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Cowboys vs. Bengals: Writer predictions for Cooper Rush’s first start of the year

Does anyone believe in these Cowboys right now?

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In the span of about three hours, the Cowboys went from favorites to win the division to having some of the best odds to land the first overall pick in the draft. Losing Dak Prescott was the biggest blow, even with how poorly he played against the Buccaneers, but Dallas also lost Jayron Kearse, Connor McGovern, and Tarell Basham.

Now, they take on the Bengals, another team looking for their first win of the year after losing in overtime to the Steelers last week. Quarterback Joe Burrow turned the ball over five times in that game, and his rebuilt offensive line gave up seven sacks. Which team do our writers think gets back on track in this one?

When Cincinnati has the ball

Pressure, pressure, pressure

The Bengals made a magical run to the Super Bowl last year in spite of their offensive line being one of the worst units in the league. They spent a lot of money in the offseason to upgrade the offensive line, including signing former Cowboys right tackle La’el Collins.

One game in and it hasn’t worked out. The Bengals finished Week 1 ranking 31st in adjusted line yards and 28th in adjusted sack rate; Collins, in particular, struggled against T.J. Watt. Now he’ll face two of his former teammates, Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence. If the defense - which ranks sixth in pass rush win rate, seven spots ahead of the Steelers - can pressure Burrow the way Pittsburgh did, they’ll hurry up Burrow’s process yet again. And that’s a recipe for success for this defense, which led the league in takeaways a year ago.

When Dallas has the ball

Get to the edges

The Cowboys wanted to run the ball a lot back when they had a franchise quarterback. Now that they’ll be sending Cooper Rush out for only his second career start, they need to run the ball more. Cincinnati has a pretty stout run defense, but it’s almost entirely concentrated in the middle of the trenches.

Last week, Pittsburgh made the mistake of running it up the middle on 65% of their runs, the fifth highest rate of any team. Unsurprisingly, the Bengals bottled up their rushing attack. But last week, Dallas ran it outside the tackles at a fairly high rate, and they were having success with it until they went away from the run game completely. The Cowboys have a great opportunity to run the ball at very efficient level against this defense, but they’ll need to stay ahead of schedule on down and distance to avoid having to abandon the run.

Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...

Tom Ryle (0-1):

Throughout the offseason and preseason, we worried about what could go wrong for the Cowboys. Most of us felt good about the defense, but the offense seemed to be one potential pitfall piled on top of another. Well, if you include Tyron Smith’s injury, just about every offensive problem reared its ugly head.

The offensive line is struggling, the young wide receivers and tight ends did not provide much help, CeeDee Lamb may not be the WR1 they need, and, after looking as bad as he ever has, Dak Prescott is out for a few weeks. The Bengals are the defending AFC rep in the Super Bowl, and should be angry about their loss. This probably going to get ugly.

Cincy will win 27-13.

Tony Catalina (0-1):

It’s tough to feel real confident heading into week two as a Cowboys fan. Even if Dak and the rest of the injured guys were available and playing in this game you knew it was going to be another tough test against the Bengals.

Reality and being honest with myself will not allow me to pick the Cowboys this week. Is it impossible, no, but is it probable? Again, no. The Cowboys will need to play perfect on all three phases and hope the defense is able to continue Joe Burrow’s streak of turnovers from last week to have a chance, but ultimately the Cowboys will fall in week two.

Bengals win, 20-7.

Matt Holleran (1-0):

Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding the Cowboys this week, I think we’re going to see a effort this week than we didn’t last Sunday against Tampa Bay. I think the defense steps up in a big way and forces Bengals’ QB Joe Burrow into some more turnovers.

Cooper Rush and the offense find some rhythm early, allowing Dallas to lean on Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the run game. Dallas hangs in until the fourth quarter when Burrow and his favorite target Ja’Marr Chase become too much to handle, and the Bengals score a back-breaking touchdown.

Give me Cincinnati in this one, 24-16.

Brandon Loree (0-1):

Both the Cowboys and Bengals come into Week 2 without a win. Fans hear it every year. The odds of making the playoffs after starting 0-2 are not good. Can Dallas avoid disaster? I believe so!

I have been driving the Cooper Rush bandwagon since Dak went down. The last time we saw him play meaningful, he was not terrible and won a game in Minnesota. Until he proves otherwise, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. Even though he does not have the same receivers as last year, I think Rush playing all preseason with this offense helps.

Somehow, some way, Dallas wins a must-win matchup against the defending AFC champs, 20-17.

