The Buffalo Bills are ready, so here we go, Bills Mafia — it’s officially Dallas Cowboys week! Fresh off a successful must-win game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bills enter Week 15 facing a must-win scenario. Essentially, every week here on out will remain the same if Buffalo hopes to play football this season deep into January and beyond. Their task gets no easier on Sunday, with a 10-3 Cowboys team coming to Orchard Park, NY — their troublesome brand of dynamic offensive fireworks and stifling, opportunistic defense in tow.
The Bills are currently -2.5-point home favorites over the Cowboys with DraftKings Sportsbook, and there’s certain to be no shortage of on-field theatrics as the game unfolds. But will that translate into points, with two of the game’s best signal callers directing things on offense? Points could be at a premium, with Buffalo’s defense giving up an average of 18.9 points per game, and Dallas even stingier — only surrendering 17.9 points per game.
The Cowboys have averaged 40.2 points per game on offense over the last five weeks, while Buffalo has averaged 25.2 points per game in that same span.
Sunday’s showdown will be the Buffalo Bills’ first home game in a month, and Bills Mafia is certain to be loud. Similarly to Buffalo, Dallas has struggled a bit on the road this season, going 3-3, while having yet to lose a game at home. The home team will need its A-game on offense this Sunday, if they hope to avoid falling back to .500.
The Bills have only themselves to blame for entering postseason-like play a month early. Dropping contests against the likes of the woe-begotten New England Patriots, the suddenly Aaron Rodgers-less New York Jets, and even the meltdown at home against the Denver Broncos loom large — not only in terms of the AFC East, but as it relates to their overall AFC record. Too often earlier in the season Buffalo’s offense seemed out of sorts, though capable in the waning minutes of halves. Left to defend a lead late in key contests, the Bills’ defense has, more often than not, proven incapable of holding off opponents in need of game-winning points. Or, as it was against the Jets and Broncos, defeats at the hands of epic collapses on special teams that led to a walk-off points in the form of a touchdown in overtime and a mulligan field goal, respectively).
But against the Chiefs, Buffalo’s beleaguered patchwork defense pulled off a masterful game plan that kept quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the pocket and frustrated, while swarming to his receiving outlets in key moments. At the game’s most critical point when KC was driving for points to either tie or go ahead, the Bills held firm, and the Chiefs couldn’t convert three tries at gaining 15 needed yards from midfield at home — perhaps partially undone by their own rage at self-inflicted pre-snap wounds. If Buffalo’s going to be successful in Week 15, it’ll take an effort similar offensive effort that interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady unleashed in Kansas City — an efficient and diverse attack that quickly found a 14-point lead against one of the best defenses in the NFL this season.
Bills Mafia shouldn’t expect similar fortune to befall Buffalo this weekend, but it’s reasonable to expect a similar product on defense — even when considering the team’s injury reports. Why? They’ve proven it against some of the game’s best talent in far-less-hospitable environments. Games against the Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles have shown that Buffalo’s defense can hang with anyone in the league.
Head coach Sean McDermott for certain will have preached the importance of sound fundamentals and maintaining gap integrity. Though running back Tony Pollard hasn’t looked as consistently explosive as he did in season’s past, he’s a major threat to take it the distance every time he touches the ball. So, too, is the case with Dallas’ stable of receivers, namely CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks. Will Buffalo’s defensive backfield find a way to keep pace with Lamb and Cooks, or will it be the Bills who find themselves flambéed? Turnovers will be key, and Dallas has a ball-hawking wizard in cornerback DaRon Bland, who’s taken back an NFL-record five interceptions for touchdowns this season. Josh Allen needs to keep the Cowboys’ cornerbacks honest using his eyes and pump fakes, or else it’s possible we see Bland add to his gaudy total.
On the season, Josh Allen has been responsible for 78% of the team’s offense, and he leads the NFL in total yards (3,821 combined) and total touchdowns (35 combined). Allen has completed 318-of-475 passes (66.9%) for 3,447 yards with 25 touchdowns and 14 interceptions; adding 72 rushes for 374 yards with 10 touchdowns and four fumbles.
(Allen’s stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference)
Dak Prescott is right there with Allen, in nearly all metrics — and he’s the current favorite to win the NFL MVP Award at season’s end. Through 13 games, Prescott has completed 312-of-450 passes (69.3%) for 3,505 yards with 28 touchdowns and six interceptions; adding 44 rushes for 185 yard with two touchdowns and two fumbles.
(Prescott’s stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference)
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs has struggled to find much production catching the ball in recent weeks, but if he’s matched up against cornerback Stephon Gilmore then Diggs could have a big day. There’s an on-field history between this pair, and it favors Diggs in a big way. Expect Allen to test Gilmore’s 33-year-old legs early and often. On the season, Diggs has caught 87 passes (on 132 targets) for 993 yards with eight touchdowns.
Cowboys star wide receiver CeeDee Lamb continues putting the league on notice, and he’s become one of the most consistent pass catchers this season. Lamb has caught 96 passes (on 131 targets) for 1,253 yards with eight touchdowns; adding nine rushes for 84 yards and one touchdown.
Dual-threat running back James Cook has come on in recent weeks, notably since Joe Brady took over play-calling duties. It would be wise for the offense to continue fueling up with a healthy dose of Cook early and often. With Diggs being schemed out of many scenarios, the Cook Show has slotted in well — to the surprise of opposing defenses. Cook is heading toward his first 1,000-yard rushing season in year two. Should he eclipse that mark, Cook will become the first running back since LeSean McCoy to accomplish the feat. It’s near certain that his teammates know what’s at stake, and now’s the perfect time of the season to see if that goal has legs. On the season, Cook has 163 carries for 789 yards with one touchdown; adding 38 receptions (on 44 targets) for 381 yards and one receiving touchdown.
Cook’s counterpart in Cowboys running back Tony Pollard has put together another solid campaign, and he’s running well again after starting a bit slow early in the season. Through 13 games, Pollard has 196 carries for 796 yards with five touchdowns; adding 49 receptions (on 58 targets) for 258 yards.
(Pollard’s stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference)
The Cowboys lead the head-to-head series 8-5. Since these teams last met in Super Bowl XXVIII, they’ve split wins to the tune of a 3-3 overall record since 1994. The Bills have won the previous two matchups, with the last meeting occurring in 2019. That game came on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas where Josh Allen and Buffalo’s offense made quick waste of the Cowboys in Jerry’s World. The final score of 26-15 isn’t indicative of just how dominating a performance the Bills had in what was Allen’s first game against America’s Team.
Can the Bills win their eighth game of the season, while improving their playoff odds within a very crowed group of teams currently bottlenecked at 7-6 in the AFC? Though a game against an NFC opponent might not seem as important, every game matters to Buffalo’s chances from here on out. Losing any matchup does nothing but harm their goal of reaching the postseason to make a meaningful run at the division crown and a Super Bowl berth. A victory on Sunday allows the Bills to establish a news winning streak, one for sure they’d love to carry all the way to Las Vegas, NV.
Buckle up, Bills Mafia — here we go!