GAME SET *WHAT: Buffalo Bills (5-3) at Dallas Cowboys (4-4)
WHEN: Sunday, noon (CT) WHERE: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
TELEVISION: FOX (Chris Myers, Tim Ryan and Jaime Maggio)*
Josh: This might or might not be the idea, but what about the chess match between Rob Ryan and Chan Gailey. Ryan's group has been gashed on the ground the last couple of weeks, and you can bet he'll make an adjustment. How well Gailey can work around that, and how well Ryan reacts to his countermoves, will go a long way toward deciding this game. I don't think the Cowboys can win in a shootout.
Nick: What about the former Cowboys tight end Scott Chandler, who has six touchdown catches, mostly in the red zone. Look for safety Gerald Sensabaugh to match up with Chandler down by the goal line, using his leaping ability to hang with the 6-6 Chandler.
Rob: It's got to be Fred Jackson against the Cowboys' front seven, particularly the defensive linemen, who haven't been thrilled with their performance the last two games. If the D-Line can get off blocks, if the linebackers can fill gaps quickly, they'll limit the catalyst of the Bills' offense. Sean Lee's return will help, but his absence wasn't the only reason the run yards piled up against Seattle.
- Don't Forget...
Rob: The Bills' pass rush won't be the same without defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who's on injured reserve. The Cowboys' offensive line gave Tony Romo a ton of time in the pocket last week. When they do that, when he's healthy and not taking bad risks, Romo can be really, really good.
Josh: Everyone is down on Tony Romo for this season because of some turnovers he's had, but do you realize Ryan Fitzpatrick has actually thrown two more interceptions than Romo? Whoever wins the turnover battle wins most games, and the Cowboys as a team have given the ball away three more times on the year than Buffalo.
Nick: The Bills are tied for second in the NFL in red-zone scoring, punching it in for touchdowns 64.3 percent of the time (18 of 28). Buffalo hasn't been getting a ton of field goals down there, but they're scoring points. On the flip side, the Cowboys are 31st in red-zone scoring, getting 10 touchdowns in 26 attempts inside the 20. The Cowboys can't settle for field goals and need to force the Bills to take a few kicks.
- Cowboys Win If:
Nick: If DeMarco Murray can get into the 125-140 yard range again on the ground, it should mean the Cowboys have controlled the line of scrimmage, which should keep the time of possession on their side as well. As long as it's Murray doing the running and not Fred Jackson, the Cowboys should be in good shape.
Rob: Red zone, red zone, red zone. We've talked about the run defense, and that's extremely important against this team. But the Cowboys rank 31st out of 32 teams with only 10 touchdowns in 26 trips inside the 20. A 22.4-point average isn't sufficient for a team that's piling up 400 yards a game, or against an opponent (Buffalo) that has topped 30 points in four games already.
Josh: I think the Cowboys are the more talented team, which will give them a chance to win the game if they take advantage of their opportunities. That means touchdowns in the red zone, not field goals, most importantly. It means making the 45-yard field goal in the second quarter. All those things. They can't leave points on the field like they did against Seattle.
- Bills Win If:
Josh: Only twice this season have the Cowboys scored over 30 points, and one of those games was lost in the process, against Detroit. Buffalo, meanwhile, has done so four times, and won each time they passed the 30-point mark. If the game is high scoring, I think the Bills have a better chance to avoid mistakes, and I also have to worry about what I mentioned earlier, the Cowboys' ability to maximize each of their opportunities.
Nick: If Fred Jackson looks like LeSean McCoy and Marshawn Lynch, and gets a third-straight 100-yard game against the Cowboys, it will be a long day for Dallas. Buffalo's defense feeds off teams having to throw in desperation. So the side that strikes first and can play with the lead, should have the advantage here.
Rob: Again, they have to get more out of their pass rush. Buffalo has only 15 sacks this year. The teams that have beaten and competed hard with the Cowboys have thrown Romo off balance with pressure. If not, he can pick you apart – even without Miles Austin. Laurent Robinson has proven he can beat single coverage.
- Gut Feeling
Rob: Last week, Seattle was the biggest swing game of the season. This week, it's Buffalo. A record of 5-4 is much, much different than 4-5, because in no way will trips to Washington and Arizona be cakewalks. There's a good chance the Cowboys must win their final four home games to have a real shot at the playoffs. I still think this is a playoff team, so they've got to get this one Sunday.
Josh: The Cowboys have a great chance right in front of them, especially with some seemingly easier games coming right after this one. I think if they beat the Bills, they'll make the playoffs, and if they don't, they'll probably miss out. Give me the Cowboys, in a game almost as compelling as that '07 Monday night win at Buffalo.
Nick: This is the biggest game of the year so far. This is the fork-in-the-road game. The Cowboys can go left or right here, especially with the three games that follow this one. The Cowboys must win it to have a shot at getting to the playoffs. Now, whether that pressure is good or bad remains to be seen. I think the Dallas is a better football team, and playing at home, I see them wining a close game in the fourth quarter.