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Top 9 storylines for the Bills at Cowboys | Week 13

Jerry Hughes is one of six Texas natives returning to his home state to play Dallas this week. Above is Hughes from Buffalo Bills against the Dallas Cowboys on December 27, 2015. Photo by Craig Melvin
Jerry Hughes is one of six Texas natives returning to his home state to play Dallas this week. Above is Hughes from Buffalo Bills against the Dallas Cowboys on December 27, 2015. Photo by Craig Melvin

It's a national TV audience and a step-up in competition this week for the 8-3 Buffalo Bills. And it's an abbreviated week of preparation. The Bills will play their game on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 1994. And the team will look to win just their second game in Dallas all-time.

Here are some of the top storylines this week, as the Bills get set to head to Dallas on Thanksgiving Day:

1. NO. 1 OFFENSE VS. NO. 3 DEFENSE

It may be the biggest test of the year for the solid Buffalo defense this week. The Cowboys lead the league in offense, and they score 27 points per game. The Bills defense has been very good for a couple of years now, and they go into this game ranked third in the NFL.

Dallas has got the playmakers: quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, and running back Ezekiel Elliott, a two-time NFL rushing champ.

But the strength of their offense may be up front. They've got the league's eighth-ranked rushing attack and they give up the fewest sacks in the NFL.

They've got talent on the offensive line with first rounders Tyron Smith at left tackle, Travis Frederick at center, Zack Martin at right guard. La'el Collins has been a standout at right tackle. Left guard Connor Williams (2018 2nd round) is no slouch.

It's a great challenge for the Bills outstanding defense.

2. BILLS DIVING INTO DALLAS DRAMA

It seems like there's always drama, always controversy around the Dallas Cowboys. And that's true this week after owner Jerry Jones expressed frustration with his coaching staff following their loss in New England.

Head coach Jason Garrett is in the crosshairs. Garrett has been the Cowboys head coach since 2011, one of seven NFL coaches serving with his team that long. And the other six have all taken their teams to the Super Bowl. Garrett's Cowboys have never won a divisional round game.

Monday reports say the Cowboys plan no immediate coaching moves, but Garrett's seat seems awfully hot this week.

3. TRE'DAY MATCHUP WITH AMARI?

Cornerback Tre'Davious White is getting league-wide recognition for his 2019 season. He's now regarded as one of the top cornerbacks in the league. The last few weeks, the Bills have matched him up with their opponents' top target and he's won most of those matchups.

Look for White to line up across from the Cowboys spectacular wide receiver Amari Cooper this week. And Cooper is likely to be hungry — he went without a catch last Sunday in Foxboro for the first time in his 20 games since being acquired by Dallas.

4. SHORT WORK WEEK

It's a quick turnaround from a Sunday game to Thursday and the Bills have to travel. In fact, Sports Director Thad Brown of WROC-TV in Rochester reports that Buffalo's 1,200-mile flight to Dallas is the longest trip for any road team playing a Thursday game this year.

For the Bills, the challenge is being mentally prepared for an opponent they don't play often, and physically ready to jump into the fray days after their last game. Veteran wide receiver John Brown told One Bills Live this week he knows the drill.

"We're getting more treatment, taking advantage of that," Brown said. "I've been in the league for a while, so I know what to expect. So, we've been kinda hammering on the young guys- 'take care of your body, even if you feel like you don't need it.' Thursday will be here in the blink of an eye."

5. HAVE THE BILLS FOUND THE ANSWER ON THE GROUND?

Buffalo produced 244 rushing yards Sunday against a very good Denver defense. And maybe the offense found the right combination of work between Devin Singletary and Frank Gore for the season's home stretch.

That's an observation made by former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon after he called Sunday's game in Orchard Park for the NFL on CBS.

"You look at Denver's defense—prior to that game they were allowing 2.87 yards per rush over the last six games. That was among the best in the league," Gannon told One Bills Live. "The Bills ran for 244 yards (5.2 yards per rush). They can run the football with Singletary, bring in Frank Gore to bust up some ribs. And the Bills run game includes the quarterback. You look at Allen, Singletary, and Gore—that is a problem right now for some defenses."

6. OFFENSIVE LINE HEALTH A CONCERN

The Bills short week won't help getting some of their banged-up blockers ready to play. Right tackle Ty Nsehke missed the Broncos game with his ankle injury and remains 'week to week.' Center Mitch Morse left the game Sunday with a hand injury.

In training camp and preseason, the Bills battled through o-line injuries and patched together a workable group up front. That experience may help right now, as they move Jon Feliciano from guard to center, and throw veteran Spencer Long in with the starters.

"That's why you do all those things in training camp," offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said Monday. "Jon [Feliciano] is a good player for us, both inside at guard and very flexible to play center. Jon can step in and make all the calls. We have a lot of trust in Feliciano. Glad we have him. You only get so many linemen to go to a game with, and flexibility is important."

7. COWBOY CONNECTION

There are plenty of Bills players with connections to Texas, but none more directly than Buffalo wide receiver Cole Beasley.

He played seven years for 'America's Team.' Beasley is a Dallas-area native and played college football there at SMU. He caught 319 passes for 23 touchdowns in his time in Dallas.

He may not say it publicly, but Beasley likely is looking to settle some scores and make a big impression on Thursday.

8. BRIGHT LIGHTS FOR NATIONAL TV EXPOSURE

For Josh Allen and many of the Bills, Thursday's game marks their first national TV game. The late afternoon Thanksgiving Day game is traditionally one of the highest, if not the-highest rated NFL regular season broadcast.

Last year, the Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game against Washington drew a 12.5 national rating with 30.5 million viewers. It was the most-watched regular season game of the year, with more viewers than most playoff games.

9. THANKSGIVING MEMORIES

The Cowboys are accustomed to the Thanksgiving spotlight. Since 1966, Dallas has hosted a game on Thanksgiving Day every year, except for 1975 and 1977.

They've won 31 of those games, lost 19, and tied once. Head coach Jason Garrett is 4-5 on Thanksgiving Day.

This is Buffalo's first-ever Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas. But they've played on the holiday before.

The AFL Buffalo Bills played five games on Thanksgiving Day in the sixties, all of them on the road.

The Bills have played three other times on Turkey Day.

In 1975, they battled a snowstorm and travel delays but arrived in St. Louis two hours before kickoff and went on to beat the Cardinals 32-14. Fullback Jim Braxton had three touchdowns in that game.

The next year, O.J. Simpson celebrated Thanksgiving by running for 273 yards in a Bills loss at Detroit.

And in 1994, the Bills lost another one on Thanksgiving Day in the Motor City.

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