To put it bluntly, the Dallas Cowboys could not have started the 2022 season any worst. Not only did they lose the game, they lost their starting QB for what seems to be at a minimum a month, and in the process have found themselves having to look themselves in the mirror and ask the hard questions. Putting all that aside, insert a talented Cincinnati Bengals team that is also mad after starting the season 0-1 as well, add all of these parts together and it is a recipe for disaster coming to Dallas in week two.
The Cowboys will look to backup Cooper Rush to come in and find a way to keep this season from completely coming off the rails in Dak Prescott’s absence. Head coach Mike McCarthy and the front office had mentioned how they planned to lean on the rushing attack, and by doing so, they feel they can control the game. However, in week one they only gave the ball to Ezekiel Elliott 10 times despite him being effective and averaging 5.2 yards a carry. The Cowboys will need an outstanding performance from their talented defensive unit, while the offense is going to need to play smart and complementary if the Cowboys are going to find a way to get their first victory of the season.
These two individuals, one a Cowboy, one a member of the Bengals, will have the biggest impact on Sunday’s game.
Dallas Cowboys X-factor:
The bottom line with this offensive unit and how it is currently constructed is knowing that the strength of the offensive line is run blocking, not passing blocking. And that the QB under center is making his second start of his career. 10 carries simply is not going to get it done for Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys need to lean on Elliott and this running game. Kellen Moore and the offensive staff will need to get creative in their attack, but they very much need to run the ball effectively to set up the pass.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott gained between 5 and 7 yards on eight of his 10 carries Sunday vs. Buccaneers. Last year, when limited by knee injury, he went 11 straight games (Weeks 6 to 17) without recording that many gains of 5 or more yards in same outing. Good sign for run game. pic.twitter.com/YlroD18lFP— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 12, 2022
Getting Tony Pollard involved is also a must, but making sure the Bengals respect the pass will also be important. Simply put, if the Cowboys running game is nonexistent, Cooper Rush and this offense is of no threat to this Bengals defense. Under no circumstances is this offense going to have it easy with Dak out, and yes, they will need to earn every yard they get on Sunday, but in order to have an efficient play-action attack, they are going to need to stay committed to Zeke and the ground game. The impact, for better or worse, that Elliott is going to have on Sunday makes him the easy pick for week two’s X-factor.
Cincinnati Bengals X-factor:
There is no other way to describe Ja’Marr Chase other than calling it how it is, and that he simply is a game-changer. The connection Chase and Joe Burrow have had since their time together in LSU is undeniable and has the capabilities to change the complexion of a game in a second. The Cowboys, and specifically Trevon Diggs, are going to have their hands full all day with the young second-year wide receiver as one could assume Diggs will be taking the brunt of the challenge in week two.
.@Bengals @Real10jayy__ @dallascowboys @TrevonDiggs @LSUfootball @AlabamaFTBL this would be a dream matchup in a Super Bowl game. Hey…stranger things have happened. #matchups #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/3u29gz5GSR— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) October 27, 2021
Coming off a week one performance that saw Chase tally 10 receptions, 129 yards, and one touchdown, the young receiver will look to elevate his game even further. Despite those numbers, the Bengals still did not come out victorious versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cowboys fans hope that Diggs and the rest of the secondary will come ready for the challenge as it’s true that Chase may be the main piece, but he certainly isn’t the only piece. Looking into the past, Diggs and Chase have history as both have faced off before back in their SEC days. Diggs knows first hand what he is in store for on Sunday afternoon and it will take one of his best efforts to hold Chase in check in hopes of securing a Dallas Cowboys victory on Sunday.