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Sunday, December 9, 2012
How you feeling? Cowboys-Bengals

By Dan Graziano

The Dallas Cowboys will play the Bengals at 1 p.m. ET (noon CT) in Cincinnati on Sunday, one day after the drunken-driving tragedy that took the life of defensive lineman Jerry Brown and left nose tackle Josh Brent in jail. While such events make a football game seem very small, the result of the game remains relevant to the Cowboys and their fans. So with that in mind, and in keeping with our regular Sunday morning structure here on the  NFC East blog, here's one reason for Cowboys fans to feel good about the game itself on the field today and one reason for concern about same.

Feeling good: The offense comes into the game clicking. Quarterback Tony Romo has been very good at limiting mistakes over the past five games. Wide receiver Dez Bryant has elevated his game to an elite level over the same period of time. And with running back DeMarco Murray back from his foot injury last week, the offense looked balanced and effective in a way it had not all season. The Bengals rank eighth in the NFL in total defense, allowing 331.3 yards per game, but the Cowboys' offense is at full strength and as prepared for such a challenge as it has been at any point this season.

Cause for concern: The Cowboys still have problems on the offensive line, and they have struggled this season when faced with physical, athletic defensive fronts like the one the Bengals have. Also, while Saturday's events had far more serious real-world consequences, they also left the Cowboys with a personnel shortage on the defensive line, where starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff was already set to miss the game due to injury. The Cowboys don't do well when confronted with physical mismatches on the lines, and that's the biggest reason they're going to struggle to win their games this week and next week against big, physical teams from the AFC North.