A huge game riddled with playoff implications kicks off Sunday afternoon as the inconsistent Dallas Cowboys travel to Cincinnati to take on a recently red-hot Bengals squad. Both teams had post-season aspirations entering 2012, and now that we’re entering crunch time on this season, this is a pivotal contests if both teams’ want to play football into 2013.
The Cowboys are coming off a surprisingly hard-fought victory against a depleted Eagles squad. It wasn’t always easy for Dallas, but they responded with a big second half effort and will look to carry that momentum into this week’s crucial clash. They’ll need to begin the game with much more ferocity as the past three weeks, Dallas has trailed at the half. Against a red-hot Bengals squad, there will be little room for error for Tony Romo and company. The Cowboys will again need to make due without key nosetackle Jay Ratliff as he remains injured with a bothersome groin injury. Cornerback Orland Scandrick and safety Charlie Peprah have also been ruled out on a Cowboys’ depleted defense.
For the Bengals, they continue to be one of the big surprises of the NFL. They enter this contest with a solid 7-5 record and know they can’t afford any slip-ups if they’re to return to the post-season. Cincinnati has won four straight contests entering this crucial clash, but a loss against Dallas would likely mean they’d need to sweep their remaining three contests if they want to taste the playoffs. Much of the Bengals’ resurgence can be attributed to sturdy defensive play, as well as the deadly duo of Andy Dalton to A.J. Green. The Cowboys will have their hands full trying to stop that tandem. One main injury concern for the Bengals is the status of kicker Mike Nugent who strained his calf practising this week. Cincinnati went out and signed Josh Brown to replace Nugent if he cannot go.
Cowboys vs. Bengals Betting Odds:
Dallas Cowboys +3.5 (-115)
@ Cincinnati Bengals -3.5 (-105)
Over 46 (-110)
Under 46 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Cowboys vs. Bengals Pick:
Expect this to be a heated, hard-fought contest for all four quarters. Despite the fact that Dallas has looked wildly consistent for much of 2012, they enter this game the more experienced, and more talented group. Though the Cowboys are just a 6-6 team, they’ve still got a shot at winning their division and will be focused on sweeping their remaining games in December. The fact of the matter is that when Romo and company want to play, they can hang with any team in the NFL. As we enter crunch-time, expect to see a lot more out of this Cowboys squad.
Dallas looked pretty sharp on offense last week, and with DeMarco Murray back in the fold, it really appears as if the Cowboys have gotten their groove back. Despite the fact that Romo will be facing a solid defensive unit in Cincinnati’s, his connection with Dez Bryant of late has been simply amazing. Everyone knew the talent Bryant had as he entered the NFL, but whether he’d be able to harness it effectively was always the question. Now that Bryant and Romo seem to be firing on all cylinders, expect the Cincinnati secondary to struggle to limit that duo.
Where Dallas should have a decisive advantage is running the ball with Murray. He looked solid last week against the Eagles, and going against the league’s 22nd-ranked run defense should produce yet another solid effort. Dallas will look to establish Murray early on, in order to take the heat off of Romo.
Cincinnati will also find themselves in a tough spot for this contest. They had to fly back across the country from San Diego Sunday night, and after this contest will need to take the field again in four days. Generally speaking, favourites laying points prior to a Thursday night game have been brutal this season and this is truly a spot to avoid. Add in the fact that in all Cowboys’ games during the past three seasons have seen the underdog cover a whopping 73% of the time, and it seems like taking the Cowboys +3.5 points is a solid proposition. Beating teams like the Chiefs, Raiders, and Chargers in their past three weeks is not an accomplishment. Cincinnati is a fraud team, and look for Dallas to play a desperate game and expose Dalton and company come Sunday afternoon.
PICK = Cowboys +3.5 (-110)