Boys Host Bungles
After impressive victories in their first three games of the season, the Dallas Cowboys suffered a disappointing loss their last time out, causing their brash wide receiver to criticize the team.
The Cincinnati Bengals probably only wish their problems were that minor.
The Cowboys try to bounce back from last week's loss Sunday when they host the winless Bengals, who may be without Carson Palmer again.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Cowboys -17 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 62% of bets for this game have been placed on Bengals +17 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Dallas (3-1) looked like one of the favorites to come out of the NFC through their first three games. The Cowboys were averaging 32.0 points and 440.0 yards per game, and their defense was coming off a stellar performance in Week 3's 27-16 win at Green Bay.
Dallas was not as sharp last Sunday, however, suffering a 26-24 home loss to Washington. The offense gained a season-low 344 yards, while the defense yielded a season-high 381.
While one loss doesn't drop Super Bowl expectations for the Cowboys, it did drop them from the top of the NFC East, behind the New York Giants.
"The reality of it is, you have the opportunity to go 16-0 every year in the regular season, but that's not realistic," said Tony Romo, who was 28-of-47 for 300 yards with three touchdowns. "We're a confident bunch. I think we'll come back next week with a lot to prove."
Romo, though, also has to put aside the distraction caused by Terrell Owens, one that could potentially strain that quarterback-receiver relationship.
After Sunday's loss, Owens created more drama when he complained about not getting the ball enough.
"It's no secret, when I get involved, we move the chains. When I don't, we're more stagnant in our offense," Owens said.
If anything, however, it appeared the Cowboys were calling too many plays for Owens, who had seven catches for 71 yards, 11 yards rushing on two reverses and 11 other plays designed for him.
The catering of the offense to Owens limited a running game that gained 217 yards in the win over the Packers to just 44 yards on 11 attempts against the Redskins.
Dallas took the ball out of the hands of bruising running back Marion Barber, who had only eight carries for 26 yards after rushing for a career-high 142 yards and a touchdown against Green Bay. Rookie playmaker Felix Jones, who had scored a touchdown in each of his first three games, did not have one offensive touch last Sunday.
The running game should be able to get back on track against the Bengals (0-4), who are 28th in the league in rush defense, allowing an average of 164.3 yards.
A porous run defense might not even be among Cincinnati's biggest concerns right now, with the team off to its worst start since opening 2002 with seven straight defeats.
The Bengals rank 31st in total offense (249.8 ypg) and 30th in scoring (13.0 ppg), leaving vocal wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco relatively quiet. Ocho Cinco has been limited to 11 receptions for 116 yards.
Making matters worse, Palmer may miss this game with a sore throwing elbow. He was knocked around during a 26-23 overtime loss to the Giants in Week 3, getting his nose bloodied and hurting his elbow. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis told Palmer last Saturday night that he was going to sit out Sunday's game against Cleveland.
"It happens a lot," said Palmer, who also has suffered a broken nose and a sprained ankle this year. "Sometimes it takes a little while to come back. Hopefully it won't take too long."
Ryan Fitzpatrick stepped in at quarterback for Palmer, but the results weren't pretty, as the Bengals managed only 211 yards - the third time this season they've had 215 or fewer - in a 20-12 loss to the Browns.
Fitzpatrick, who admitted there were some plays called that he hadn't run in weeks, threw three interceptions and finished as Cincinnati's leading rusher with 41 yards on four scrambles. He expects to be much better prepared if he has to start again on Sunday.
"If Ryan Fitzpatrick is the guy as we go forward this week, we go into it a little differently," Lewis said. "That's the way we'll have to approach it. More than likely, the coaches will have to prepare to play with Fitzpatrick, and everybody has to understand that."
Fitzpatrick might not be the only new face for Cincinnati's offense.
Receiver Chris Henry was cleared to practice on Monday, having completed a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy, and could be added to the roster by Saturday. The Bengals also signed running back Cedric Benson on Tuesday after he was let go by Chicago for two alcohol-related arrests in Texas.
This will be the first meeting between Cincinnati and Dallas since the Bengals' 26-3 victory on Nov. 7, 2004. The Cowboys have won the last two meetings at Texas Stadium, and are 4-1 all-time versus Cincinnati at home.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
CINCINNATI is 3-1 against the spread versus DALLAS since 1992
DALLAS is 2-2 straight up against CINCINNATI since 1992
2 of 4 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.
All games played at DALLAS since 1992
DALLAS is 1-0 against the spread versus CINCINNATI since 1992
DALLAS is 1-0 straight up against CINCINNATI since 1992
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Key Player Injuries:
[SS] Dexter Jackson missed last game, %27?%27 - Thumb - 09/21/08
[WR] Chris Henry expected to miss first four games - Suspension - 08/31/08
[S] Herana-Daze Jones missed last game, %27?%27 - Hamstring - 09/21/08
[TE] Ben Utecht missed last game, %27?%27 - Chest - 09/21/08
[CB] Johnathan Joseph missed last game, %27?%27 - Ankle - 09/21/08
[RB] Jeremi Johnson IR - Knee - 09/04/08
[WR] Sam Hurd is upgraded to probable - Ankle - 09/23/08
[FB] Deon Anderson is expected to miss at least 2 weeks - Knee - 09/17/08
[OG] Kyle Kosier expected to miss two to three weeks - Foot - 09/22/08
[LB] Anthony Spencer missed last game %27?%27 - Knee - 09/21/08
[S] Pat Watkins left last game, "?" - Shoulder - 09/22/08
[SS] Roy Williams is expected to miss at least 3 weeks. - Forearm - 09/16/08
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