Matthew Arizzi (1-0):

I had the Buccaneers winning in a close game last week with the Cowboys covering. This week, a hungry Bengals team that seemed to turn the ball over every possession coming into Dallas against a backup quarterback? Sounds disastrous.

I actually think Cooper Rush and company are able to put in a touchdown or two. Not necessarily sure how, maybe even a special teams touchdown would do. That’ll be all though and I think Joe Mixon has his way with this run defense.

24-13, Bengals.

Aidan Davis (1-0):

If you thought last week was bad, this one could get even worse. With Joe Burrow coming off a six turnover game, he is assuredly not going to be as reckless with the ball in this one. The Cowboys secondary matches up well with a Bengals WR room that could be without Tee Higgins. But Ja’Marr Chase is a master at making the CB miss, which might be an issue for Trevon Diggs, who struggles to finish the play at times.

As for the offense, there is little explanation needed. The Bengals loss last week was not a result of poor defensive play. Specifically, the interior of their defensive line and secondary anchor a formidable defense. They will stop the run early by forcing Zeke to bounce it outside, and from then on it is Cooper Rush versus the Bengals secondary. Rush will lose that battle.

Bengals 26, Dallas 9.

Mike Poland:

Last-minute drive for Dallas sends Brett Maher out for the game winner. Cowboys look good to start the game in the 1st quarter, but the Cowboys offense disappears during the 2nd quarter and 3rd quarter and the defense does a lot of heavy lifting to the keep the game competitive. Although Micah Parsons gets a sack and multiple TFL, the Bengals offense aimed to try to purposely keep him at bay and run the ball in opposite direction to him as much as possible.

Both Trevon Diggs and UDFA Markquese Bell or Israel Mukuamu snag the ball to send it back Cowboys way. Neville Gallimore gets a sack fumble and Demarcus Lawrence gets a fumble off Joe Mixon. Most of the pressure off the defensive line comes from the inside, more is needed going forward from the DE group. Special teams help some on punt return to give the Cowboys offense better field position than last week.

Cowboys win 24-21.


Starting the season off 0-2 was the last thing on Cowboys fan’s agendas but unfortunately we don’t always get to make our own schedules. Ceedee Lamb shows up and shows out against the Bengals secondary but the lack of help from other receivers will wear him down by the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys rush attack gets a much-needed boost from Ezekiel Elliott who sees twice as many touches as he did in game one, but Cooper Rush and the defense just can’t do enough to go toe-to-toe with last year’s Super Bowl runner up. Joe Burrow did throw four interceptions last week but the loss of Jayron Kearse makes that task a tall one for Dallas. Expecting a bounce back week from Burrow and a tough loss for the home team.

Cowboys 20 - Bengals 27.

Brian Martin (1-0):

This Week 2 matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals was going to be a tough one even before Dak Prescott’s injury, and will be even more so now without No. 4 under center. With Cooper Rush starting at QB now, Dallas will need to be almost perfect in all three phases of the game this week to have any chance of coming away with the “W”. Sadly, they are their own worst enemy, continually shooting themselves in the foot, which is why I have them starting the 2022 season 0-2.

Bengals win, 24-9.

RJ Ochoa (0-1):

The Dallas Cowboys are in a bad place right now. Obviously some people still believe that there is a way this season can be salvaged but even though we are “only” in Week 2 things look incredibly grim.

Maybe if the Cowboys were taking on one of the worst teams in the NFL this week they could find a way to stop the bleeding; however, they have an upset Cincinnati Bengals team who looks like they are ready to right their own ship and get back on the proper path. These are two ships passing in the night. A once toxic franchise that has found stability and hopes for long-term success... and the Dallas Cowboys.

Bengals win and cover easily, 30-10.

David Howman (1-0):

If you had asked me on Monday what I thought of this game, I’d predict a blowout loss for the Cowboys. But the more I looked at the Bengals’ performance this past weekend, the more I’m convinced the Cowboys have a legitimate shot. Cincinnati’s offensive line is still a problem, and the Cowboys have more than enough talent on defense to expose that weakness as well, if not better, than the Steelers just did.

On the other side, the Cowboys offense is designed to win on runs to the edges, which is arguably the Bengals’ biggest weakness on defense coming into this game. I see Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard both getting a lot of work, and Rush will play just well enough to not kill the offense. All of it comes together for one of the bigger upsets of the week.

Cowboys win 20-16.

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