The Dallas Cowboys are 10-3 this season with a +188 point differential. The Buffalo Bills are 7-6 this season with a +104 point differential. The Cowboys, however, are just 3-3 on the road this year, while the Bills are 5-2 at home (and 5-1 at Highmark Stadium, as one of those losses came in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars). These two teams collide on Sunday, as the Cowboys are looking to extend their five-game winning streak and the Bills are looking to start their first win streak since the end of September.
The Cowboys are statistically superior to the Bills in many areas, but given Buffalo’s strength at home over the last few years combined with the fact that their quarterback is Josh Allen, the Bills are currently 2-point favorites. Winning this game by one point, let alone three, won’t be easy. The Bills will need to limit some of Dallas’ top talents in order to emerge victorious.
Here are five Cowboys to watch this weekend.
QB Dak Prescott
Prescott is enjoying a fantastic season, boasting a league-leading 28 touchdown passes against just six interceptions this season. Prescott has had total command of his team’s offense, and he has used his weapons beautifully throughout the year. He really only struggled in one game, Dallas’ 42-10 loss at the San Francisco 49ers earlier this year. In that game, Prescott was sacked three times and he threw three interceptions on just 24 passing attempts. The 49ers were able to pressure him all day long using their front-four, and when they did blitz, they were able to show one look and trick Prescott into believing it before shifting into another. While the Niners might have more talent on defense than Buffalo does, the Bills have been great at pressuring the quarterback all year long, notching 42 sacks and 93 quarterback hits on the year. If Leonard Floyd, Ed Oliver, Von Miller, and Greg Rousseau can get home on Dak, then the back-end of Buffalo’s defense can do what it does best — deploy disguised coverages that might lead to some timely turnovers.
WR CeeDee Lamb
The young wideout is a bona fide star. He’s on pace to surpass his numbers from last season, when he was named Second-Team All-Pro. This year, he has 96 catches on 131 targets for 1,253 yards and eight touchdowns. Lamb plays bigger than his 6’2”, 200-pound frame would suggest, and he’s also faster than a receiver that size is expected to be. Cornerback Rasul Douglas has been incredible since Buffalo acquired him via trade, and Christian Benford has been excellent since the Bills drafted him in the sixth round last year. Neither guy is a speed burner, but they each can play physically and use their length to annoy wideouts in zone coverage. The Bills will probably try to bracket Lamb and force someone else to beat them this week, but Lamb is good enough to evade those kinds of double-teams if they aren’t executed perfectly.
TE Jake Ferguson
With apologies to running back Tony Pollard, who is certainly dangerous, it’s Ferguson who gives me some pause this week as the secondary offensive option. Even though Buffalo has been quite good against tight ends, any time you have to commit extra resources to stopping a receiver of Lamb’s caliber, it makes it that much more difficult to spread your defense out to cover everything. That means a defense likely to be without safety Micah Hyde will need to find a way to shut down a tight end who’s coming into his own. Ferguson has 51 catches for 570 yards and five touchdowns, all of which rank second on the team. The Cowboys are going to try to isolate him on linebacker Tyrel Dodson or nickel corner Taron Johnson. Ferguson is a tough matchup for both of those players, but for different reasons: whereas Johnson is great in coverage but undersized, Dodson is a real liability in coverage at times. That’s the matchup the Cowboys will want.
LB Micah Parsons
The big edge rusher is going to be foremost on the mind of everyone on offense for the Bills, and whether it’s left tackle Dion Dawkins or right tackle Spencer Brown lined up across from him, someone’s going to have to keep Parsons from charging into the backfield and blowing up Buffalo’s passing attack. Last week, the Bills struggled to protect quarterback Josh Allen even when the Kansas City Chiefs sent three rushers. All this year, and really throughout the last few seasons with Allen at the helm, the Bills have struggled to pass against odd-front defenses. Throw in an elite pass rusher like Parsons to worry about and this becomes a much more difficult task. Watch for some early check-release looks from the Bills, as interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady will need to find a way to stymie Parsons by doing more than just double-teaming him. Taking advantage of his aggressiveness could give the Bills a shot at a big play, and it could also slow his rush later on if they can hit on a little screen over Parsons’ head.
CB Stephon Gilmore
Old friend alert! Gilmore was Buffalo’s first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and after leaving Orchard Park, NY unceremoniously, he has bounced around the league since. He first stopped with the New England Patriots, cementing himself as one of the NFL’s best corners with one of Buffalo’s most hated rivals, winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. Since then, he’s had one-year tenures with the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, and now the Cowboys. He’s been really good everywhere he’s gone, and while he might be 33 years old, he’s still a top-flight cover corner. Gilmore has 11 pass breakups and two interceptions this season, and he’s only allowing 53% of the passes thrown his way to be completed. After being one of the league’s more penalized corners in his younger days, he’s even tamped that down this season — Gilmore has been called for just four accepted penalties, all of which are pass interference calls. I think he’s going to be called for one this week, and it’s going to give the Bills good field position after wideout Stefon Diggs beats Gilmore deep.