Two of the league’s most potent offensive attacks on paper sputtered in the first week of the NFL season. Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow struggled with turnovers against the Pittsburgh Steelers, throwing four interceptions and fumbling once en route to the team’s 23-20 overtime loss. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys struggled to get anything going last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, falling 19-3 at home. Even though they lost the game, their biggest loss on the field was an injury to starting quarterback Dak Prescott, who will miss a few games with a broken thumb.
With that as the backdrop, the two teams meet in Week 2 looking to get back on the right track.
Cooper Rush Takes Centerstage
The show must go on in Dallas as Prescott recovers from an injury. There was a lot of discussion in the past few days about whether the Cowboys should pursue a more accomplished quarterback to step in while their starter is out, but for the time being, it looks like the team will proceed with backup Cooper Rush. While this might not be the type of headline grabbing move fans often clamor for, it makes sense, considering that any player acquired from outside the organization would need time to learn the playbook during the season.
With that said, Rush will be asked to manage the game for Dallas with some high profile weapons with which to work. This is his fifth season with the Cowboys, so he should be well versed in the scheme run by offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. He started one game last season against the Minnesota Vikings, where he threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-16 Dallas win.
Sensational Wide Receiver/Cornerback Matchup
We’ll find out what Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has in mind after kickoff on Sunday afternoon, but it will be a lot of fun to see Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase lined up across burgeoning Dallas star cornerback Trevon Diggs. During the 2021 season, Diggs led the NFL with 11 interceptions, and has proven to possess superior ball skills.
Even if Chase finds himself matched up with Diggs a lot during the game, it is unlikely that Burrow would shy away from feeding his most talented target. This means that Chase and Burrow will need to function at the top of their game, otherwise Cincinnati might find themselves losing the turnover battle for a second straight contest.
Tee Higgins Injury Progress
One key player status to watch ahead of Sunday’s game will be the health of Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. There is a case to be made that Higgins is the best number two wide receiver in the NFL, and his presence would help alleviate pressure on the Bengals offense if Chase is slowed down by Diggs.
Higgins exited last week’s contest against Pittsburgh with a concussion, and is truly questionable to suit up this week. As ESPN’s Stephania Bell likes to remind fans, concussions are non-linear, and full recovery from the head injury can be tricky to evaluate. If Higgins is not able to give it a go, veteran Tyler Boyd will likely soak up snaps in his absence.