The Dallas Cowboys are hoping to keep their winning streak alive as they embark on the first of two straight road games against the top two teams in the AFC East, starting with the Buffalo Bills. The Cowboys have never swept their Eastern divisional counterparts in the AFC, but are hoping that all changes soon. Here are five things to watch when the team heads to Buffalo on Sunday.
1. WILD MAN ON THE RUN
The Bills quarterback, Josh Allen, is having an up-and-down season. He threw three picks in their overtime loss to the New York Jets in the opener and he threw four touchdowns (and no picks) in their 28-point blowout win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 4. There’s no denying that Allen is one of the league’s better quarterbacks. After all, he’s finished in the top three in MVP voting in two of the previous three seasons. However, currently, he’s tied with Sam Howell for the league lead in interceptions, which as we all know automatically means you’re terrible (it doesn’t). The question is, which version of Allen will the Cowboys see on Sunday?
The Cowboys have done well against quarterbacks this season, but they can get in trouble when they escape from the pocket as they have allowed some very mediocre passers to get some cheap yards on the ground. Allen, however, is doubly dangerous when he’s on the move as he can get yards running, but he can also pull the trigger on some strong throws that could result in big plays. The Cowboys must do a good job containing Allen.
2. STEPHON VS STEFON
When the schedule came out, we were all looking forward to the first-ever matchup between the All-Pro brothers, Stefon and Trevon Diggs. Unfortunately, a knee injury ended Trevon’s season prematurely. This took away the team’s top cornerback, but they were graced with the surprise season of second-year corner DaRon Bland, who is having an All-Pro-worthy season himself.
Oddly enough, it is the veteran Stephon Gilmore who has emerged as the Cowboys' top corner. After struggles against Washington and the first half against Seattle, Bland has gotten a little extra help as they’ve relied on Gilmore to handle the tougher assignments. Gilmore did a great job in the second half against D.K. Metcalf and was all over A.J. Brown in Sunday’s game against the Eagles. Look for more of the same as they employ their most trusted corner to hassle the Bills talented receiver. Don’t expect a shutdown performance, but he could continue to limit the damage of some of the league’s top pass catchers.
3. THE MONEY DOWN
The Cowboys' offense is the best in the league with a 49.2 % third-down conversion rate. The Bills’ offense is second-best in the league at 48.8%. These teams are fantastic on the money down. Both defenses are middling with the Cowboys being a little better (ranked 12th) than the Bills (18th).
Sustaining drives and scoring in the red zone will be huge on Sunday. The Bills are very good in the red zone at 67% (2nd best) while the Cowboys haven’t been quite as sharp at 56% (15th). These are two of the best scoring teams in the league so getting off the field on defense will be crucial. How they perform on third downs will loom large in this one.
4. KEEP THE GROUND ATTACK GOING
The Cowboys' strength on offense is their passing attack as they have the second-most passing yards in the league, trailing only Miami. There’s no denying that we’ll see a good dose of Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb, and company. The Bills’ pass defense is respectable allowing 5.7 net yards per passing attempt (8th-best in the league). However, their run defense is a different story, allowing 4.7 yards per run (4th-worst in the league).
The Cowboys running game is starting to show some improvement as they’ve had two-straight games with over 135 yards rushing. In contrast, they’ve only eclipsed that mark two other times in their previous 11 games. With a rushing game on the mend and a susceptible Bills’ run defense, look for Dallas to find some matchups they can exploit to take some of the pressure off their quarterback.
5. CRAZINESS ENSURES
It just feels like some weird stuff happens when these two teams square off. The late-game Troy Aikman pick in 1993 sent the Cowboys to 0-2 to start the season and forced Jerry Jones’ hand to get Emmitt Smith signed ASAP. The wild Monday night game where Tony Romo turned the ball over six times, yet led the comeback after Nick Folk not once, but twice kicked the game-winning field goal keeping the Cowboys' undefeated season intact. And even the last time these teams met on Thanksgiving of 2019, the Josh Allen fumble recovery on a QB sneak, Prescott’s many turnovers, and missed field goals galore. It was just weird.
Is this the game where Brandon Aubrey finally misses a field goal? Will we see the football take a strange bounce and into the arms of a defensive lineman for a big-man touchdown? Call it a gut feeling, but it feels like this will be one of those games that will keep us talking throughout next week. Brace yourself for some madness.