As Cincinnati prepares for their Week 14 game against the Dallas Cowboys, they are fully aware of the precarious situation they find themselves in. Due to four consecutive losses to AFC teams earlier this season, the 7-5 Bengals are on the outside looking in as it applies to the postseason.
The only option? Keep winning. They have won four games in a row now and certainly have a lot of momentum in their favor.
In order to continue their winning ways against Dallas this weekend, the Bengals must focus on these keys. By doing that, there is no doubt that they can be victorious.
It has been a pretty good season for Dallas receiver Dez Bryant, but the biggest bulk of his numbers have really come in the last four games.
Over those games, Bryant has gathered 475 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He is on a hot streak of huge proportions, and it is coming at a time when Dallas needs it the most.
The problem is that one guy can't do it all. Shutting down Bryant and keeping him covered shuts down the majority of the passing game. That will force the Cowboys to run the ball, which has been a bit of a struggle this season.
Adam Jones has taken 18 punt returns this season—on those 18 returns, he's accumulated 275 yards. The guy has had his problems throughout his career, but the one constant for Jones is that he is amazing on special teams.
Not many guys in the league can match his speed and they especially can't match his agility. Brandon Tate is okay, but Jones is a clear difference-maker on special teams.
Getting good field position off punts will make the field shorter for the offense. Dallas is statistically a top-ten defense against the pass, so let's make the field easier for Andy Dalton.
With Mohamed Sanu now sidelined for the season, Cincinnati doesn't have a legitimate No.2 receiver threat. There are guys—Andrew Hawkins, Armon Binns, and Brandon Tate—who can make an impact here and there, but they are not going to make an impact quite like Sanu.
Enter Jermaine Gresham. As I mentioned, Dallas' defense isn't bad against the pass. Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr are a couple of the league's most underrated cornerbacks, so Andy Dalton will not breeze through this game.
Odds are, neither guy will be covering Gresham, so whoever is covering him likely won't be able to keep up with him. Naturally, A.J. Green is the primary target, but look for Gresham to do a lot of damage across the middle.
Due to the Cowboys' struggles this season, people are not noticing that Tony Romo is having a somewhat decent season. His 19 touchdowns and 15 interceptions are not particularly enticing, but he's thrown for almost 3,700 yards and has piled up seven 300-yard games.
The guy can throw the ball.
However, he's never been known to make good decisions when he's under pressure. With Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson on the front line, there is no reason he shouldn't be under pressure all day. With the fierce defensive line the Bengals have, Romo should consistently be forced to throw into coverage.
That leads me to my next point.
Remember when Kevin Ogletree "broke out" against the New York Giants in Week 1? Yeah, everyone else forgot too.
Since then, Ogletree was taken seriously, he's been guarded and now that people pay attention to him, he's an average (at best) receiver again. Hence, I'm okay letting a safety cover him.
Jason Witten is Tony Romo's favorite target and with his size and talent, he'll need to be guarded by a solid cornerback. I've been a critic of Terence Newman all year, but if there's one team he should do well against, it's his old team, the Dallas Cowboys.
Let Newman, the experienced veteran, keep up with the big tight end and break up the passes.
With Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt having incredible seasons, DeMarcus Ware's decent season has largely gone unnoticed. He's proven himself to be one of the top defensive players in the league, but you wouldn't know that because of the season Dallas is having.
He's gathered 48 tackles and an impressive 10 sacks. Since entering the league in 2005, Ware consistently is a terror for quarterbacks, easily climbing past the offensive line and applying pressure.
If the offensive line for Cincinnati can keep Ware in check, Dalton is in better shape to make good passes.
Yeah, the picture just about sums up how talented Nate Livings is.
I say this because Livings was the starting left guard for the Bengals last season, and he, by far, was the biggest issue on the offensive line. The guy can't block and is constantly knocked over at the line. Quarterbacks are not safe when he's on the line.
Let Vontaze Burfict take a charge at Livings, and the defense will constantly have holes to get into the backfield.
This doesn't require much of an explanation.
A.J. Green is already over the 1,100 yard mark and still has four weeks of football left to play. He's worked his way into the conversation for best receiver in the league.
If Green can get open and finds a way to separate himself from the Dallas defense, this will be a breeze for Cincinnati.
Entering Week 11, BenJarvus Green-Ellis had zero 100-yard games. He's since rattled off three consecutive, and is suddenly on pace for a solid 1,200 yard season.
With only five touchdowns on the year, he's not quite been the bruiser everyone thought he'd be in Cincinnati, but the touchdowns aren't as important if he can run the way he has been over the last three games. Kansas City, Oakland, and San Diego never had a shot once the Law Firm got moving.
Dallas' rushing defense isn't as good as its pass defense, so Green-Ellis should be able to keep his momentum going.
Cincinnati is playing at home against an inferior opponent from the NFC East whom they've been wildly successful against this season.
That has all the makings for them to fall into a trap game. Most experts and fans are picking Cincinnati to win the game, almost completely discounting how good the Dallas Cowboys can be.
Cincinnati—against Miami and Cleveland—has already fallen into too many traps this season. With their playoff hopes in such a precarious position, Cincinnati cannot afford to take the Cowboys lightly and look past them.
Despite the fact that the Bengals are the better team, this one will be much closer than people think.