This week the Dallas Cowboys play their penultimate game of 2015 against the Buffalo Bills, a team in a very similar place. Like Dallas, Buffalo has been eliminated from the playoffs. And they also had a disappointing season after head coach Rex Ryan engaged in some typical bluster before the season (a Ryan family trait, it seems). Since the Cowboys seldom play the Bills, most of us don't know all that much about them.
So when Nick Wojton, a sports reporter for the Batavia Daily News (located in the Bills' market) reached out to me to get some questions answered about the Cowboys, I took the opportunity to ask him a few about Buffalo as well.
Q: Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is firm in his approach of playing every game to win, and indicated he does not plan to sit starters in the last two meaningless games. Since the Bills are also out of the playoff race, what approach is Rex Ryan likely to take in this game?
Rex is taking the same unfortunate approach. Now, Dallas has the Dallas Stars in the NHL. Buffalo has the Sabres. Over the past two years the Sabres have tanked like the Philadelphia 76ers, but with much less publicity about it. I just wrote a piece saying the Bills and Rex should sit a majority of their starters and toss these last two games. (The other is against the Jets, so you know he wants to win that one).
Went on a tangent there, but in Rex's mind, he wants to win these games. The players though? We'll see. They looked pretty embarrassing last week when in a blink of an eye Washington went up 21-0 on them.
Q: Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is something of an unknown quantity to our fan base. What is his game like, especially when he is under pressure in the pocket?
It depends. Tyrod is known as a runner, but there's been games where he just doesn't do it. Some games, he'll take off when pressure comes. In others, he looks like he's trying to force himself to throw it to prove he can do it.
At times, he's been late on throws and is known for only reading half of the field. Then on others, like against the Titans, he busts out a 20+ yard run. One late against the Titans won the Bills the game.
Q: The Bills lead the league in rushing per game. Is stopping the run key to stopping them?
Absolutely, but that stat is probably a little wrong.. just in the sense that.. sure, Buffalo has plenty of yards rushing, but that's because they do it so often. I could bet a large sum of money that Tyrod will not throw the ball 40 times Sunday with confidence.
Having said that though, where the Bills have done a big chunk of damage is through the air. They may only throw it 20-ish times a game, but Tyrod can throw a pretty good deep ball and will take his shots to Sammy Watkins and Co.
Q: As a followup, what is the status of LeSean McCoy, an old nemesis for Dallas? Any chance of him playing with his MCL injury?
As of Festivus on Dec. 23, Shady did not practice. Word is that he is "week-to-week." With two games left, I say shut him down. Not just for the tank idea previously mentioned, but he has a lot of miles on him to this point in his career. Going back as far as the preseason, he's has his share of injuries and was never really healthy this season.
Karlos Williams, his backup, has been an awesome surprise too. But he's also been sidelined. A month after signing off the street, Mike Gillislee might get a start.
Q: One reason the Cowboys made the switch to Kellen Moore at quarterback is that he seems to handle blitzes much better than Matt Cassel. Rex Ryan teams have a reputation for using the blitz a lot. Can we expect to see that during this game?
With an untested guy like Moore, I'd expect a steady supply of blitzing. But if the Bills don't, it could be because of the slew of injuries they have including Kyle Williams, Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams, Randell Johnson among others. You can toss Mario Williams on there too. Physically he's fine, but he's going to be released this offseason and knows it because of his cap number. More and more each week you can see him just going through the motions.
Q: Has Buffalo's defense been a disappointment this year?
As Rex says in EVERY. SINGLE. PRESSER. "No question about it."
I think the team's change from Jim Scwartz to Rex Ryan in regards to schemes did not go well.
While they're ranked below average this year, I'd expect them to improve next year. A new player or two being plugged into the system and the majority of the team coming into next season already knowing what to expect, will both help.
But the fault absolutely goes to Rex for that, but more so for his notorious mouth running than play on the field. In his first presser having a "top-five was not good enough."
In addition he said, "Get ready, because we're going!" about the playoffs too...
Q: I hate getting asked this myself, but it is kinda required. What is your prediction on the game?
As much as I want them to lose, it's classic Buffalo to win a meaningless game late in the season. 24-10 Bills.
Some interesting information. One thing to watch will be whether both teams play hard, or if one is just going through the motions. It could be interesting.