A month ago, the Week 14 matchup between the Bengals and Cowboys appeared to be an extraneous event. After all, Cincinnati had just dropped their fourth straight to Denver, bringing their record to 3-5 and placing them miles away from foes Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the standings.
Dallas was in a similar 3-5 disorder after suffering a defeat to the Dirty Birds, with their aspirations of a division crown seemingly squandered thanks to the Giants' 6-2 mark.
However, the NFL landscape underwent significant alterations in November, as the Who-Deys reeled off four consecutive W's to assert themselves back into the AFC playoff hunt. Simultaneously, three victories for America's Team, along with a precipitous fall from grace by the G-Men, has the Cowboys just a game back in the NFC East.
With two of the hottest teams in the NFL looking to continue their good fortune in the Queen City, this Cincinnati soiree serves as our WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.
One certainly would not claim the Bengals survived a daunting gauntlet in November, with three of the wins coming against the lowly AFC West (Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego). However, in a league satiated with parity, there are no gimmies on the gridiron, and Cincinnati's conquest over the Giants, then at 6-2, was no easy feat.
This riverfront rejuvenation has been spurred by signal caller Andy Dalton. The second-year man out of TCU shook off a pedestrian display in the fall by turning in a remarkable performance the past month, finding the end zone 12 times (10 by air, two by land) with just two turnovers in his last four contests.
Considering the Red Rifle is working with a fledgling receiving corps, albeit one that employs one of the best wideouts in the AFC in A.J. Green, the transformation of the Cincinnati offense from laughingstock to one of the more efficient units in the conference is nothing short of remarkable.
Helping Dalton in this endeavor is running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has posted 100 yards or more in his last three outings despite operating behind a depleted offensive line.
Such an effort on the terrain would be much appreciated in Texas, as Dallas struggled mightily on the terrain while starter DeMarco Murray was sidelined with ankle issues. Luckily for backers of the 'Boys, Murray returned from a six-game absence last Sunday. Though he was far from healthy, Murray at 70 percent is better than full exertion from most rushers in the league.
Nevertheless, as Tony Romo goes, so goes Dallas.
The Cowboys field general does have a whopping 18 turnovers on the current campaign, but the miscues have been reduced as of late, with a meager two interceptions in 200 attempts in the last five weeks.
This is even more impressive given the lack of a viable running game and an inconsistent stable of wideouts. With the Cowboys in prime position to dictate their January destiny, Romo has a platform to prove his merits as an elite performer under center.
So who emerges on top in this Week 14 showdown? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com football simulation engine, the Bengals get the victory 55.3 percent of the time by an average margin of 24-22. For the rest of this week's predictions, check below:
|NFL Week 14|
|@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers||72.8||27||Buccaneers&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Philadelphia+Eagles" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ Seattle Seahawks||70.6||20||Seahawks&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Arizona+Cardinals" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ Green Bay Packers||65.2||28||Lions" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|Kansas City Chiefs||39.5||21||Boxscore|
|@ Cleveland Browns||60.5||25||Chiefs" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ San Francisco 49ers||59.1||21||49ers&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Miami+Dolphins" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|San Diego Chargers||44.2||22||Boxscore|
|@ Pittsburgh Steelers||55.8||24||Chargers" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ Cincinnati Bengals||55.3||24||Simulate Game|
|@ Indianapolis Colts||54.5||26||Colts&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Tennessee+Titans" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|New Orleans Saints||45.3||25||Boxscore|
|@ New York Giants||54.7||27||Saints" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|St. Louis Rams||49.4||23||Boxscore|
|@ Buffalo Bills||50.6||24||Rams" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ Washington Redskins||42.2||20||Redskins&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Baltimore+Ravens" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ New England Patriots||38.5||21||Texans" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|New York Jets||62.6||19||Boxscore|
|@ Jacksonville Jaguars||37.4||15||Jaguars&vSeason=2012&vTeam=New+York+Jets" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ Minnesota Vikings||32.7||19||Bears" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ Oakland Raiders||25.7||19||Raiders&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Denver+Broncos" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ Carolina Panthers||19.8||16||Panthers&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Atlanta+Falcons" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
Each Tuesday, WhatIfSports.com's NFL simulation engine will provide you with predictions, box scores and statistics for every NFL game that week. The NFL simulation engine generates detailed information including the home team's chances of winning (Home Win %), average score and comprehensive box score link. If you want to share your new found NFL knowledge with friends and family, make sure to check out our NFL Widgets on the WhatIf To Go page or click on the social networking share bar located at the top and bottom of the article.
The statistical inputs to the thousands of NFL games simulated are based on rigorous analysis of each team's roster, depth chart and statistically based player ranking. Roster modifications have been made for injuries and suspensions and those players are not part of their team's game simulation.
To account for injuries and roster moves announced late in the week, we will be re-simulating some games on Thursdays throughout the 2012 NFL season.
Check out our 2012 NFL Season-to-Date page to follow our accuracy week-to-week and find Locks and Upsets of the Week.