Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Marcell Dareus vs. Travis FrederickIt's an all-Pro Bowl matchup here between one of the better pivots in the game and Buffalo's man in the middle on the Bills defensive front. Dareus is asked to do more grinding at the line than penetrating up field in Rex Ryan's scheme, but he still demands double teams inside.
2 – Leodis McKelvin vs. Dez BryantMcKelvin faced a speed wideout in DeSean Jackson last week. Now he squares off with a size mismatch in Bryant, who rarely loses a jump ball battle. McKelvin will have to rely on technique and some safety help at times.
3 – Sammy Watkins vs. Morris ClaiborneClaiborne has had trouble with some of the better wideouts in the league this season and Watkins comes in hot with six touchdowns in his last four games. The Dallas corner might have trouble with Watkins suddenness and explosion.
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage – Run gameBuffalo has the number one running game in the league averaging almost 150 yards per game on the ground (148.8). Facing the league's 18th ranked run defense, which allows four yards rushing or more on first down better than 45 percent of the time shouldn't make it a heavy lift even if LeSean McCoy is unable to play.
Best advantage – Big play abilityThe Bills have been racking up chunk yardage plays with regularity for most of the season, and in the last three games Buffalo's offense has posted 11 plays of 30 yards or more. Four of those have gone for touchdowns, an example of why Buffalo leads the league in points outside the red zone with 184 this season. The Cowboys offense ranks 30th in plays of 20 yards or more this season (42).
Bills Number 1 Must Heavy BlitzBuffalo's defense has nothing to lose and with a nicked up secondary it would serve the unit well to be aggressive with pressure up front. Granted Dallas boasts one of the best offensive lines in football, but the Cowboys rank last in the league in passer rating in blitz situations with a rating of just over 61.
Scouting Eye Moore is more?Dallas benched Matt Cassel last week before the Cowboys ultimately lost to the New York Jets last weekend. Thrust into the lineup was Kellen Moore, a career backup in Detroit until Dallas offensive coordinator Scott Linehan brought him to the Cowboys roster, saw his first career regular season action last Saturday. Moore went 15-25 passing for 158 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. The left-handed QB did enough to earn his first NFL start against the Bills. Whether he can provide more production for the Dallas offense remains to be seen.
Run DMCThe Cowboys have employed a host of running backs this season, but Darren McFadden has been the lead pony of late and has been hot. He's coming off back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts in Dallas' last two games. The veteran is still a capable one cut home-run threat. In the last two weeks he's averaging 8.4 yards a carry. Lucky Whitehead and Robert Turbin also rotate in to complement McFadden.
Better to giveDallas has been in the Christmas spirit for most of the 2015 season. They're tied for the third-most giveaways this season with 27 through the first 14 games. Those 27 giveaways have led to 67 points. Making matters worse for the Cowboys has been their inability to take the ball away on defense. Dallas is last in the league in takeaways with just nine. Not surprisingly the Cowboys have the worst turnover differential in football with a minus-18 margin.
Nothing closeDespite a host of key injuries to some of their most important players Dallas has found a way to keep a majority of their games close at the end. Unfortunately it hasn't been enough to post wins. Eight of the Cowboys 14 games so far this season have been decided by eight points or less. Dallas has managed to win only two of them. One such loss just happened last week when they gave up a game-winning field goal to lose by three to the Jets with just 50 seconds remaining. Their winning percentage of .250 in games decided by eight points or less this season ranks 31st in the NFL.
Stopping on redThe Cowboys offense has had its share of problems this season whether it's injuries, miscues or turnovers. Still another issue has been their effectiveness in scoring touchdowns once inside the red zone. Dallas ranks 31st in the league in red zone touchdown efficiency as the put six on the board just over 42 percent of the time (42.5%). Part of the problem is they have the worst third down conversion percentage in football once they're in the red zone. The Cowboys convert just 13 percent of the time on third down inside the opponent's 20-yard line. They've also committed three turnovers in the red zone this season.
Bailing them outOne bright spot for the Cowboys this season has been kicker Dan Bailey. Third in the league in field goals made this season with 28, Bailey leads the league in field goal percentage with a success rate of 96.6 percent. That includes a perfect record from 50-yards plus where he is 5-5 on the season. His 106 points this season account for 43 percent of Dallas' scoring in 2015.
Quote of the week"I believe in this football team, and I believe this team is working hard, and I can already tell that we want to win. That's who we have in the locker room, so I'm not surprised by that. The effort will speak for itself."
Stat of the weekIn his past 10 starts, Tyrod Taylor has an 8:1 touchdown to interception ratio (16 TDs, 2 INTs) and a passer rating of 101.5.
Milestones in reachPreston Brown (106) needs three tackles to set a new single-season career high.
Ronald Darby needs three passes defensed to set a franchise record with 24 on the season (Nate Odomes 23, 1991)
Sammy Watkins (9) needs two receiving touchdowns to tie the team mark for most in a single season (Bill Brooks – 11 – 1996).
Final noteThe Cowboys ranks 30th in the NFL in offensive points scored with just 232 this season. Buffalo's offense ranks 12th with 319.