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Big game in Big D






OCTOBER 5, 2008

The task for the Bengals is as mountainous as the Cowboys offensive line and that's where the roundtable says Cincinnati has to start if it is going to pull off the biggest upset of the NFL season.

Be prepared, the scouts are saying, because here come the Cowboys and that smashmouth running game a week after losing a division game and their identity to the Redskins in a 26-24 loss in which they only ran the ball 11 times.

"They're going to be mad; they just didn't play like Dallas," says The Guru, a former top football exec in the NFL. "They panicked and threw it around and I doubt that's going to happen again. The Bengals are going to have to keep the ball on offense if they're going to win. They can't go down there and throw it 30 times and play seven-on-seven and expect to win."

"The Cowboys aren't going to let that happen again," says The Scout, who breaks down players in a couple of pro leagues. "Not at home against a smaller defense. If Carson Palmer was healthier and they didn't have so many questions, it would be better for them. They're just going to have to have that same effort they had against the Giants."

The Bengals are severe underdogs against the NFL's top team of the opening month with 13 Pro Bowlers that has rolled up the second-best offensive numbers and the 13th-best defensive effort.

Throw in the last season of Texas Stadium, the celebrity status of Jerry Jones, Tony Romo and Terrell Owens, and the lure of The Star, and the Bengals are wrapped up in a big game.

Palmer and Chad Ocho Cinco set the tone early in the week. It's a big enough stage that got The Ocho talking again and kissing The Star and a big enough game that turned the usually reserved Palmer poetic.

"A lot of guys won't admit it, but everybody wants to play for the Cowboys," he said. "Everyone wants to get drafted by the Cowboys, the way the organization is set up and the way they treat their players. Everybody in the NFL looks forward to this game. The fan base, it seems so large, that they have fans all over the country. It just seems like it's the big show, the Lakers of the NBA. It's an exciting game for our team. A lot of guys on our team have talked about the Cowboys and what it would be like to play there. It will be a big game for us because of all the attention they probably get and just who the Cowboys are."

RB Cedric Benson vs. Cowboys MOLB Zach Thomas



"His better days are behind him, but he's still good," The Guru says, and The Scout says, "What he does is give them a vocal leader that they know is worth listening to."

The Scout's take on blocking Ware: "You have to get a piece of his body, no matter how small. He's quick and if you can get a piece of him, you can at least push him farther outside."

"He's put on some weight (302) and he's quick and given them a lot of penetration," The Scout says of James. "He seems to be making more of an impact than (ends) Chris Canty and Marcus Spears. It's a tough game for a guard like Whitworth because they stunt and move around and work a lot of games."

"Double moves, stuff like that. In our offense, that's not what I do. It will be different" said Houshmandzadeh, who has been surprised at the lack of balls thrown to the Bengals wide receivers. "(Newman) has nice size. Smart. Real athletic. Fast. He's good. It depends on the coverage."

"I think the Dallas offense is better than their defense," The Guru says. "You can move the ball on these guys and they're probably weakest in the secondary. But you've got to give the guy time to throw."

And that's big for the Bengals. They've played the run pretty well. But a handful of long ones that were sprung by whiffs have done them in.

Here's the example of a guy that revived his career with a change of scenery. Davis goes 353 pounds and has made the devastating transition from tackle in Arizona to guard in Dallas and the Cowboys got a Pro Bowler in the tradition of Larry Allen.

"They have to tackle," The Scout says. "They have to keep Witten to 12 yards instead of 20 and Barber to four yards instead of 12."

"Frustrate him. Get physical with him. If he's not getting the ball after awhile, he tends to lose focus," he says. "I've been impressed with Leon Hall. He's a physical kid that doesn't back down."

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