Sunday, December 13, 2020, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1 p.m. ET
Cowboys at Bengals Betting Preview: Cowboys (-3.5/-110), Bengals (+3.5/-110)
The Cowboys (3-9) have had a disastrous initial season under Mike McCarthy as injuries have ravaged key parts of the offense, and the defense has severely underperformed within a new scheme. Dallas has lost two straight games, and dropped six of seven. Dallas has just one road win this season, in six tries, but it was their most recent victory, a 31-28 decision at Minnesota on Nov. 22.
The Cowboys most recent pair of games does not give confidence a late-season turnaround is evident, however. Washington pulled away in the second half for a demoralizing 41-16 win in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Then, with nearly two full weeks to prepare, the Cowboys appeared powerless to stop or even slow down the Baltimore Ravens’ ground-based offense in a 34-17 loss on Tuesday night. Defensively, the front seven has been porous all season; Dallas ranks last in the NFL in rushing defense (167.8 yards per game allowed) and in scoring defense (32.8 points allowed per game).
Dallas has good talent on the outside with flankers Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, but a sub-par year from running back Ezekiel Elliott (3.9 yards per carry, four lost fumbles) and the injuries to quarterback Dak Prescott (ankle) and across the offensive line have taken away much of the Cowboys consistency week-to-week, particularly in the red zone. Andy Dalton (1,155 yards, seven TDs, six INTs) will make his first start as a member of the opposition this week in Cincinnati, where he was the Bengals’ starter the past nine seasons.
Whatever early-season optimism the Bengals (2-9-1) were building, it evaporated three games ago when rookie quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending knee injury in a loss at Washington. But Cincinnati remains a potentially tough out, especially at home where the club is 2-3 with wins over Jacksonville and Tennessee. The Bengals have been tied, or held the lead, at halftime in each of the last three games, all losses.
Leading rusher Joe Mixon remains on injured reserve and quarterback Brandon Allen has been non-descript in his two starts since Burrow’s injury. Talented young wide receivers Tyler Boyd (73 receptions, 797 yards) and Tee Higgins (53-729) have provided most of the punch of late for Cincinnati, which has been held to a combined 10 points in the second half during its four-game losing skid.
Cincinnati has had a revolving door situation in the secondary for most of the season, and that continues this week. Cornerback Darius Phillips (groin) returns after a three-week stint on injured reserve, but safety Shawn Williams earned a one-game suspension from the league for stepping on offensive lineman Solomon Kindley in the loss at Miami on Sunday. The Bengals are firmly in the middle of the pack in points allowed per game (25.7), but rank just 29th in rushing defense (134.3 yards per game).
Cowboys at Bengals Betting Pick for Week 14
The Bengals are a home underdog, which might be surprising given the Cowboys’ short week of preparation and tough travel schedule. Dallas played at Baltimore on Tuesday, flew home, and then was expected to fly to Ohio on Saturday. Cincinnati, however, has been essentially stymied offensively since Burrow’s injury and Dallas — in theory — will have the best quarterback on the field in this matchup.
And while Dallas has been unable to do much against run-heavy offenses this season, the Bengals haven’t been to do much on the ground all season. Cincinnati ranks 30th in the NFL with just 91.6 rushing yards per game. The Cowboys dictated the terms for the most part at Baltimore, but were done in by red-zone failures and big plays allowed on the ground. And while Cincinnati has nothing to play for in terms of the playoffs, the Cowboys remain alive in the NFC East.
Cowboys at Bengals Betting Pick:
Cowboys 23, Bengals 10
Cowboys at Bengals Best Bet for Week 14
Dalton will be motivated, and Dallas will be in last-stand mode heading into this one. With the Bengals lacking the offensive structure to attack the Cowboys’ weakest point, Dallas should be able to find a way to get back on the winning track. It won’t be easy, and Dalton’s limitations could make it closer than the Cowboys would like, but the Bengals at this point seem unable to match anyone score for score.
Cowboys at Bengals Best Bet: UNDER 42.5 total points (-114)