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X Factors

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X Factors: Key players in Bills-Cowboys matchup 


FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys and Bills are both coming off big wins last Sunday. This game should have plenty of playoff implications and is expected to be close from start to finish.

Since the Super Bowl is always the goal for every team, we decided to rank the Top 10 X-factors for the Cowboys and Bills, using roman numerals, since 10 = X.

Here we go, these 10 guys will likely be big difference-makers one way or another.

X – Stefon Diggs – While we're not going to get to see the Stefon vs. Trevon battle of the Diggs brothers, the Bills receiver will certainly be a big factor on Sunday. Eight times this year, Diggs has been targeted at least 11 times, including last Sunday in Kansas City. However, Diggs only caught four passes against the Chiefs, for a season-low 24 yards.

IX – Ed Oliver – A highly-touted player coming out of the University of Houston back in 2020, Oliver has been a solid force in the middle for the Bills, both as a run-stopper and pass-rusher. He ranks fourth in the NFL in sacks among defensive tackles with 6.5.

VIII – James Cook – The second-year running back has become one of the Bills' best offensive weapons and he's also found himself atop the NFL leaders among all backs. Cook ranks seventh in the league in total yards from scrimmage with 1,180, including 796 on the ground. In the last four games, Cook has produced 100 yards or more from scrimmage.

VII – Josh Allen – Sure, he's tied for the NFL lead with 14 interceptions, but he's also one of the league's best in total passing yards with 3,447 and he'll definitely run the ball when he has to, rushing for 374 yards, the fourth-most in the league among quarterbacks. Allen has the arm to make every throw and so he can get all of his targets involved. In a game where wind could be a factor, having an experienced cold-weather quarterback such as Allen is always a positive for the home team.

VI – Tony Pollard – These are the types of games where running the ball effectively is going to be a major advantage for the team that does it the best. Pollard will be asked to carry the ball quite a bit, but also catch the short passes. Last week, he tied a career-high with seven receptions. Look for Pollard to get his share of touches – one way or another.

V – Brandon Aubrey – Any kicker that has made 30 straight field goals is certainly in the zone right now. However, this could be the toughest weather conditions Aubrey has faced in his career as the wind is supposed to be swirling around come Sunday afternoon. In a game that figures to be close, Aubrey will definitely need to be on his game with not only the field goals and extra points, but also on kickoffs, where he leads the NFL by far with 84 touchbacks.

IV – Osa Odighizuwa – The Cowboys lean on the big boys up front in the middle. And with Johnathan Hankins not expected to play this week because of a high-ankle sprain, this puts even more pressure on guys like Odighizuwa to hold their own in the trenches. He'll have some help in the form of Neville Gallimore and Mazi Smith, but Odighizuwa and that group need to make sure they collapse the pocket and keep Allen from getting loose when the play breaks down.

III – Dak Prescott – There can be little doubt that, at this point, Prescott is not simply a frontrunner for MVP honors heading into Week 4 — he's _the _frontrunner to win the award. Of course, to do so, he'll need to keep his streak of dominant performances and wins going, and that task won't get any easier as he travels to the icy confines of Upstate New York. But if Prescott can walk into Orchard Park and snatch victory from Josh Allen to push the Cowboys to 11-3, anyone arguing against his MVP odds should find another sport to cover.

II – Micah Parsons – Maybe Parsons did have the flu against the Eagles (he did), or maybe he was just sick of hearing about how the Cowboys supposedly only dominated bad teams. Either way, he was key in burying that narrative last week — just ask Lane Johnson — and will have no time to enjoy that victory before facing Allen; and that means another week of trying to keep a quarterback in the pocket to allow pressure to get home, only Allen can make all the throws from the pocket so getting home against him is definitely the mission.

I – Stephon Gilmore – It's a season headlined by the historic play of DaRon Bland, but Gilmore had quietly been having a very good season until he played the Eagles this past week, because there was nothing quiet about what he did or the fashion in which he did it. Maybe Stefon Diggs will call him "old" as well and find out what A.J. Brown did, or maybe he won't, but the fact Trevon Diggs is feeding Gilmore top secret intel on big brother will likely make for a matchup to watch in Buffalo.

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