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Top 6 storylines to follow for Bills vs. Cowboys | Week 15

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After a month away, the Bills are finally back at Highmark Stadium. They've been great at home this season with just one loss, so we'll see if they can pick up another big dub on Sunday.

Here are six storylines to know about Week 15's game against the Cowboys.

1. Another game with playoff implications

Just like last week, this week's game matters when it comes to the playoff conversation. Pretty much every game left on Buffalo's schedule will factor into postseason chances.

Even after beating the Chiefs and a Dolphins loss on Monday night, Buffalo is still sitting at No. 11 in the conference standings. They also remain at No. 2 in the division even though the margin between the Dolphins and Bills gets slimmer with Miami's loss to Tennessee in Week 14.

Here's how the AFC playoff standings look heading into Week 15.

  1. Baltimore Ravens
  2. Miami Dolphins
  3. Kansas City Chiefs
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars
  5. Cleveland Browns
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers
  7. Indianapolis Colts
  8. Houston Texans
  9. Denver Broncos
  10. Cincinnati Bengals
  11. Buffalo Bills

Some of these teams play each other this week, so it'll be interesting to see how the rankings change. The Steelers face the Colts and the Jaguars will play the Ravens. According to the New York Times playoff simulator, the Bills have a 49% chance to make the postseason. If they beat the Cowboys, that goes up to 66%.

The Cowboys are No. 2 in the NFC and sit at the top of the NFC East. So far this season, the Bills are 3-1 against the NFC.

2. Keeping it Cooking with James

Running back James Cook has been a big feature of Buffalo's offense over the last few weeks. Cook has had four straight games with at least 100 scrimmage yards, which is the longest streak by a Bills running back since 2016.

"I had full faith and I still do," interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady said of Cook after the Chiefs game. "The work that he put in last week, we repped those plays and Josh (Allen) trusted him and he made a big play. I think utilizing those running backs just helps. It opens up paths for the receivers and the tight ends where we're not necessarily one dimensional and predictable about where the ball's going."

Cook is not a one-dimensional back as he ranks third among NFL running backs with 1,180 scrimmage yards. The RB also ranks fifth with an 86.4% catch rate. Since Brady took over, Cook's target rate has increased by close to 20%.

Dallas has one of the best defenses in the NFL as they're allowing an average of just 17.9 points per game (4th). But, where they do rank out of the top 10 is in stopping the run. They're allowing 106 rushing yards per game (13th) and an average of 4.1 yards per rush. We'll see if Cook can continue the streak come Sunday.

3. A big test for the Bills offensive line

Sunday marks a big game for Buffalo's offensive line because they'll be tested with one of NFL's most talented pass rushers. Linebacker Micah Parsons has been one of the best at affecting the quarterback this season.

The linebacker has 12.5 sacks (8th) and 27 quarterback hits (t-2nd) through 13 games. He's averaging more than two quarterback hits a game and close to one sack per contest.

Brady crossed paths with Parsons when he came to a camp while Brady was at Penn State from 2015-2016. He got a first-hand account at how athletic Parsons was before he even played in college.

"When I was a GA at Penn State, Micah came to camp and he was obviously like the top defensive end or top player in the country and in high school," Brady said . "And he decided he wanted to play wide receiver for the camp. He was the best wide receiver in the camp. Everything he's doing in the NFL doesn't surprise me at all, an absolute freak of an athlete.

"And Dan (Quinn) does an unbelievable job of moving him around and getting him on matchups and mismatches. There's really not much that he can't do, and it'll be a great opportunity for us to this week."

Buffalo has played against some talented defenses but that hasn't stopped them from allowing sacks at one of the lowest rates in the NFL. Allen has been sacked just 18 times this season, which is tied for the lowest in the league (minimum 10 games).

"I love the grit that they play with," Brady said of his offensive linemen. "It's not always going to be pretty, but I know that I can depend on them especially at the end of the games…we got full faith those guys are going to protect us and open up the windows for the running game if we need to, especially at the end of the games."

4. Can Josh Allen and company be great against one of the best defenses?

The Bills will have to account for more than just Micah Parsons on Sunday afternoon. Parsons isn't the only player on the Cowboys who has stats at the top of the league. Cornerback DaRon Bland has eight interceptions, which leads the NFL.

They're also allowing 17.9 points per game (4th), 289.9 total yards per game (3rd), a 60.2% completion percentage (4th), have 13 interceptions (tied for 4th) and 39 sacks (t-8th).

