With the Buffalo Bills set to play on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, at the Dallas Cowboys, it’s time for a quick turnaround edition of our five players to watch series. The Bills haven’t played on Thanksgiving Day since 1994, when the team traveled to the Motor City, losing 35-21 to the Detroit Lions.
Buffalo comes into Dallas on a two-game winning streak, having dominated the Denver Broncos on Sunday in a 20-3 victory. The Cowboys, on the other hand, have alternated wins and losses for the last month. They dropped a tight contest in Foxborough, Massachusetts against the New England Patriots on Sunday, failing to score a touchdown in a 13-9 defeat.
Which players will we be watching this week? Well, one should be pretty obvious given the opponent...but there are a few keys to victory for the Bills this week.
QB Josh Allen
Buffalo’s second-year quarterback has progressed quite nicely this season, not only improving from last year to this year, but even from the beginning of the season to now. Since leaving Buffalo’s Week 4 match-up with the New England Patriots after taking a shot to the head, Allen has completed 60.2% of his passes for 1,457 yards with 12 touchdowns against only two interceptions in seven games. He’s added 256 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 52 attempts over that span. Allen is reading defenses better, putting the Bills in the right play more often than not. He’s been aided by a switch to a more up-tempo attack over the last two weeks, and Buffalo’s offense has responded as a whole. On Thursday, the stage will be huge, as nearly the whole country will have this game on during their Holiday meal. Containing his adrenaline and focusing on taking what the Dallas defense gives him will be of the utmost importance this week. When Buffalo faced off against New England and their phenomenal defense, it looked like Allen was trying to win the game with every pass, especially in the early going. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll would be wise to give Allen some quick, easy completions on the first drive while also trying to establish the run in order to allow Allen to settle in to the game.
RB Devin Singletary
Coming off his first career 100-yard rushing effort, “Motor” will need to be great again on Thursday afternoon. Singletary is a vital cog to Buffalo’s attack, and allowing him to touch the ball early and often should make for a good offensive rhythm. If Singletary can pick up some good yardage early, it will open up the play-action game for Allen and the Buffalo passing attack, which could lead to big plays down the field. Singletary is averaging 18 touches per game over the Bills’ last four contests, and that includes a head-scratching day against the Cleveland Browns where he only touched the ball 11 times. He needs to be a big part of the game plan if Buffalo is going to pull out a tough road win.
WR Cole Beasley
The clear No. 2 in Buffalo’s passing offense is on pace for a 71/764/6 stat line this year, which would amount to the second-best campaign in terms of receptions and receiving yards of his career while also setting a new career-high in touchdowns. Beasley was not shy about his anger with his split from the Cowboys after signing a four-year contract with Buffalo in the offseason, and he’s absolutely had this game circled on his calendar since before the ink dried on that contract. Daboll will probably have something drawn up for Beasley, especially as the Bills come into the red zone, in order to help Allen’s favorite safety valve have his revenge on his former team.
G/C Jon Feliciano
The reason we’ll watch him is mostly to see which position it is that he’ll play. If starting center Mitch Morse is unable to play due to the hand injury he suffered against the Broncos, then Feliciano will shift over from right guard to center, where he played for much of the day Sunday. Feliciano acquitted himself quite well against Denver, but doing so a second time in four days could be a tall task. Feliciano may have practiced at center in the offseason, but without taking daily reps there for the majority of the season, it’s a tough ask to have him set the protections, snap well from the shotgun, and deal with big defensive tackles all in a matter of milliseconds.
LB Matt Milano
We’ll spotlight the player who figures to see most of the coverage of Dallas’ running backs when they’re out in the passing game. Both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard are solid receivers, and we all know how good Elliott is as a runner. The Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions were each able to shut him down, however, as Elliott only combined for 92 yards on 36 carries over those two games. If Buffalo wants to win, they’ll need to shut Elliott down because his success opens up so much for the Cowboys’ dynamic offense. Milano has a difficult assignment, but he’s been playing at a very high level this season, notching 70 tackles (seven for loss), seven pass breakups, 1.5 sacks, and six quarterback hits on the year. Lately, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has been using him as an A-gap blitzer, which could also mitigate some of Elliott’s effectiveness, as the Cowboys could be forced to leave ‘Zeke in to block. Milano needs to keep up his stellar play in order for the Bills to pull off a victory.