Previously we broke down the offense for this week’s upcoming game between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills. Now we dive back into the position battleground, this time looking at how the defensive positions and special teams stack up against each other.
It’s crazy how few penalties Micah Parsons gets off holding calls when it’s so blatant and obvious. A number of times last week he was getting pulled from behind or having an arm wrapped over him to slow him down, yet every week he gets no flag. That narrative also moved to Sam Williams when he was getting held a couple of times on plays last week. Losing Johnathan Hankins is a big blow since he was playing excellent football the last few weeks, but that means we get to see more Mazi Smith and how he reacts when he’s thrown in the deep end.
This defensive line prides itself on its pass rush capabilities, and this week they go up against an offensive line that is allowing the second-fewest sacks. In the last three games, the Cowboys defensive line has produced the fourth-fewest sacks, some of that is down to Dan Quinn opting to defend the run a lot more. One extra task this week for the Cowboys defensive line will be containing Josh Allen and restricting him from getting first downs with his legs.
The Buffalo Bills defensive line has plenty of talent. Ed Oliver leads the team in total pressures and in the second half of this season he’s really turned it on. His 50 total pressures is fourth-most among defensive tackles, and his eight sacks is third-most. Defensive end Leonard Floyd leads the team in sacks with 9.5. Right behind him is A.J Epenesa with seven sacks and is enjoying a career season. Epenesa is on the injury report this week however. He’s suffering from a rib injury he sustained during their last game against the Kansas City Chiefs. This defensive line though has plenty of players generating sacks with guys like Greg Rousseau, DaQuan Jones and Jordan Phillips. All of this has led to the Bills generating the third-most sacks in the NFL this year.
The weakness of this defensive line is in its ability to stop the run. They currently rank 19th in rush yards allowed per game, and opponents are averaging 4.7 yards per carry against them, the third-worst. Another point to note is in the last three games they’ve really struggled to stop teams scoring in the redzone, allowing opponents to score on 88% of the time when they enter the redzone.
Damone Clark/Markquese Bell
Terrel Bernard/Tyrel Dodson
Markquese Bell and Damone Clark played one of their best games together last week. Both showed excellent tackling technique and played well against the run, and both of them played extremely well in coverage. Bell added to his already excellent stat sheet with a huge forced fumble, and after last week’s game, they have both shown that they really didn’t need Shaq Leonard. The Cowboys linebacker duo has the skills and ability to cover the Bills lead running back, James Cook, who has shown he’s capable as a runner and receiver. Their ability to get lateral and cover the flat quickly will be key to stopping Cook this week.
Terrel Bernard came into the NFL looking more like your typical nickel linebacker. He’s very slender and not looking like an every down linebacker. This year he’s racked up five sacks and is effective on the blitz. His bend and ability to corner quickly was something he did well when playing at Baylor, so it’s no surprise to see him producing sacks in the pros. His skillset as a pass rusher adds further to the Bills heavy pass rush theme on defense, but his lack of pursuit skills and coverage recognition only adds to the teams struggles on run defense. The one player that is good at stopping the run for the Bills is their other linebacker, Tyler Dodson. He’s the one guy able to clog and cover quite well from the position. But both these players combined have missed a total of 24 tackles this year.
Damone Clark and Markquese Bell have an insanely low missed tackle rate and both have a lower passer rating allowed than their Bills counterparts. The Cowboys linebackers are better run stoppers and in coverage, where the Bills pair combine for six sacks which is more than Bell and Clark.
The Cowboys defensive backs have a big task this week facing the Bills receiver corps led by elite wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The good news is Stephon Gilmore is coming off his best game playing for the Cowboys, and that confidence and positive mentality is going to be needed this week. If he can have another game like he had last week then holding up Diggs and limiting his targets will become an important key to slowing the offense down. Daron Bland versus Gabe Davis is another battle to watch this week. The good news for Bland is this is the type of receiver he finds success against. Staying with Davis as he runs deep and gets up for the ball is exactly what Bland does best. Josh Allen is throwing the second-most passing touchdowns this year which will concern the Cowboys secondary. But one thing these defensive backs will be excited about is the fact Allen has thrown the second-most interceptions this season.
Micah Hyde is questionable after getting a stinger in last week’s game. His loss could be significant for their secondary as the next guy up is Taylor Rapp, who has really struggled at safety since moving to Buffalo. Rasul Douglas is the Bills best cornerback and is allowing a passer rating of 87.4. He’s managed to snag three interceptions this year and break up eight passes. Douglas against Lamb will be an important battle to keep the Cowboys offense on schedule. Dane Jackson may return this week as he comes back from a neck injury. If not the team will stick with Christian Benford. Both players are allowing over 70% completion, and both players are allowing over 100 in passer rating. Here’s the place to attack in the passing game.
This Bills secondary is about to face the team that ranks first in passing touchdowns, fourth in completion percentage and second in passer rating. This Cowboys secondary has also held teams to an average of just 183 passing yards per game, the fifth-fewest in the NFL.
We are now at the point of wondering where the limit is for Brandon Aubrey. He hit a 60-yard field goal followed by a 59-yard field goal last week and he’s doesn’t look as though he’s slowing down. His kickoffs last week are proof of how much power he has in his leg, he hit the crossbar twice, and that’s a 75-yard kick. Tyler Bass on the Bills side is 20 for 25 on field goals. He’s even missed one from 30 yards.
Bryan Anger is out punting Bills punter Sam Martin by a wide margin. Anger is averaging 50.9 yards per punt in comparison to Martin who is punting an average of 44.7 yards.
KaVontae Turpin continues to be a wizard on kickoffs, averaging 31.5 yards per return, which is the most in the league. His 11 punt returns though have only averaged 6.6 yards per return, which is way down the rankings and from his performance last year. Deonte Henry isn’t doing much better on punt returns for the Bills either. He’s totaled 166 return yards and averages 9.2 yards per return, both rank 19th among return specialists. He’s also fumbled one catch this year.
Which team has the better defense?
This poll is closed