Game Time: 3:25
Location: ATT Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Line: Cowboys -1.5
Zach Martin shouldn’t have to worry about who is wife will support on Sunday afternoon as her brother, Bengals TE Tyler Eifert, will be sidelined with a back injury. Unfortunately, the Cowboys will have their own problems with who suits up on Sunday. Just to name a few of the Cowboys who did not practice on Wednesday: K – Dan Bailey (back), WR – Dez Bryant (knee), RB – Lance Dunbar (knee), OT – Chaz Green (foot), DT – David Irving (Concussion), G – La’El Collins (toe, moved to IR).
There were several others who were limited participants, namely CB Orlando Scandrick and OT Tyron Smith. On a more positive side, DeMarcus Lawrence is back this week which means we could see some resemblance of a, wait for it… wait for it… PASS RUSH! For those of you who don’t remember what this is, a “Pass Rush” is typically where the Defensive End gets around the Offensive Tackle and sacks the QB within 3 seconds. The QB shouldn’t have 7 or 8 seconds to scan and re-scan the field every time he drops back.
So now that we are caught up on who is playing where, what does that mean for Sunday? Ezekiel Elliott is the NFL’s leading rusher through 4 weeks. At his current pace, he should end with over 1600 rushing yards. This Bengals team will let you run on them. They are giving up an average of 3.8 yards per carry on the ground so far this year and haven’t seen anything close to the Cowboys’ rushing attack yet. Establishing the run game early will help the Dak and the passing game. It’s still uncertain if Dez plays on Sunday, so let’s assume he’s out. Bryce Butler had a good game but didn’t really stretch the field like we’d hoped, Terrence Williams apparently didn’t learn from his week 1 goof and refused to go out of bounds before the half and Cole Beasley was contained for most of the game. Not having Dez on the field affects everyone. All the more reason for the Cowboys to continue to pound the ball and control the clock. The longer they keep the Bengals weapons in the arsenal the better.
Defensively, the Cowboys will have their first big test. AJ Green is a big play threat on every play and is averaging 14.6 yards per reception with 2 TDs. Watching Jeremy Hill run against the Dolphins (I know it’s the Dolphins) was scary. He has good feet and won’t go down if you don’t wrap up. With Orlando Scandrick questionable Sunday, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr have to shut down Green and make the other receivers beat them, which they are more than capable of doing. Giovani Bernard and Brandon LaFell can each make plays if you sleep on them. Best way to defend this Offense? Don’t let them on the field.
Keys to the Game:
- Time of Possession: The Cowboys continue to increase their margin in this area. The more Zeke gets familiar with the NFL and this offensive line gels with whoever is manning it, the more this gap will continue to grow.
- Convert in the Red Zone: The Cowboys may be without Kicker Dan Bailey on Sunday. This means either Safety Jeff Heath will be kicking field goals or a Free Agent like Robbie Gould will be brought in to handle that responsibility. Either way, getting in the end zone would help a lot this week more than ever.
- Play Smart: Bryce Butler had a big play brought back last week after he spun the ball on the defender. This led to a punt. You can get away with it against the 49ers. That might change the game against opponents like Cincinnati, Green Bay, Philadelphia and Pittsburg (4 of the next 5 games)
Prediction: Zeke runs wild…
Cowboys: 31, Bengals: 27