Cowboys win over Pittsburgh gives Bengals more help

shelbydermer
Nov 13, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) celebrates his thirty-two yard touchdown to win the game with teammates against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Dallas won 35-30. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 13, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) celebrates his thirty-two yard touchdown to win the game with teammates against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Dallas won 35-30. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Cincinnati Bengals have not been themselves this season. However, they have received plenty of help from other teams around the league, helping them remain in striking distance in the suddenly mediocre AFC North.

On Thursday night, the Baltimore Ravens became the AFC North’s only team with a winning record after a 21-point beat down of the winless Cleveland Browns. Although Who Dey Nation would have loved an upset from their northern neighbors, they got help on Sunday afternoon.

The Dallas Cowboys, arguably the hottest team in football, rode a seven-game winning streak into Pittsburgh. In perhaps the best game of the 2016 NFL season, Dallas prevailed, 35-30. Large in part to the heroics of rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who accounted for 209 yards and three touchdowns. The OSU product’s 32-yard scoring scamper with nine seconds left proved to be the difference.

The Cowboys’ 35-30 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon gave the Bengals even more divisional help leading into Monday night’s showdown with the Giants. Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
The Cowboys’ 35-30 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon gave the Bengals even more divisional help leading into Monday night’s showdown with the Giants. Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports /

It was Pittsburgh’s fourth loss in a row. Their third such dubious string of defeats in the era of Mike Tomlin. With the tiebreaker intact, for now, the Steelers trail the Ravens by two games in the division chase.

The Steelers drop was beneficial to the Bengals’ cause for many reasons besides the fact that it’s always nice when a rival falls. Earlier in the NFL’s slate of games, the Chiefs and Broncos were both victorious. Denver won a thriller in New Orleans and Kansas City pulled off a 17-point comeback in Carolina.

That gave three teams from the AFC West — Oakland, Denver, and Kansas City — seven wins on the season. That means that trio has a four-game lead on the Bengals in the win column. In all likelihood, those three clubs (no matter the order they end up) will all make the playoffs. One as the division winner and two wild cards. Just like the AFC North in 2014 when Pittsburgh won the division while Cincinnati and Baltimore won the fifth and sixth seed, respectively.

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The loss to Dallas also has implications when looking at Pittsburgh’s remaining seven games. Heading into week 10, the Steelers owned the NFL’s easiest second-half schedule. After trading blows with Dallas, Pittsburgh’s remaining seven opponents have a combined record of 21-30-1, which includes two matchups with the cellar-dwelling Browns.

Now, the Bengals’ Monday night clash with the Giants looms large. A win gives the Bengals a 4-4-1 mark, which would move them up to second place behind Baltimore, a team they will play twice in the final six weeks of the season.

Comparatively, the rest of the Bengals’ opponents this season have a combined record of 29-33. Baltimore’s has a 32-20-1 mark.

This help from Dallas can only go so far. The Bengals still need to find a way to add to their win total. After all, they do control their own destiny with half of their games in the second half against the division.

It starts on Monday against a quality opponent. The Giants are averaging 26.5 points per game in their four home contests this season (3-1). In his last two games at MetLife Stadium, Eli Manning has thrown seven touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Bengals are 18th against the pass, yielding 262 yards per game.

Next: Men In Stripes Week 10

Marvin Lewis is 4-4 on Monday Night Football over his 13-year tenure, 0-2 on the road.

The last time the Bengals won a road MNF matchup was on Oct. 22, 1990, a 34-13 win over Cleveland. The last Cincinnati non-conference victory on MNF was in 1978 against the Rams.

@scdermer4

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