Dallas Cowboys vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Preview and Prediction

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 7, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 02:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys looks for an open receiver against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on December 2, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It's been over a year since the Dallas Cowboys beat a team with a winning record on the road, but that'll have to change Sunday in Cincinnati if the 'Boys want to stay alive in the NFC playoff race with their fourth victory in five games.

Here's our final preview of this weekend's matchup with the Bengals, along with a prediction.


What Dallas must do to win, offensive edition: Protect the red-hot Tony Romo from the league's most productive pass rush, despite all of those deficiencies on the offensive line. As long as Romo has time, the Cowboys will have a good day on offense.


What Dallas must do to win, defensive edition: Don't let the Bengals control the game on the ground, despite the fact that their running game is on fire and the Cowboys are operating shorthanded, especially in run defense. 


How Dallas can lose: By letting Romo get flustered and turning the ball over the way they did earlier in the year and by letting Cincinnati control the pace.


Five most important non-quarterbacks: DeMarco Murray, Ryan Cook, Tyron Smith, Doug Free, Mackenzy Bernadeau

All offense this week, mainly because the defense has to work well as a unit. The guys surrounding Romo have a ton of pressure on them, especially if left guard Nate Livings isn't able to suit up due to injury. They'll have their hands full against Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson and a quality group of blitzing linebackers. 


Injury analysis, Cowboys edition: Livings returned to practice Friday, which is huge for a potential matchup with Atkins. The bigger injury concerns are on defense, where they're already down Orlando Scandrick, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter and will be without Jay Ratliff for the third straight game with a groin injury. Could be a big day for Cincy's talented offense. 


Injury analysis, Bengals edition: Cincinnati's really healthy. Jermaine Gresham was limited this week because of a hamstring injury and A.J. Green missed Friday's practice due to an illness, but both should be fine for Sunday's game. The Bengals have the injury advantage in this matchup.


B/R NFC East Blog prediction: Too many injuries right now for Dallas on both sides of the ball, and this was an inconsistent team in the first place. The Cowboys are running into a hot team on the road at a bad time. 

Bengals 27, Cowboys 21