The Dallas Cowboys have been one of the biggest surprises of the 2016 NFL season, going 3-1 to start the year. Having survived the loss of starting quarterback Tony Romo, the team gets a chance to prove just how good they are in Week 5.
Dallas faces their toughest test to date on Sunday when they host the Cincinnati Bengals. With wins against the Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers, the Cowboys’ victories have come against teams with a combined 4-8 record. Dallas lost to the 2-2 New York Giants in the season opener.
Cincinnati is 2-2, but are they still among the top AFC playoff contenders, having lost to legitimate Super Bowl Contenders? The Bengals were defeated on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers and at home against the Denver Broncos, who are the AFC’s only unbeaten team.
Despite the records of the two teams, Oddsmakers still consider the Bengals to be the far superior team. Cincinnati is a one-point road favorite at Las Vegas and online sportsbooks. The over/under is 45.5.
There’s still some question regarding whether or not the Cowboys are as good as their record might indicate, but there’s no more doubting whether or not Dak Prescott can be an NFL starting quarterback. Dallas hasn’t missed Romo at all behind Prescott, who has a 98.5 passer rating. He seems to get better every week, throwing two touchdown passes for the first time when the Cowboys beat the 49ers in Week 3.
The most impressive aspect of Prescott’s start has been his ability to avoid making costly mistakes. He still hasn’t thrown an interception, setting a rookie record by attempting 131 passes without being picked off. Carson Wentz and Sam Bradford are the only other quarterbacks to start at least two games and avoid throwing an interception in 2016.
That, however, might change against a tough Cincinnati defense. The Bengals rank 10th in pass defense, and they held Ryan Tannehill to 189 yards passing in last week’s win. Prescott could be a good starting quarterback for years to come, but his lack of turnovers is unsustainable.
Andy Dalton is easily the best quarterback to face Dallas since the team was beaten by the Giants in Week 1. He’s third in the NFL with 1,234 passing yards, and he could take advantage of a Cowboys’ secondary that hasn’t truly been tested. A.J. Green has caught for more than 170 yards in two of his four games, and he could approach that total on Sunday against a defense that’s allowed opponents to post a passer rating of 93.5.
Cincinnati has made the playoffs for five straight years by taking care of teams they’re supposed to beat, and that should continue on Sunday.
Prediction: Cincinnati over Dallas, 27-23