Dallas Cowboys (6-6 SU, 4-8 ATS) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5 SU, 6-5-1 ATS)
NFL Week 14
Date/Time: Sunday, December 9, 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
TV: FOX/DTV 706
by Vesper Abadon, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Dal +3/Cin -3
Over/Under Total: 45.5
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The 2012 NFL season is three-quarters done, but there are still plenty of quality games to enjoy. Once such game will take place this Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys travel north to take on the Cincinnati Bengals in an inter-conference matchup featuring two possible Wildcard teams.
The 7-5 Bengals, who are ranked 15th in the league offensively, are coming off of a nail-biting 20-13 win over the San Diego Chargers, giving them their fourth-straight victory, and now they’re tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) for the AFC’s second Wildcard spot. Leading the charge is second-year quarterback Andy Dalton, who has went 262 of 413 for 2,980 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions-good for a rating of 92.1, 11th best in the league.
Dalton’s favorite target has been A.J. Green, who has caught 76 passes for 1,107 yards (14.6 AVG) and ten touchdowns. That makes him a top five receiver in the league and has greatly benefited fellow WR Jermaine Gresham, who has 51 receptions for 593 yards (11.6 Avg) and five touchdowns. The success of the Bengals’ passing game, which is ranked 13th in the league with an average of 241.8 yards per game (YPG), has forced defenders to play deep; as a result, the run game has thrived. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, also known as “The Law Firm”, has carried 226 times for 885 yards (3.9 Avg) and five touchdowns, while backup Cedric Peerman has 31 carries for 244 yards (7.9 Avg) and a single score. Combined, the backs average 115.1 rush YPG, good enough to make the Bengals 13th in the league.
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Defensively the Bengals are ranked 8th in the NFL as they hold opponents to an average of 331.3 YPG-including 221.1 passing YPG and 110.2 rush YPG. On the other hand, the 6-6 Cowboys, who are fresh off a 38-33 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, are ranked 11th on the defensive side of the ball, holding opponents to an average of 336.7 YPG-including 220.2 passing YPG and 116.5 rush YPG. As you can see, the two teams are fairly balance in that regard.
Offensively the Cowboys are ranked 8th in the league, which includes the 2nd-best passing attack with an average of 296.7 passing YPG. That comes from the arm of Tony Romo, who has a rating of 89.7 after completing 324 of 483 passes for 3,660 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. Nearly half of those completions have went to two men-Jason Witten and Dez Bryant. The former has 88 receptions for 818 yards (9.3 Avg) and a touchdown, while the latter, currently in his third year, has 71 catches for 978 yards (13.8 Avg) and eight touchdowns.
Unfortunately the Cowboys don’t have a complimentary running game; in fact, they’re ranked a third-worst 30th on the ground, averaging just 82.4 YPG. DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones have shared rushing duties, oftentimes due to injuries, but neither has been impressive. Murray has carried 98 times for 413 yards (4.2 Avg) and two touchdowns, while Jones has 101 carries for 361 yards (3.6 Avg) and three touchdowns.
Vesper Abadon’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Cowboys have won the last two meetings, but that’s not a worthy indication as both were spaced two years apart. For me, this game will be determine on the ground. Both teams can and will put on an aerial show, but it’ll be the team that gets the ground game going that controls the pace of the game. The Bengals have shown they’re capable of doing that, while the Cowboys have not. It’s going to be a close one, which is why the line is so tight, but I think the Bengals will come away with the win. They’ve got momentum, home-field advantage, and a strong desire to make the Playoffs.
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