Dallas will travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in a battle of teams on the playoff bubble. This will be a wet and rainy game on the field turf of Paul Brown Stadium, and the weather will probably hinder the offenses. Both of these offenses are hot, and we will see if a little rain will hold back Andy Dalton or Tony Romo.
Romo vs. the secondary
Dallas sits one game out of the lead in the NFC East, and with a difficult schedule facing them, this weeks game against the Bengals may be a must win for the Cowboys playoff hopes. The Cowboys are 3-1 in their last 4, and Tony Romo and Dez Bryant have been lighting fires throughout opposing secondaries in those weeks. Bryant has 6 touchdowns on 29 catches for 475 yards in that span.
Former Cowboy cornerbacks Terrance Newman and Adam “Pacman” Jones will be opposing Bryant and Romo this week. Leon Hall, along with Jones and Newman, have been above average for the Bengals this year. Leading to the teams 11th ranked passing defense. Their excellent coverage has lead to a large number of coverage sacks, lending to the Bengal’s league lead in sacks (39). Jason Witten will be critical as Romo’s safety valve. Witten has been cold of late, and facing a Bengals team that just shut down Antonio Gates, Witten may play a critical part.
Offensive vs. Defensive lines
Dallas has had problems with their offensive line, with left tackle Tyron Smith currently banged up and struggling even when healthy. Right tackle Doug Free is also a liability, but the Cowboys will see the return of starting center Ryan Cook. The Bengal’s defensive line is good at creating even pressure across the offensive line. Geno Atkins, playing the 3 technique defensive tackle, leads this unit in sacks (9.5). Defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson complete the Cincinnati sack attack, and all are healthy and drooling at the prospect of facing Tony Romo’s wounded line. If Romo is not running around for his life, the Cowboys offensive line should recieve credit for stepping up.
Running game vs. linebackers
Getting Demarco Murray back last week was a big lift for a team in desperate need of a rushing attack. Jason Garret and Romo love to utilize the play action, but recently the play action has been unsuccessful because of the ineffective running game. Murray changes all that. Murray is a much more viable threat to run than Felix Jones, and defenses have to account for that, resulting in more success in play action from linebackers biting on the fake. In a contest that looks to be a sloppy one in wet Cincinnati, it will be important for both teams to establish a running game.
More so for Dallas, who have relied too heavily on the pass this season. The Bengal’s are 11th in the NFL in rushing defense, and their linebacking corps has been full of surprises. Undrafted free agent Vontaze Burfict has been exceptional this season, and supported by veterans Manny Lawson and Ray Maualuga, the Bengal’s have a formidable defensive front seven. Look for the Cowboys throw the ball a lot again this week, but the Cowboys will try to work Murray to take pressure of Romo and a suspect offensive line.