To call the Bengals streaky would be an understatement. They finished the first quarter with a 3-1 record and looked like one of the best teams in the AFC, but then they got worked over and lost four in a row.
Now they are going in the other direction at the perfect time. Four in a row and going for five straight against the Cowboys in a pivotal game for both teams. Dallas of course lives and dies with America each week while the Bengals have quietly emerged as a not just an up and coming team, but a team that might already be there.
All of the pieces are in place for the oft-maligned Bengals. AJ Green is elite and Andy Dalton can get him the ball down the field. The Law Firm is not explosive, but he is consistent and can find wholes behind a much improved offensive line.
This is not some overnight job though, they have worked to put the pieces in place for years and allowed them to develop into the unit that they have become today. Andre Smith came out of Alabama in bad shape, but they took him high in the first round and now have one of the best right tackles in the league to show for it.
Their defensive unit has developed into not only one of the most talented in the league, but one of the deepest as well. They have taken risks on numerous players, from Pac Man to undrafted rookie Vontaze Burfict. Their ends Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap were lauded during their collegiate careers, and are now morphing into the pro's that everyone dreamt of. Leon Hall can lock down the corner while journeymen Terence Newman and Nate Clements do their best in the secondary.
But enough of the love fest for the Bengals. They do have a game to play against a Cowboys team that is just one game away from the top of their division and getting rolling when it matters most. DeMarco Murray is back and Romo, Dez, Miles and Witten can chew up the field with the best of them.
For Dallas it comes down to being able to stop teams coming their way. They have already linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter to serious injuries, and with Ware likely lining up across from Andre Smith, it might be tough for them to generate a pass rush against the Bengals high powered attack.
They can lock down the corners with Claiborne and Carr, but the safeties are nothing to look twice at and their linebackers up the middle leave much to be desired.
You may have heard the name creeping through the cracks in the past few weeks. Geno Atkins has worked his way into the conversation as one of the elite 4-3 defensive tackles in the league. He has abused the interior of other teams lines and has 9.5 sacks for the season. I dare you to name either of the Cowboys guards of their centre, so rest assured that they will have a tough time containing Atkins and Romo will not enjoy being put on his back throughout the afternoon.
Pick of the Week record: 6-7.
The Rams did what they were supposed to do against Kaepernick and the 49ers team that was riding high. They shut down the young pivot and scored a decisive defensive touchdown to put the game into overtime. Almost back at .500, get back on board.