It’s put up or shut up for both the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills. That’s a weird thing to say considering both teams are still sitting in real good shape in terms of playoff contention. For Buffalo, they sit with an 8-3 record, two games ahead of the next-closest wild card team. The Cowboys hold a game lead in their division, and ultimately will have to beat Philadelphia in Week 16 to make the postseason, so really - they have two games to play with as well before that big contest.
So, why is it such an important game for these teams? Well, both of them have struggled beating good football teams this season. Buffalo has eight wins on the year, but the teams they have beaten are really bad teams and collectively are averaging 2.1 wins on the year. The Cowboy aren’t much better as all of their wins have come against teams with a losing record, and they are 0-4 against teams with a winning record.
But alas, one of these teams is going to beat a quality opponent, but which one will it be? Here are five things to keep an eye out for when the Bills roll into Dallas on turkey day.
1. Single out Singletary
The Bills have a top five ranked rushing offense that features a full on committee of rushers getting the job done, but one rusher in particular could cause the Cowboys problems on Sunday. Rookie Devin Singletary is really starting to come on as of late.
After not exceeding seven rushing attempts through the first half of the season, he’s now had at least 15 carries in three of the last four games. That includes last week where he rushed for 106 yards on 21 carries, both career highs.
Singletary has great quickness to make defenders miss, but he also runs with a lot of power to churn out the short yards. The Cowboys run defense has been very hit or miss. Sometimes they meet the ball carrier in the backfield and sometimes he scampers off for a 20-yard gain.
Dallas has allowed over 100 yards rushing in each of their last five games, and that includes 101 yards to New England last week after the Patriots rushing attack had failed to reach 80 yards in their previous four contests. The Bills are coming off a game where they ran all over Denver at a tune of 244 yards. If the Cowboys can’t contain Singletary and the Bills rushing attack, it’s going to be a long day for the defense.
2. Squash Allen
The Bills second-year quarterback is a definite wild card in this one. A strong performance from Josh Allen could mean bad news for the Cowboys defense. It’s imperative that the Cowboys defensive line puts pressure on him to force him into poor decisions, but they need to be careful and not be out of control. If Allen is able to sidestep pressure and take off running, that’s going to be a problem.
Fun Fact: This season, Bills QB Josh Allen has as many rushing touchdowns as Ezekiel Elliott.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) November 27, 2019
The Detroit Lions were able to stay with the Cowboys for a while due to the mobility of Jeff Driskel as the backup quarterback ran for 51 yards against them. Allen has rushed for 56 yards in each of the last two games. If the defense doesn’t stay disciplined and contain the nimble Allen, it’s going to allow Buffalo to move the chains and get extra opportunities to score points. They better squash him when they have the chance.
3. Downtown Johnny Brown
Did you know the wide receiver with the most yards receiving in the AFC is the Bills’ John Brown? Well, don’t get too excited as he’s only ninth in the league with 856 yards as it just so happens most of the receiving stars in the league play in the NFC. But it’s still pretty impressive as he only trails Amari Cooper by 30 yards this season.
Brown offers the Bills a dangerous vertical threat who can totally take advantage of the strong arm of Allen. The Cowboys are one of the stronger pass defenses in the league and don’t get burned deep that often, but we all saw how the New York Jets caught them sleeping for a big gain earlier in the year. Dallas will try to keep the Bills pulling up short as we’ll see our old friend Cole Beasley get plenty of targets, but beware of the deep crossing route from Brown than can change the mood of the game in a heartbeat.
4. Finish the drive!
The Cowboys offense can move the ball. We know that because they’re the number one ranked team in the league in terms of yards gained. But what we don’t know is whether or not those yards are going to translate into points.
The Cowboys have been very good at moving the ball past midfield, but then eventually start spinning their wheels. It’s a frustrating thing to watch because the offense weapons are there, but for some reason this offense starts bogging down whenever that end zone gets within site.
The Cowboys have to find ways to correct this against the Bills. It won’t be easy because Buffalo’s defense is legit. They only give up 15.7 points a game this season which is good enough for third in the league. The Cowboys offense needs to come out fast and finish the drives.
Bold prediction: The Cowboys offense scores on their opening possession for the first time this season.
5. There’s no place like home
The Cowboys are coming off two-straight road games for the first and final time this season, and nobody should be happier to return home than Amari Cooper. The veteran receiver has had a rough couple weeks on the road only recording three catches for 38 yards, including a big goose egg last week. Granted, Coop has had to run with Darius Slay and Stephon Gilmore these past two weeks, but overall his road numbers haven’t been very good. In six road games, he only has 17 catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns. However, in the five games played at AT&T Stadium, Cooper has 38 catches for 673 yards and five touchdowns. It’s quite the contrast.
Not only does Cooper return home this week, but it comes at a time where he introduced us to the type of play making receiver he is. The last time Cooper played on Thanksgiving, he went off for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
It sure would be nice to have the Amari we’ve come to love back in action on Thursday.
What will you be watching in this game?