FRISCO, Texas – Here are the keys to Sunday's game, for both the Bengals and the Cowboys.
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
This game is going to come down to mental and physical toughness. The Bengals are going to force the Cowboys to try and grind this game out. They want to win on first down and make you have to play out of long yardage. If they can make it a third down game – then they have you where they want you.
Offensively, the Cowboys are going to have to play with patience. They are going to have to have the patience to take the small gains and be able to live with them. The Bengals are going to put pressure on Dak Prescott to not turn over the ball. They are going to attack this offensive line and test their ability to handle blocking this front seven. The Bengals rely on their front four to dominate the line of scrimmage and win the game.
If the Cowboys are going to win this, they must be able to control the middle of this Bengals defense. Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin are going to have to be more physical upfront than Geno Atkins, Domata Peko and Rey Maualuga. The Bengals are a front-running team, and when things are going well they play hard -- but when things turn the other way, it's a different story.
Dallas must make each play count and be content with the four yard gains and eliminate the negative plays. Mental and physical toughness will win this game.
*Cincinnati Bengals Win If: *
The Bengals are one of the worse team's in the league when it comes to protecting their quarterback and converting third downs. Their strength is when they get the ball into their playmakers' hands and let them do the work. The Bengals put a lot of pressure on your defense to tackle well, and if they run across a team that doesn't -- they take full advantage of it.
The Bengals are near the bottom of the league when it comes to sacks per attempt and they don't run the ball with any consistency. What makes things worse is that Andy Dalton is night and day with his quarterback rating when he faces pressure (hurries/ knock downs). Dalton has a rating of 33.4 when opponents come after him but a rating of 105.1 when he faces no pressure. The Cowboys are near the bottom when it comes to getting the opposing quarterbacks on the ground. They rank 25th in the NFL when it comes to sacks per attempt. As poor as they have been they will get some help with their pass rush in the form of DeMarcus Lawrence.
For the Bengals to win this game, they must be able to play with balance, because just allowing Dalton to drop back down after down will cause them problem regardless how poor the Dallas pass rush is. If the Bengals offensively don't become one dimensional, they win this game.