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Big Picture: Just Like Cowboys, Bengals Also Welcoming Key Players To Lineup


With a quarter of the regular season in the books, the arrow is indeed pointing up for the Cowboys – in more ways than one. Obviously the 3-1 record has created a buzz around Cowboys Nation, especially considering two rookies are leading the way on offense.

We might have expected Ezekiel Elliott to have a fast start, but the fact he's leading the league in rushing with 412 yards is an added bonus. The bigger surprise – at least to the outside world – has been the play of Dak Prescott, who has performed so well in four games that the term "quarterback controversy" has started to develop, although the Cowboys' coaching staff continues to dismiss the notion of Tony Romo not getting his job back when he returns from his back injury.

Nonetheless, Prescott's play has been good enough to at least make it a conversation topic.

The Cowboys have been able to win games without some of their key players, aside from Romo. All-Pro tackle Tyron Smith has missed two straight games with a back injury, and Dez Bryant sat out last week with a fractured bone in his knee. Orlando Scandrick (hamstrings) has missed two straight games and guard La'el Collins has now been moved to IR as he needs toe surgery.

Still, the Cowboys have found a way to win three straight games, although none of their four opponents so far have a winning record.

Even more positive news is that this team should get even better in the upcoming weeks, including this Sunday against the Bengals. Smith, Bryant and Scandrick all have a shot to play, and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, the team's sack leader last year, returns from a four-game suspension.

But the Cowboys will need all the firepower they can get against a Bengals team that looks much better than its 2-2 record.



Not only do the Bengals have the NFL's leading receiver in A.J. Green, who has 32 catches, but they should get even more help in the passing game this week.

Tight end Tyler Eifert, who has been out the last four games with an ankle injury, is expected to return this Sunday. The Bengals are hoping Eifert can help a struggling red-zone attack that ranks 31st in the NFL. Cincinnati has just four touchdowns in 13 attempts inside the 20-yard line.

As a result, only three Bengals players have scored touchdowns in four games as running back Jeremy Hill has three, Green has two and backup tailback Giovani Bernard has one.

The Bengals have had to settle for field goals too often as Mike Nugent has made 12 of his NFL-leading 13 attempts.

Quarterback Andy Dalton is moving the ball efficiently, thanks to 20 passes of at least 20 yards or more, which leads the entire NFL.

Defensively, Cincinnati has been able to withstand some struggles on offense thanks to a tenacious defense that ranks ninth in the league in total defense, yielding just 322.8 yards per game.

Playmaking linebacker Vontaze Burfict missed the first three games of the season due to a suspension, but he returned to action last week against the Dolphins, who converted on just three of 15 third-down attempts.

A look at the 53 man roster for the 2016 season.

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