Cincinnati Bengals: 5 Players Primed for Big Games vs. the Dallas Cowboys
The 7-5 Cincinnati Bengals take on the 6-6 Dallas Cowboys this week in a battle of the playoff bubble teams. Cincinnati is currently riding a four-game winning streak and look to make it five straight this week.
To be successful against Dallas, Cincinnati needs its key players to take advantage of certain weaknesses the Cowboys present.
So, which Bengals are poised for huge performances this week?
Terence Newman: 6 Tackles, 1 Interception
Terence Newman came to the Bengals this past offseason after being cut by the aforementioned Cowboys. Newman will be very hungry to prove his former team has been wrong for releasing him.
Newman has really stepped up his game in recent weeks and is now a very solid compliment to cornerback Leon Hall.
Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has been working extensively with Newman to get him back to his old form. He has rediscovered his fundamentals and also makes better judgment calls when defending routes.
Since opponents tend to throw away from Hall, Newman sees his fair share of action. Dallas is ranked second in the league with an average of 296.7 passing yards per game. Quarterback Tony Romo slings the ball around with reckless abandon at times and is no stranger to interceptions.
Look for Newman to take advantage of the Dallas passing attack and come away with some key plays in the Bengals secondary.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 112 Rush Yards, 1 TD
Could it be possible for BenJarvus Green-Ellis to compile four straight 100-yard rushing games? Yes, it is.
Last week, Green-Ellis became the first Bengals running back to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark in three consecutive games since Corey Dillon in 1999.
Green-Ellis has been running hard over the past three weeks and it has shown. The Bengals offensive line is finally running on all cylinders and constantly opens up gaping holes for the running back.
Keep in mind that Dallas’ weak point on the defensive side of the ball has been stopping the run. They are currently ranked 17th in the league by allowing an average of 116.5 rush yards per game.
There is a very good possibility that this game will be closely contested, which will allow the Bengals offense to mix up running and passing plays evenly throughout. Green-Ellis should once again be a beneficiary.
Geno Atkins: 5 Tackles, 2 Sacks
The Cowboys' glaring weakness on the offensive side of the ball has been their offensive line.
The line struggles to not only protect Romo, but also to allow any space for running backs.
This makes the Cowboys one-dimensional and will allow pass-rush specialists like Atkins to key in on the quarterback constantly.
With the rest of the Bengals' defensive line playing so well, it becomes difficult for any offensive line to double-team one particular player. If special attention is given to one lineman, there are three others that will take advantage.
Expect Atkins to continue his All-Pro pace this week as he greets Romo in the backfield on a couple occasions.
Jermaine Gresham: 75 Receiving Yards, 1 TD
Jermaine Gresham has been playing very solid, fundamental football of late and has gained all the trust of quarterback Andy Dalton.
With rookie wide receiver Mohamed Sanu done for the season and no other receiver on the roster seemingly capable to step right in, Gresham will benefit.
Gresham is currently the only player in the Bengals' receiving corps that is capable of pulling in the tough catches over the middle of the field.
He's dangerous in space and is a force once he begins running at full-speed. He has also become a very reliable red-zone target for Dalton, having scored a touchdown in three out of his last four games.
Dallas does have a good secondary and is ranked 10th in the league by only allowing 220.2 passing yards per game on average. However, rest assured that they will be doing everything they can to stop A.J. Green, which will benefit Gresham more than anyone.
Vontaze Burfict: 12 Tackles
Undrafted free agent Vontaze Burfict has been the feel-good story in the Bengals organization this season. He has cleaned up his act and is playing some very solid football. It seems as though he has left his past behind him and he is being rewarded.
Burfict is second on the team this season with 85 tackles. This is impressive when you consider that he did not become the starter until the season was well underway.
Keep in mind that Dallas is one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL as they are ranked 30th with an 82.4 yard per game average.
This forces the Cowboys to create short passes as an extension of their running game. Burfict excels in these situations. He has been seen all over the field in every game he has played this season and has a nose for the ball carrier.
When Burfict drops into coverage he is very disciplined and stays in his zone or on his man nicely. He puts himself into great positions to make plays either on the ball or on the receiver, which does not allow many yards after the catch.
Because of the offensive scheme that Dallas runs, keep an eye on Bufict to surface around the ball carrier many times this Sunday and finish the game as the Bengals' top tackler for the week.