With the Cowboys coming off a six-turnover game and their first-team offense yet to score a touchdown, the Bengals are expected to get their best shot in Saturday's preseason game (8 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) at AT&T Stadium.
The team that knocked off the Bengals in heartbreaking fashion last Dec. 9 at Paul Brown Stadium is having the same issues. Dangerous at receiver, reliable at running back and solid at quarterback, the Dallas offensive line is a mess. Meanwhile the defense is undergoing a change from the 3-4 to the 4-3.
The Bengals are going to see a revamped offensive line that Cowboys haven't used all training camp week as they grapple with a knee injury to former Bengals left guard Nate Livings. Their third-down back, Lance Dunbar, isn't expected to play because of a foot injury.
The defensive transition has been relatively smooth and the thinking is Monte Kiffin's scheme is going to be sounder than the one employed by Rob Ryan.
Four Cowboys defensive regulars don't figure to play Saturday: left end Anthony Spencer, tackle Jay Ratliff, cornerback Morris Claiborne, and nickel back Orlando Scandrick.
"This is a good team we're playing," head coach Marvin Lewis said after his club's final tuneup. "Physical and strong. They have a good quarterback, big and strong wide receivers. Hard running back. Defensively there a good challenge for us. For our offense they have Spencer and (DeMarcus) Ware, good rushers outside and corners. They are tight man to man and linebackers. It's a good challenge to play a team like that."
REUNION: Bengals cornerback Terence Newman, the Cowboys first-round draft choice 10 years ago, played his first nine seasons and 133 NFL games in Dallas. But he's not exactly emotional about it.
"Just another game," Newman said. "It's a preseason game. Another chance to get better before we play the Bears (in the Sept. 8 opener.)"
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who spent his first 13 NFL seasons coaching in Dallas, is one of the few who has drawn a check from both Jerry Jones and Mike Brown. Brown, the Bengals owner, has the polar opposite view of Jones's economic philosophy in the NFL board rooms. But they run their franchises in very similar fashion as the general manager and both have family members working in key positions.
Zimmer is still friendly with Jerry Jones, talks occasionally with Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones, and still hunts on their property during the offseason. He also feels like he's got a good relationship with Brown.
"They're different in some ways and similar in a lot of ways," Zimmer said. "Jerry and Mike make the decisions. I see a lot of the same thing in scouting and a lot of the same things on how the organization is run. They're different people, but good people.
"I know Jerry gets a bad rap for some things just like Mike probably does, but I've seen Mike and Jerry do extremely compassionate and generous things. When my wife died, Mike flew all my family in here. When Chad Hennings was in Dallas, his son was sick and Jerry flew him all over the place in his jet to find the best doctors. In that way they're very similar."
NOT SO FINE: Bengals safety Reggie Nelson was left shaking his head over the $21,000 fine assessed to Bears rookie linebacker Jon Bostic for his hit on Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie on a slant route. Nelson's not alone since it looked like Bostic hit Willie in the chest with his shoulder and helmet.
"He was playing fast. It's nothing he could do to change that around. He was playing fast. He broke on the ball and it was a good hit," Nelson said. "He read it. The league has its rules; those are the rules and there's nothing me or him can do about it.
You can't stop playing fast. You have to keep playing fast or you're going to be on the sideline ... he had a great read on the ball. He went through his progression and voila."