Quarterback Kellen Moore makes his first NFL start this Sunday against the Bills in the Cowboys' final road trip of the season, as they look to end a two-game losing streak in their first trip to Buffalo since 2007.
DallasCowboys.com staff writers Bryan Broaddus, Rob Phillips, Nick Eatman and David Helman give their gut feelings for the Week 16 matchup at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Bryan Broaddus:Neither team is playing for anything but pride. The Cowboys' postseason hopes ended last week in a loss to the New York Jets in a game they had a chance to win. Jason Witten told the media on Thursday it was important that as a team they continue to play hard and I believe that they will continue to do so. Kellen Moore makes his first NFL start after four seasons in the league but it will come without Dez Bryant in the lineup. If protected, Moore will find ways to function well in the offense and gives his club a chance to win but it won't be enough. It's Tyrod Taylor's legs and not his arm that beats the Cowboys 21-17.
Rob Phillips: Kellen Moore and Tyrod Taylor played against each other five years ago in college, and like that matchup, Sunday's game will come down to quarterback play. Can Moore settle in with a full week of first-team reps and make smart decisions against a Rex Ryan defense that historically tests quarterbacks with a lot of different looks? Can the Cowboys' defense contain the Bills' running game, which has gotten 450 yards from Taylor alone this season? I think what we saw from Moore last Saturday, to some degree, is what we'll see again. He has a good understanding of the scheme and he gives the unit a chance to function smoothly for stretches, but as a relatively inexperienced player he'll make some mistakes, too. For the offense's sake, it can't be three interceptions. Ultimately I think Taylor's starting experience this year gives Buffalo an edge in this game. But, between the good things Moore did against the Jets, and the defense's run of holding seven of its last nine opposing offenses under 20 points, I'll take the Cowboys in a close one, 23-20.
Nick Eatman:This one is hard to gauge for a couple of reasons, and not just because Kellen Moore is making his first start. But he's got some offensive weapons missing that will play a big factor. But more than anything, I'm wondering how this team responds knowing they are out of playoff contention. Whether it was a long shot or not, this is the first game they've been mathematically eliminated. Personally, they might actually play better this week because of that. Then again, the Bills are in the same boat. My gut is that Moore plays OK but he'll get plenty of blitzes, especially with Dez not playing this week. I think it'll be some good, some bad. Defensively, I predict two turnovers but ultimately, I think the Bills give Dallas some unique looks and will win yet another close game, something like 27-22.
David Helman: All week long, I had this crazy feeling that the Cowboys would win this game – and why not? I'm going to roll with it. I definitely feel less confident than I did – now that I know Dez Bryant will miss this game. But even with Dez out this week, I feel some strange kind of confidence that Kellen Moore can get the job done. Against a shaky Buffalo defense, I think he can limit the mistakes and put just enough plays together. Cole Beasley and Jason Witten are going to be crucial to him moving the ball, and Darren McFadden would do well to have another good effort to take the pressure off the young quarterback. I doubt McFadden gets to 100 yards for a third-straight week, but the running game should be fine – how about 120 total rushing yards? Moore will be decent – but compared to some of the quarterback play we've seen this year, it'll look great. Let's say he throws for 230 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. Defensively, the Cowboys will give up one or two big plays to Sammy Watkins, but the injury to LeSean McCoy is a big one. Ultimately, I just kind of feel like Dallas will want this win more than Buffalo, and they'll get it – something like 31-27.