"The way that their defense is playing right now, they're kind of clicking on all cylinders," interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady shared. "They do a great job rushing the passer, they got a bunch of different weapons and they're creating turnovers and they're turning those turnovers into picks. I was with Stephon Gilmore in Carolina. I know the elite player that he is, as we all know here in Buffalo.

"And then you have Bland on the opposite side of him, who's making records with what he's doing. So they're affecting the run, they're affecting the pass and then they're making the most of opportunities with the takeaways, so it's gonna be a great opportunity for us."

Josh Allen and his weapons have had to play against several top 10 defenses this season and they'll have that test again on Sunday. While Buffalo only scored 20 against a top 5 defense last week, Allen had plenty of bright spots in his performance. Allen made some incredible plays on the ground and through the air. Whether it was carrying defenders with him into the end zone or connecting with Latavius Murray as he was falling out of bounds, Allen did things that are hard to replicate. And, he'll need to do more of that against a Cowboys team that is on a five game win streak.

QB1 has been pretty great against NFC teams since coming into the NFL. He's got a 19-6 record, has won five of the last six and has 70 total touchdowns against NFC opponents, which is the most of all AFC players since 2018. Allen has also been great in Buffalo this season as he has a 5-1 record, 15 passing touchdowns and has averaged 8.1 yards per pass attempt.

Where the Bills could find some early success against the Cowboys is in the red zone. Dallas is allowing teams to score touchdowns 58.8% of the time in the red zone, which ranks in the bottom half of the NFL at 22. Buffalo has consistently been great in the red zone this season as they're scoring 75% of the time, which is second best in the NFL.

5. Can Buffalo's D slow one of the best offenses?

The Cowboys offense has been humming as of late. They've averaged 40.2 points per game over their last five games.

This season they're averaging 32.38 points per game (1st), 381.5 total yards per game (4th), 262.8 passing yards per game (2nd), a 53% score rate (1st) and only have 11 turnovers (tied for least in the NFL).

Buffalo's defense will have to be ready to shut down their passing attack as quarterback Dak Prescott leads the NFL with 28 passing touchdowns. One of Prescott's favorite weapons this season has been wide receiver CeeDee Lamb who has 96 receptions (3rd) for 1,253 receiving yards (3rd) and eight touchdowns (t-4th). They can get it going on the ground as well as running back Tony Pollard has 196 attempts for 796 rushing yards (8th).

"You have to do two things against this offense right now," ESPN NFL Analyst Dan Orlovsky told One Bills Live. "You've gotta cover 88…and you gotta change coverage at the snap exotically. You can't just go from cover two to cover three, you've got to get Dak confused because right now he is firing on all cylinders."

The Bills' defensive line had a huge final series against the Chiefs last Sunday as they were able to close things out to get the victory. The battle up front will be just as important against Dallas as it was against Kansas City. Prescott has been sacked 29 times, which ranks in the bottom half of the league (t-18th most). Buffalo has been great at getting after the quarterback this season as they've racked up 42 sacks (t-3rd) and will try to continue the trend on Sunday afternoon.

The Cowboys have also done a great job at taking care of the football this season as they've only turned it over 11 times, which ties for the lowest in the NFL. Buffalo will have to work hard at creating takeaways but they've done it at a high rate this season. The Bills have 23 takeaways so far this season, which ties for third most. They've also forced multiple turnovers in three straight games.

6. Going for three straight wins against Dallas

The Bills are going for their third straight win against the Dallas Cowboys. Buffalo beat Dallas in their last two outings with a victory in 2019 and 2015.

The last time the Bills played the Cowboys was on Thanksgiving in Dallas during the 2019 season. Buffalo beat the Cowboys 26-15 in what felt like Josh Allen's coming out party. The QB completed 79% of his passes and picked up two total touchdowns. Defensive tackle Ed Oliver also had a big game as he finished with two sacks.

In 2015, Buffalo hosted Dallas and beat them 16-6. Kellen Moore was the QB for the Cowboys and Tyrod Taylor was at the helm for the Bills. The Cowboys lead the series over the Bills sitting with eight wins and five losses.

These two teams have had quite potent offenses in the last few seasons as they sit at the top of the NFL in point differential and points per game since 2021. Dallas leads the NFL with a point differential of 485 and the Bills are not far behind at No. 2 with 467 in that time span. The Cowboys have averaged 30.2 points per game (1st) and the Bills have averaged 28 points per game (2nd) since 2021.

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