Three things on my mind as your turkey sits in the oven…
The Big Hello
The Bills have a monster opportunity to make Thanksgiving Day a coming out party. There will be 60 million eyeballs on their game against Dallas (30 million viewers). It’s likely going to be the most watched regular season game of the year. They can do in three hours what they’ve failed to do in three months–force the football world to take notice and respect their 8-3 start.
The players say they aren’t thinking about that. I say they are liars. Kurt Coleman brought up the viewership stat unprompted Monday. The guys know what an impressive win can do for the image of “Bills football” and that has to matter… probably quite a bit.
Even better, there’s not a whole lot of risk involved here. If the Bills lose, they’re still the team that can handles inferior opponents just fine and has a great look at a playoff spot. Outside of Josh Allen going full Nate Peterman or a three touchdown loss, status quo is the worst case scenario.
Comparing schedules between the Bills and Cowboys makes the two teams look pretty similar. Both have one decent win (Buffalo at Tennessee, Dallas vs. Philly). Both otherwise have feasted upon the meek. Both have rolled over against teams with teeth.
However, comparing stat ranks makes Dallas seem far superior. The Cowboys have an elite offense that leads the NFL in a handful of categories and a defense that’s generally top ten. The Bills have a really good defense that still trails the Pats and Niners with an offense that runs the ball well, but is mediocre to below average everywhere else.
Frankly, Dallas should be better than 6-5 with it’s cache of stats and the talent it has on paper. Or maybe they just do a better job than the Bills of piling on bad teams. We find out Thursday.
The Best Coach on the Worst Day
Garrett has routinely been on the hot seat in Dallas, but this time, it seems like Jones tied Garrett to that seat and turned the burner up to 11 himself. The above section on talent vs. record does not help.
It’s hard to tell how the Cowboys react to their coach being deposited under a bus. They may rally around him. They may take it in stride as a part of living in Jerry’s World. They may melt in the heat.
Regardless, the Bills should have a decided coaching/leadership advantage in this matchup. Though, it might be better on a different day. A day not named Thursday.
Sean McDermott’s one Thursday game as head coach was a 34-21 shallacking in 2017 against a Jets team that went 5-11. Considering score, Bills roster and opponent record, it’s probably the worst game of McDermott’s career. You may not be able to hear me over the Small Sample Size alarms going off (very fair, of course), but Garrett is 8-4 in Thursday games and 5-4 on Thanksgiving.
All due respect to Buffalo’s very excellent defense, but I don’t think they can shut the Cowboys down. They’ll win battles. They’ll slow things down. They won’t get destroyed, but they aren’t keeping Dallas under 20 points. Not on the road and not in a climate controlled dome where Dak Prescott and company can operate comfortably.
Not only are Dallas’ big three weapons among the best groups in the league (Elliott/Cooper/Witten), their next three might be an improvement as a group for a dozen teams (Pollard/Gallup/Jarwin). It’s just too much.
That means the Bills need a step up game from their offense. You figure John Brown and Devin Singletary will continue to produce. So, it’s on someone else to join the party. Allen is the obvious choice if he can somehow go Control-C, Control-V on one of those Dolphins performances. Maybe it could be Cole Beasley or Dawson Knox. It’s gotta be someone, because their standard 20 points per game isn’t likely to win.
I don’t see it happening. The one thing Jones’ comments make crystal clear is that Dallas is the more desperate team, leading the Eagles by one game in the NFC East with no wild card available as a parachute. The Bills don’t really need this game and their tiebreaker forecast actually makes this contest the one they can most afford to lose. When in doubt, take the more desperate team. Give me the Cowboys 30-20.