It was disappointing for the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys in Week 1. The Bengals hope to bounce back from a mistake-laden divisional game against the Steelers. Meanwhile, the Cowboys must adjust to life without quarterback Dak Prescott. According to early reports, his hand injury will see him out of action for several weeks.
We look at the key matchups that will consign one team to a 0-2 record and the other back to an even keel.
All stats provided by PFF unless stated.
B.J. Hill vs. Matt Farniok
Once a feared unit, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line now appears to be a weak spot. That was exacerbated in Week 1, when Connor McGovern departed early, leaving second-year guard Matt Farniok manning left guard. Farniok was responsible for six pressures, 36.4% of the total number Prescott faced and struggled mightily.
If he continues at left guard, he will face BJ Hill, who had a quiet outing against the Steelers. He did log a sack, but Mitchell Trubisky could get the ball away quickly and nullify most of the pressure. The Bengals hope to get home more often against Cowboys stand-in QB Cooper Rush. Putting him under duress will be vital in forcing errors and increasing the turnover count.
Jonah Williams vs. Micah Parsons
The Bengals exercised the fifth-year option on Jonah Williams, and with a big year, he would hope to be at the fore regarding contract extensions. It was an auspicious start to 2022 for Williams, who allowed two sacks and couldn’t get to grips with Alex Highsmith. Williams has mostly been a steady presence without being elite, and that calm must return to help stabilize things next to Cordell Volson.
Although Micah Parsons is listed as a linebacker, his two most significant impact plays against the Bucs came from edge rusher. Deep in Cowboys territory, he got the chance to go one-on-one and both times he landed a sack to hold the Bucs to a field goal.
The Cowboys will be well aware of the weakness on the left-hand side of the Bengals line and will likely seek to get Parsons lined up to attack it.
Daxton Hill vs. CeeDee Lamb
Daxton Hill got only six snaps on his NFL debut, and his usage will likely stay limited, barring an injury. However, the Cowboys' main offensive threat remains CeeDee Lamb. He got 10 targets and only two receptions last week. More importantly, he lined up in the slot 63.3% of the time. Neither of the Bengals’ outside corners shifts around the formation, meaning Lamb would face Mike Hilton.
Hilton’s coverage ability has been solid in recent years, and the Bengals may feel like they can trust him to cover Lamb. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Lou Anarumo sprinkled in some Hill or Tre Flowers to help out. Hill’s athleticism and coverage ability are well known, considering he spent most of his college career in the slot. It’s a wrinkle worth keeping an eye on.
Ja’Marr Chase vs. Trevon Diggs
You cannot keep Ja’Marr Chase down. Despite the offensive struggles of Burrow, Chase once again dominated his matchups. Logging 129 receiving yards and a TD, Chase is the consistent threat that Burrow seeks out. With Tee Higgins a question mark entering this game, Chase’s role will be even more important as the Cowboys can focus heavily on the talented receiver.
Chase will be a difficult assignment, especially for the ‘boom-or-bust’ Trevon Diggs. Diggs often gets caught out and bites hard. That risky streak paid off last year, with 11 interceptions. Against Mike Evans last week, Diggs can often be seen trying to undercut routes. Burrow will be concerned about his playmaking ability, given the four picks, he just unloaded on the Steelers secondary. If Burrow and Chase can get it right, this matchup will blow the whole game wide open.
Hopefully, the first win of the season is on the horizon!