The Dallas Cowboys (6-6) and the Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) are both fighting for a playoff spot in their respective conferences this week, and both could be reasonably considered long shots to make the postseason with a loss this week.
For Dallas, the loss to the Washington Redskins continues to sting. The Cowboys have beaten the Philadelphia Eagles twice and the Cleveland Browns during their somewhat of a resurgence, but losing to Washington might end up haunting them in the end.
Still, running back DeMarco Murry is back, and Dallas looks poised to at least go out with a fight. Their opponent, however, is the hottest team in football and has plans of its own to crash the AFC playoff picture.
The Bengals have ripped off four straight wins after starting the season 3-5. The defense has been top-notch during the streak, averaging just 10.5 points allowed during the four-game streak. It's set to be a winner-take-all type of game for both teams, with the playoffs still mathematically available in each conference.
We've got you covered with the spread, who's poised for a big fantasy week and which team will take this one home.
When: Sunday, Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. ET
Where: Paul Brown Stadium; Cincinnati, Ohio
Watch: FOX, NFL Sunday Ticket (live stream)
Spread: Cincinnati -3 (according to Bovada)
The standard home spread for a team is -3, so if this game was at a neutral site, it would be even. That being said, Cincinnati has been an average home team and the Cowboys have been better on the road.
This is a tough one to predict. With it only being a three-point spread and so much on the line for both teams, I'd stay away from the spread. Dallas is a wild-card team, and they could just as easily win by 10 as they could lose by 20.
Which parlay sounds most favorable?
Over/Under: 45.5 (according to Bovada)
The Dallas defense has given up 30 points in each of its last two games, and with a depleted linebacking corp and other injuries hurting the unit, the Bengals should be poised to strike.
Same goes for the Dallas offense, which can strike at any time. Despite the Bengals giving up just 10.5 points over the past four games to some good teams, Dallas can put up points with any team in the league, as evidenced by the second-best passing offense in football.
Take the over, and watch an offensive explosion on Sunday.
Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of December 6)
Bengals plan to sign kicker Josh Brown to replace Mike Nugent, who has an injured calf.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 6, 2012
Fantasy Big Plays
For Dallas, no other player has been a big-play threat like Dez Bryant. The third-year man is approaching his first 1,000-yard season and might break the 10-touchdown mark as well with a few more solid games. Bryant is a WR1 in any format, and has the best shot of any Dallas position player to put up huge numbers on Sunday.
On the other side, A.J. Green is quite the same. He and Andy Dalton have already broken the 1,000-yard mark together, and he accounts for more than a third of Dalton's total passing yardage. Aside from Calvin Johnson, there's no better receiver in football than Green. Get him in your lineup.
Key to Dallas Win: Utilize Murray more
Dallas got Murray back last week against the Philadelphia Eagles and he performed well in limited action. The Bengals give up 110 yards per game on the ground, so Dallas needs to utilize that in its game plan.
We all know Dallas can throw the ball all over the field. It's the running game to start the game and to close out wins that remains a problem, and it will only be fixed by establishing a guy like Murray early and often against a good Cinci defense.
Key to Cincinnati Win: Strong secondary play
Two corners for the Bengals—Adam "Pacman" Jones and Terence Newman—have a special connection to this week's game. Both former Cowboys will have their hands full with Miles Austin and Bryant.
That being said, it's going to be tough to beat the Cowboys by slowing down this passing attack—even with the extra motivation. Look for third down to be the critical down for slowing down Dallas through the air. If these corners can make things tough with their knowledge of Romo, the Bengals could win going away.
Dallas has a bad habit of choking games away. This one is no different. They'll either get off to a slow start or falter in the fourth quarter—both trademarks of this Jason Garrett era. It won't be a good weekend for Jerry Jones.
Cincinnati 28, Dallas 24
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.