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The Bengals’ season could have gone differently with in-season improvements

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As the 2018 regular season winds down, the Bengals can learn a thing or two from a team like the Cowboys on how to handle midseason adversity.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

At first glance, the Cowboys and Bengals franchises don’t seem to have much in common (look no further than a list of past Super Bowl champions). Both however have controlling owners who can hold them back although one of them doesn’t mind spending money (hint: it’s not our guy).

Both teams have weak head coaches, and they essentially traded offensive line coaches this offseason. This offseason the Cowboys released Dez Bryant, one of their premier players, without any tangible plan for replacing him (a very Bengals move).

The Cowboys started this season 2-3 and the Bengals started 4-1. Despite a stronger start for the Bengals, they clearly had problems and both teams needed to make changes. The Bengals fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and that was it. The Cowboys fired offensive line coach Paul Alexander but also improved their offense with an aggressive trade for Amari Cooper, thus finally replacing Bryant.

Cooper not only came in as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, he made Dak Prescott look like a decent quarterback once more. Since Cooper’s arrival, Prescott has a 107.6 passer rating and an adjusted yards per attempt of 8.62, both are marks the young quarterback hasn’t hit since his rookie year.

When the Bengals lost A.J. Green for a three-game stretch, the Bengals did next to nothing to compensate for his absence despite his injury occurring right before the trade deadline. Dalton had a passer rating of 76.5 and an adjusted yards per attempt of just 5.6. Now Green is out for the rest of the season and the Bengals’ receiving corps remains weak outside of Tyler Boyd and John Ross.

Adding Cooper and subtracting Alexander were not the only changes the Cowboys made on offense. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan’s play calling has improved, and he is doing a better job of getting Ezekiel Elliott involved in the pass game. For the Bengals, Bill Lazor has made no changes. This is the same problem Lazor had in 2017. The Bengals had a few good games early under Lazor, but he ran out of ideas and failed to grow the offense in season in the face of injuries.

While the Bengals season has gone off the rails, the Cowboys have now worked their way into first place in their division, The Bengals started off the season better, but the Cowboys improved their coaching and roster during the season, while the Bengals remained complacent. It’s no surprise as to why each team is trending in opposite directions.