Dallas Visits Cincinnati, Where Both Teams are in Must-Win Situations
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: December 06, 2012
The Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) have won four in a row. The Dallas Cowboys (6-6) have won three of four. Both teams are just out of the playoff race; Cincinnati is tied with Pittsburgh, but the Steelers own the tiebreak after a victory earlier this season, as the Cowboys trail the 7-5 Seahawks for the second Wild Card spot (NFC East-leading New York has a 7-5 record as well). For either team to have a considerable chance at the playoffs, they will need teams ahead of them to stumble, but they must also win all four remaining games.
Both teams will not be able to prevail this Sunday, of course, but the foundation of the meeting is wildly compelling. Both teams feature a rushing attack that is on the upswing. Benjarvus Green-Ellis of the Bengals has recorded three consecutive hundred yard rushing games, while the Cowboys' number one rusher DeMarco Murray returned last week against Philadelphia after a six week, ankle injury-related absence. Whether his "active but limited" designation was to temper expectations or tamper with defensive schemes is unclear, but Murray looked anything but limited, with 83 rushing yards (including a touchdown run) on 23 carries. Cincinnati and Dallas are allowing comparable rushing yardage (110.2 and 116.5 yards, respectively), so both Murray and Green-Ellis could make meaningful contributions.
Perhaps the most exciting (and dynamic) moments will come from a pair of young receivers. Dallas' Dez Bryant and Cincinnati's A.J. Green are capable of completing heart-stopping catches and making massive plays for their quarterbacks. Bryant's inconsistency has belied his freak-of-nature abilities, but a clean game last week against Philadelphia has left the third year player insisting that he's "only getting started". Green has caught over 1,100 yards for a league-leading ten touchdowns while establishing himself as a reliable playmaker. Both will play a major role in advancing his team's offense.
The wild card in this game will be defensive performance. Cincinnati's Adam "Pacman" Jones will want to fancy himself a factor in facing his old team. Jones was a polarizing figure from 2007-2009, a suspected accomplice in a 2007 Las Vegas shooting that resulted in a suspension for the entire 2007 season and part of the 2008 season. Jones was a Cowboy during the 2008 season; the organization ultimately felt his on-field contributions weren't worth his off-field baggage, electing to sever ties with the cornerback at the season's end. Jones played in the Canadian Football League for the 2009 season before returning to the NFL as a Bengal. He's recorded just one interception in his time with Cincinnati, having yet to truly impact the team's defense. Perhaps he'll be ready to make waves Sunday. But when all's said and done, I like the chances of cornerback Terence Newman or safety Reggie Nelson coming up with key defensive plays.
With a win, playoff hopes will stay alive. A game with this much at stake should be entertaining, but we'll also learn a bit about each team's heart. The team that is better prepared, better coached and better motivated will deserve to continue its postseason fight.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @KimOHaraTFG
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