re a good team and they’ve got a pretty good defense. But we’re confident in our offense, and this team and the direction we’re headed."

The Cowboys, who were only 4-12 last season, have found the chemistry they had in their locker room in 2014 when they went 12-4. They believe they can win no matter the opponent.

"The chemistry is great right now, and I don’t say that just because we won three games here," Witten said. "I just think it’s a great group of guys that love being around each other. When you go through a journey like this, I think you become hardened from your experiences."

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What You Don’t Know About: Being A Tight End - Travis Kelce, The Players' Tribune
Travis Kelce, tight end for the Chiefs, penned this article on what it takes to be a tight end in the NFL. Money quote: