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5 things to watch when the Cowboys host the Bengals

What will you be watching on Sunday?

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals will be trying to get into the win column this week after disappointing outcomes last Sunday. The Cowboys got a good performance by their defense, but their offense was missing in action as they are the only NFL team not to score a touchdown this season.

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They will look to change that this week as they try to stay in the fight until reinforcements show up in the form of players returning from injury. With no Dak Prescott, no Tyron Smith, and no Michael Gallup, the Cowboys have a tough task as they draw the reigning AFC Champions in their one non-conference bonus game of 2022. Here are five things to keep an eye on when the Cowboys face the Bengals on Sunday.

1. Protect the slot

The Bengals have arguably the best wide receiver trio in the NFL as they have completely re-vamped the position group with younger weapons after once relying on aging veterans like A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu. Now, the team has superstar Ja’Marr Chase, third-year stud Tee Higgens, and the reliable veteran Tyler Boyd.

While Chase and Trevon Diggs are going to capture the attention of viewers, the matchup most likely to give the Cowboys defense problems comes from the slot, where the often-forgotten-about Tyler Boyd roams. Boyd will draw the Cowboys' weakest corner in Jourdan Lewis and that could be a problem. Boyd is coming off of four straight seasons when he has had at least 800 receiving yards, which is rather impressive considering Chase and Higgins are also tearing it up.

Honestly, it could be an eenie-meenie-miney-mo type of deal where Joe Burrow looks to attack the Cowboys secondary from all angles, but Boyd offers up the biggest mismatch.

2. Attack the edge

Last week, we called for Micah Parsons to feast as the left side of the Buccaneers' offensive line had some vulnerabilities. And sure enough, he did just that. This week is no different. Left tackle Jonah Williams and rookie left guard Cordell Volson should have targets on them and the Cowboys should once again put Parsons in situations to take full advantage. The Steelers sacked Burrow seven times last week and three of them came courtesy of outside linebacker Alex Highsmith who just abused Williams. Parsons should have a field day.

Of course, we can’t gloss over the matchup between DeMarcus Lawrence and our old friend La’el Collins. These two have seen quite a bit of each other in practice, but should be a fun one to watch on Sunday as well.

3. Don’t get shell-shocked!

Ever since Vic Fangio’s Denver Broncos team stymied the Cowboys' top-ranked offense last year, the blueprint to beating the Cowboys has been on full display for the world to see. While that may not really be the case, it’s hard to deny that teams have had success slowing the Cowboys down. Last week, Todd Bowles created all kinds of problems for Dak Prescott as he had extra defenders sit underneath routes, forcing the Cowboys quarterback to put the ball in smaller windows. Prescott struggled to thread the needle and the Cowboys' offense went nowhere.

While the Bengals will have their own strategy in beating the Cowboys' offense, don’t be surprised to see more of this zone coverage and putting extra pressure on backup quarterback Cooper Rush to make good decisions with the football. Dallas better have a good plan to handle this defensive arrangement this time around, which brings us to...

4. Establish the run

Nobody likes to hear it, but if the Cowboys want to have success on Sunday, they are going to have to commit to the ground attack. Ezekiel Elliott ran the ball well last week for the tune of 5.2 yards per attempt, but the team started ignoring the run as penalties kept them off-schedule for first downs. The Bucs are no peach to run against as they featured the third-fewest rushing yards allowed last season.

Things won’t get any easier with the Bengals on Sunday as their run defense is pretty good too. Last year, they were top five in yards allowed and they allowed just 75 yards on the ground last week against. Cincy has some strength in the trenches, led by seven-year veteran D.J. Reader. It’s going to be a grind at times, but the Cowboys have to bring the fight and be effective running the ball on Sunday.

5. Turnover Time!

The Cowboys' 244 total yards of offense last week was bad, but it was only 23 yards fewer than what the Steelers had last week in their win over Cincinnati. Pittsburgh was aided tremendously by winning the turnover battle five to zero. That’s a big advantage.

We all know the Cowboys' defense was the best in the league at taking the ball away last year and we all know that those turnovers aren’t going to come at the same frequency this year, but the Cowboys need to muster up some of that takeaway ability on Sunday. Burrow threw four interceptions last week as well as fumbling twice. The Cowboys must come after the Bengals quarterback and get after the ball every time it’s up for grabs.

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