Football analyst Bucky Brooks, a former NFL player and scout who now works for NFL Network and serves as an analyst for DallasCowboys.com, gives his weekly keys to the game Sunday, providing specific points of emphasis for both the Cowboys and Bengals.
The Cowboys will win if…
Mike McCarthy and his staff will need to bring their A-games to the field to knock off the Bengals. The Cowboys will need to utilize a game plan that enables them to keep the Bengals' high-powered offense on the sidelines while they shorten the game and control the tempo. With a backup quarterback inserted into the starting lineup, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard should become the focal points of the offensive plan. The Cowboys must run the ball 30-plus times to alleviate the pressure on Cooper Rush in the passing game. When the Cowboys elect to pass, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore needs to feature some creative designs that enable CeeDee Lamb to register easy touches on the perimeter. Whether it requires the offense to utilize more pre-snap motions and shifts or align pass catchers in a different position, the passing game against the Bengals must feature more variety and diversity to keep the defense from honing in on No.88.
Defensively, the Cowboys enter the game knowing that 20 points are the magic number. If they surrender more than 20 points with a short-handed offense behind them, it is unlikely for the team to walk away with a win. Micah Parsons, Demarcus Lawrence, and Treyvon Diggs must step up their games to make a bigger impact on the field. Dan Quinn needs his stars to play like stars to keep the Bengals from lighting up the scoreboard on Sunday.
The Bengals will win if…
The defending AFC champions will chalk up their first win if they eliminate the mental mistakes and miscues that cost them dearly in Week 1. The Bengals cannot give the ball way on careless turnovers or extend drives with foolish penalties to knock off the Cowboys. Joe Burrow, in particular, must play a clean game from the pocket to keep the Cowboys' opportunistic defense from stealing a few possessions that enable them to stay in the game into the fourth quarter. If the Bengals avoid the turnovers and take a workmanlike approach to the game, it will be hard for the short-handed Cowboys to keep up with them in a 60-minute game.
On defense, the Bengals need to make an aggressive effort to stop the run. The Cowboys should face a heavy dose of eight- and nine-man boxes designed to take away the run while daring Cooper Rush to pass. Although the fifth-year pro enjoyed a successful outing in 2021 as a one-game starter, the jury is still out on whether he can play at a high level without an A-level supporting cast around hm. Given his inexperience and the lack of big play potential on the perimeter, the Bengals should be able to control the game from start to finish and chalk up their first win of the season.