For the second year in a row, the Bengals will face off against a former starting quarterback, only this time Andy Dalton is now on the other side of the field.
Bengals right end Carl Lawson is trying to make sure Sunday doesn’t turn into one of those nostalgic moments for Dalton. He enjoyed being Dalton’s teammate as much as anyone, but he knows Dalton gets it out of his hand fast. And he’s better when he does.
About 57 percent of his passes have come when he’s in the pocket less than 2.5 seconds, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s completing 73 percent of those for four of his seven touchdowns and four of his six interceptions. He finds himself in a similar predicament to Bengals backup Brandon Allen as they work behind banged-up offensive lines.
“I mean, I’m just taking it as another week, but I have nothing but good things to say about Andy. While he was here, he was a great dude,” said Lawson Thursday in a pre-practice media Zoom. “He’s seen it all. He’s a vet. We know Andy. He’s been here for a couple years, coverage, he knows how to pick apart a defense. You know, he’s going to do what he does best, get the ball out, stay in the pocket, things of that nature.”
Not only did Dalton get hosed by the Bengals when they waited to release him, missing the prime of free agency, but when he got a break to show his stuff in this Cowboys offense, everything around him collapsed.
The offensive line has been a mix-and-match group all season, which has affected running back Ezekiel Elliott’s effectiveness, making things more difficult for Dalton at times. He also suffered the first concussion of his career after a nasty hit by Washington Football Team linebacker Jon Bostic and missed a game. He was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and missed one more.
Dalton has a 1-4 record as the Cowboys’ starter. He has seven touchdown passes and six interceptions. He has been picked off at least once in all five starts. Projecting his starting numbers to a 16-game season, Dalton would have 3,341 yards, 22 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions.
Bengals fans rooted for Dalton for years, and by the looks of it, they’ll be doing it again today.
Look, the Bengals (2-9-1) don’t play in the AFC North this year. They play in the AFC Tank, along with the New York Jets (0-12), Jacksonville Jaguars (1-11), Los Angeles Chargers (3-9), Denver Broncos (4-8), and Houston Texans (4-8).
Currently, the Jets and Jaguars are the only two in the running to “win” the AFCT. But the Bengals are in running with the Chargers, Broncos, and Texans to finish second or third. Normally, fans wouldn’t be so worried about securing a top-three pick, but with Joe Burrow badly needing protection and Penei Sewell unlikely to last very long, it’s important to some that Cincinnati keeps or improves its current Draft position.
Whether you’re rooting for the team to tank or not, the outcome of the game doesn’t mean much. So why not let Dalton bask in the glory of showing Zac Taylor he did him wrong?
Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott (calf) to play vs. Cincinnati Bengals, source says Todd Archer, ESPN
Zeke will give it a go on Sunday.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will play Sunday at Cincinnati despite a calf bruise, a source told ESPN on Saturday.
Elliott, who was listed as questionable after being limited in practice this week, has also been dealing with a hamstring strain, but he said it was important for him to keep playing for his teammates despite the Cowboys’ 3-9 record. He has not missed a game in his career because of injury.
Weekly notes for the game, including health updates.
5. Other injury news.
Offensive tackle Cameron Erving (knee) was placed on injured reserve this week for the second time this season, officially ending his season. Erving started five games at left tackle after Tyron Smith was lost for the season. Rookie center Tyler Biadasz returned from IR this week and returned to practice.
Starting cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Starting safety Donovan Wilson (groin) did not practice this week. He didn’t play at Baltimore and is listed as questionable for Sunday. Starting corner Anthony Brown (ribs) was limited all week and also listed as questionable.
Edge rusher Aldon Smith (foot) was limited in practice but is expected to play.
Zack Martin (calf) was seen at practice on Friday for the first time since injuring his calf against Washington in Week 12. He was working off to the side on the resistance cords, according to a team pool report. The Cowboys practiced inside the Ford Center on Friday. New NFL COVID-19 protocols prevent reporters from attending indoor practices for the rest of the season.
A look at the keys to victory for both teams.
The Cowboys will win if…
The Cowboys will win if they play complementary football without major mistakes. The Cowboys are the more talented team on each side of the ball but they must put together a 60-minute effort to knock off the Bengals. On offense, the game plan should feature Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard combining for 30-plus rushing attempts to control the game and set up big-play opportunities to Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup. If the Cowboys can remain balanced with their run-pass ratio, the offense will eventually put up points against a weary Bengals’ defense that falls apart in key moments. On defense, the Cowboys need to focus on keeping the ball in front of the coverage to eliminate explosive plays through the air. With Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and A.J.Green capable of racking up 20-plus yard receptions on vertical throws and catch-and-run tosses, the Cowboys’ secondary must avoid the mental lapses that have led to numerous big plays this season.
Film room: 3 bold predictions for Cowboys-Bengals, including a strong showing for Dallas’ porous run defense - John Owning, Dallas Morning News
Three bold predictions for the game.
Bengals limited to less than 100 yards rushing
Getting gashed by the Baltimore Ravens’ league-leading run game is one thing, but if the Cowboys get gashed by this Bengals rushing attack that has one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines, then it may be time to label this Dallas run defense as one of the worst of all time.
Cincinnati’s run game has struggled mightily this season, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry (28th in the NFL). Without Joe Mixon, the Bengals are devoid of a running back who can really instill fear in a defense — Giovani Bernard, Samaje Perine and Trayveon Williams are replacement-level backs at best.
And Cincinnati’s offensive line, already one of the worst in football, just saw starting left tackle Jonah Williams placed on injured reserve this week.
The staff over at the Mothership give us their gut feeling predictions for today’s game.
Nick Eatman: On one hand, it’s hard to keep watching the Cowboys week in and week out and say they are going to win. We’re just watching it unfold week after week and while there seems to be new problems pop up here and there, it’s pretty much the same theme every time – the Cowboys just aren’t better than the opponent. But this week, I think they are. Let me emphasize “THINK” on this one. I don’t know this for a fact, but I do think the Cowboys are a better team than the Bengals. I know they have a better quarterback and one that played pretty well last week. But the team’s issues at cornerback and safety could be problematic this week. I just don’t think the Bengals will take advantage the way other teams would. I’ll take the Cowboys in a. 26-17 win to get to 4-9 on the season.
Cincinnati Bengals vs Dallas Cowboys: Three Keys and a Prediction for Sunday’s Matchup - James Rapien, Sports Illustrated
Three keys and a game score prediction.
Dallas can’t stop a nosebleed on defense and Taylor needs to show he can have some success on offense without Burrow on the field.
How will Dalton play in his return to Paul Brown Stadium? Will the pressure be too much for the former Pro Bowler?
I expect Dalton to play well. He’s going up against the team that released him. He’s facing a coach that benched him for Ryan Finley.
No one should expect Dalton to go full heel and stare down Taylor after a touchdown pass, but the Bengals’ all-time leader in touchdown passes is going to throw for 300+ yards and three touchdowns against his former team on Sunday.
Final Score: Cowboys 34, Bengals 23
The Cowboys got flexed out of Sunday night for next week, and it looks like their TV coverage has shrunk for today’s game (map courtesy of 506 Sports).
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