After a season in which the Bengals finished in the top five in the NFL in rushing defense, Cincinnati held the Pittsburgh Steelers to 75 yards on the ground and four first downs rushing.
The Bengals’ defense features DJ Reader and B.J. Hill in the middle, with Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard providing the bulk of the pass rush. Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt anchor a solid linebacking corps and cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie, Eli Apple and Mike Hilton are proving to be more than a handfull for opposing quarterbacks. Jessie Bates, III and Vonn Bell are one of the best safety tandems in the league.
With Dak Prescott on the sidelines nursing a thumb injury, a big part of the load will fall to three-time Pro-Bowler Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott, who was limited to just 10 carries in the season-opening loss to the Buccaneers, still managed 52 yards and showed glimpses of the back who led the NFL in rushing in 2016 and 2018.
Cooper Rush will take over the reigns for Prescott Sunday. Rush, who signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2017, has one career start to his credit.
In week 8 of the 2021 season, Rush passed for 325 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception en route to a come-from-behind 20-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings that featured a last-minute touchdown pass to Amari Cooper.
Of course, Cooper is gone, along with Cedric Wilson and Randy Gregory. CeeDee Lamb didn’t show much in his first game as the No. 1 receiver, while Dalton Schultz caught seven passes for 62 yards and Noah Brown had five receptions for 68 yards.
Like Pittsburgh, Dallas will be banking on a stout defense, led by all-everything Micah Parsons, who had five tackles, two sacks and a pair of quarterback hits against the Buccaneers. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch led the Cowboys in tackles last week with nine.
Cornerback Trevon Diggs, in only his second season, led the NFL in interceptions last year with 11 and was voted first time All-Pro. Diggs, from Alabama, and Cincinnati wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, of LSU, last metin college during the 2019 season, when Chase went off for six receptions, 140 yards and a score.
Tee Higgins should be back and ready to go and, along with Chase and Tyler Boyd, form one of the best receiving trios in football. Throw in free agent acquisition in tight end Hayden Hurst and the Bengals certainly have the weapons they need to keep the Cowboys guessing.
Joe Mixon is already one of the most dangerous running backs in the league, and the sky is the limit once the new offensive line of Jonah Williams, Cordell Volson, Ted Karras, Alex Cappa and La’el Collins finally jells. And then there is quarterback Joe Burrow, who will most certainly have some extra motivation after his four-interception implosion of last week.
The last time the Bengals faced the Cowboys was on December 13, 2020 when another backup quarterback, Andy Dalton, brought Dallas into Paul Brown Stadium and left with a 30-7 win. In fact, Cincinnati has not defeated the Cowboys since November 7, 2004.
So who do you think will win this one?