The Dallas Cowboys are currently on a three-game winning streak and look to improve to 4-1 Sunday afternoon when they face off against the Cincinnati Bengals at home.
For this to happen, they simply can’t afford to get out to a slow start like they did last week against the San Francisco 49ers. This Bengals team is much more talented and have a lot more weapons on both sides of the ball than the 49ers.
For the Dallas Cowboys to continue their winning streak, they will have to play as a cohesive unit and win some individual battles as well.
Below are some of the key matchups that I think the Dallas Cowboys have to win in order to come away with a victory against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Dallas Cowboys Offense
Ezekiel Elliott vs Vontaze Burfict
Ezekiel Elliott is coming off back-to-back 100+ rushing yard games and would like to continue his success this week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
To date, Elliott is the rushing leader in the NFL, but that hasn’t seemed to intimidate any of the Bengals players. Adam “Pac-Man” Jones and Vontaze Burfict have both voiced their opinions about being unimpressed by the Cowboys rookie RB.
I think Burfict in particular will be seeing a lot of Elliott, so he will have to back up his talk with his play on the field.
I personally think Ezekiel Elliott can get the better of this matchup and should be close to having his third straight 100+ yard rushing game.
Battle in the trenches
The Dallas Cowboys pride themselves on their offensive line’s ability to dominate, and how they are able to perform against the Cincinnati Bengals talented defensive front will go a long ways in determining the outcome of this game.
I personally think this is the best defensive line that the Cowboys have faced so far in 2016.
The Bengals defensive front are all athletic players that can be disruptive in both the passing and running game, so it will be important for the Cowboys banged up offensive line to be at their best.
Doug Free vs Carlos Dunlap
The entire offensive line for the Dallas Cowboys will have their hands full against a talented Bengals defensive front. Doug Free in particular will have to win his matchup this week for the offense to be at its best.
Doug Free has been battling through a quad injury, so he hasn’t been at his best. He will have to dig down deep to be able to battle down after down against Carlos Dunlap.
Dunlap is the type of player that gives Free problems because of his athleticism and length. Dunlap is not only athletic enough to beat Free around the edge, but has the power to use his bullrush to collapse the pocket.
Even though Doug Free is banged up, he has to find a way to win his battles this week.
Dallas Cowboys Defense
DeMarcus Lawrence vs Bengals Offensive line
After serving his four-game suspension, DeMarcus Lawrence is finally back to help improve the pass rush for the Dallas Cowboys defense.
The Cincinnati Bengals offensive line has struggled keeping Andy Dalton upright this season and I think the Cowboys pass rush, especially DeMarcus Lawrence, could have a field day putting pressure on the redheaded QB.
I expect Lawrence to be on some kind of pitch count, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a couple of impact plays Sunday afternoon.
Would two QB sacks be too much to ask from Lawrence?
Morris Claiborne vs AJ Green
Morris Claiborne has been playing extremely well this season and because of that I think we will see him matched up against AJ Green quite a bit Sunday afternoon.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli doesn’t typically have one of his cornerbacks shadow the opponent’s best WR, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the asks Claiborne to help contain the Bengals best playmaker.
Regardless of who covers AJ Green Sunday afternoon, he absolutely has to be accounted for on every single play and contained if the Dallas Cowboys want to advance to 4-1.
Sean Lee vs Jeremy Hill
Linebacker Sean Lee is quietly having one of his best seasons in the NFL. He is on pace to finish the year with over 140 tackles, and for the Cowboys to contain the Bengals running game, he will have to continue playing at a high level.
If the Dallas Cowboys defense can shut down Jeremy Hill and the Bengals running game, then it makes it that much easier to stop Andy Dalton from taking shots down the field to AJ Green.
The defense can’t allow Jeremy Hill to get off to a good start, and I think it will be Sean Lee who is asked to keep that from happening.
Are there any matchups you think the Dallas Cowboys have to win against the Bengals?
Let me hear what you think in the comment section below.