By Yusuf Nakhooda
As Bill Parcells said you know where you are as a team after the Thanksgiving game. After a heartbreaking loss vs. the New England Patriots, with bad calls by the officials and questionable coaching decisions by the Cow boys, the Cowboys will try to do what they do best, by winning on Thanksgiving.
For the first time since the 1994 season, the Buffalo Bills will be playing a football game on Thanksgiving Day. The opponent: traditional host Dallas, fresh off of last week's disappointing 13-9 road loss to New England.
In fact, the Cowboys (6-5) are 3-5 since starting the season with three straight victories. Beating up on lesser opponents has been relatively easy for this team. It's getting victories over teams above .500 that has been the issue.
Outside of an ugly 31-31 loss to Philadelphia in Week 8, the Bills (8-3) have been steady. Their other two losses (Patriots, at Browns) were by a total of nine points. Buffalo has a two-game lead over the rest of the pack in the AFC Wild Card chase and has won its past two games, including last week's impressive 20-3 home victory over Denver.
Here are three things to look out as to how this game might unfold:
1.) Can the Bills continue their road record:
The Bills currently have one of the league’s more impressive road records, as they sit with only one loss away from Buffalo. That loss came at the hands of the Browns, who are steadily improving week-after-week, and it was only by three points (19-16). Dallas, on the other hand, has already dropped two of its five home games this season, which seemingly presents an opportunity for the Bills.
There are still a lot of people who don't believe in Sean McDermott’s team, so going to AT&T Stadium during a nationally televised game on Thanksgiving would go a long way in earning them some respect moving forward. If the Bills struggle, the opposite could happen, especially for a team currently in the driver's seat for a wild-card berth in the AFC.
The Bills are 3-4-1 on Thanksgiving while the Cowboys have enjoyed plenty of success on the holiday, posting a 31-19-1 record. These two teams last played in Week 16 of the 2015 season, a 16-6 Buffalo victory at home. Dallas finished 4-12 that season while the Bills went 8-8.
2.) The Cowboys vaunted Passing attack vs. Bills Pass defense:
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott struggled on the road against the Patriots this past Sunday. After averaging 322.1 passing yards and 2.1 touchdowns through the first 10 games, the Mississippi State product only completed 57.6 percent of his attempts for 212 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception against New England's stout defense.
Considering the Bills defense ranks third in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (184.18), Dallas will need Prescott and company to get back to being the No. 1 passing offense in the league, the one that averages more than 300 yards per game.
3.) Cole Beasely returns to Dallas
One weapon that Prescott won’t have available in this game is Beasley, who is now a member of the Bills after signing a four-year, $29 million free-agent contract back in March.
The former undrafted free agent out of SMU spent his first seven seasons in the NFL playing for Dallas, and he hauled in 319 receptions for 3,271 yards and 23 touchdowns during that time. This season, Beasley has amassed 49 receptions, 525 yards (10.7 ypr) and four touchdowns through 11 games.
It should be fun to watch Beasley take on his former team on Thursday, especially considering he’ll be going against the sixth-ranked passing defense in the league. Dallas' D did its part last week, holding Tom Brady and the Patriots to 282 total yards (181 passing) and just one touchdown.
This AFC-NFC matchup features two relatively balanced teams who can attack you in multiple ways, both offensively and defensively.
In three games against AFC teams this season, Dak Prescott has mostly struggled. He's averaged 245.3 passing yards while throwing a total of one touchdown with two interceptions. This Bills defense might not be the ideal situation to right that ship, but he has to if Dallas wants to maintain its lead in a watered-down NFC East.
It ultimately ends up being a close game, but the Cowboys are able to come up with a late, go-ahead touchdown to secure their seventh victory of the 2019 season.
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