Cincinnati’s playoff hopes hinge on a win week after week. This Sunday is no different. Cincinnati must win to keep up with the Steelers, who seem to be coming up roses with Roethlisberger’s return and a favorable upcoming schedule.
The tables appear to be tilted in the Bengals favor and the team is bringing the momentum of a four game win streak to this weekend’s matchup. However, the Cowboys are bringing in a streak of their own and are just as hungry for a playoff spot in the NFC. Both teams need the win in week 14, but only one will prevail.
Cincinnati has been playing well at every position over the last four games and will be a force to be reckoned with on Sunday if they play with as much determination. Here are five keys to a Bengals victory over the Cowboys on Sunday.
First and foremost the Bengals defense will need to get to Romo early and often. The Dallas quarterback has thrown the third most interceptions this year in the NFL with 15. He is not great under pressure. The Bengals front, led by Geno Atkins, has been fantastic in their previous four wins. They have managed to get to quarterbacks and sack them for a minimum of four times in each of their last four games.
However, even if they do get to Romo early, they will not be able to let up. Romo scores most of his touchdowns in the fourth quarter of the game. So it will be beneficial to the Bengals, if their defensive front can stay fresh throughout the game and keep motivated through all four quarters.
Another defensive key to the game will be to limit Dez Bryant. Bryant has broken out as the number one receiver in the second half of the season for the Cowboys. He has the most yards and receives the most targets of any receiver on the squad. If Bryant can be removed completely from the game, Tony Romo will be forced to look for other options down the field or run the ball.
That is not to discount the rest of the Dallas receiving corp either. The team has a lot of talent on the other end of the quarterback passes and Cincinnati’s backfield is going to have their hands full all afternoon. The Bengals will not be able to blow assignments and will need to cover all of their bases in the backfield.
The third key to the game for the Bengals lies in the running game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been playing his best football in recent weeks and is coming in to Sunday off of three consecutive 100+ yard rushing games. The Cowboys rush defense is ranked 17th in the NFL and have been taken advantage of all season long. BJGE should be able to keep the streak up this week and help his team to a victory, if he can get yards on the ground, take time off of the clock, and score points for the Bengals.
Andy Dalton is the fourth key to the game. The second year quarterback has played much better in the second half of the season. He is currently ranked fifth overall for touchdowns in the NFL and has thrown at least one touchdown in the last 11 games for the Bengals.
He has struggled with interceptions this season, though. Your team can only win if they have the ball. He did have a three game streak where he was interception free, but Dalton threw two last week against Chargers. The Dallas pass defense is ranked 10th in the NFL currently. They will be ready for the young quarterback. Dalton will need to play safe and see the whole field before letting the ball fly.
The last key to the game will be field position. The Bengals have done pretty well with that when Adam Jones has been the return man. Cincinnati should give him more reps with the special teams this week, instead of subbing in the slippery-handed Brandon Tate. Not to mention, Pacman Jones is the hot hand right now. Isn’t that how the 49ers make decisions?
Vegas and NFL gurus are going with the Bengals in this game. Though many things are in their favor, the game is still going to be a tough matchup for the team. The Cowboys will not lay down and have been fighting their way through the whole season.