Playoff picture shrouds Bills-Cowboys matchup

Field Level Media

November 27, 2019 at 10:27 pm.

For Cole Beasley, it’s a homecoming. For his Buffalo Bills, it’s a chance to show their worthiness on a national stage. And for the Dallas Cowboys, it’s go time.

All three circumstances converge Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where Buffalo aims to enhance its AFC playoff aspiration against a Dallas team that holds a tenuous one-game lead on Philadelphia in the NFC East with five games left.

The Bills (8-3) own a two-game lead for the first AFC wild card and still possess a puncher’s chance in the East, trailing New England by two games.

The Cowboys (6-5) have to string together victories because the Eagles own the NFL’s easiest schedule in December, playing four 2-9 opponents plus Dallas.

Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones upped the ante on his team with comments about special teams errors and coaching after a 13-9 loss at New England on Sunday, although he stressed coach Jason Garrett wouldn’t be fired in-season.

“I know what his expectations are, and I think everyone in this locker room knows what his expectations are of this team,” Dallas tight end Jason Witten said. “I think the coaching staff feels the same way. I think we’re all frustrated. I think we have to realize where we’re at and get it fixed.”

Dallas’ defense kept New England in check all day, but its offense met the same fate as every other offense outside Baltimore when facing the Patriots. While the Cowboys got 86 yards from running back Ezekiel Elliott and 212 yards passing from Dak Prescott, they never got to the end zone.

That kept Dallas from doubling its division lead on Philadelphia, a 17-9 loser to the Seattle Seahawks.

“We’re the players,” Cowboys guard Zack Martin said. “This thing goes all the way around. We’ve got to do a better job executing.”

Meanwhile, Buffalo is on track for its second playoff berth in three years after being lightly regarded before the season. The Bills bring a top-three defense to town in terms of points allowed per game (15.7) and passing yards allowed per game (184.3).

What’s more, Buffalo is getting better play out of second-year quarterback Josh Allen, thanks to shrewd offseason acquisitions such as Beasley and John Brown. Brown has given the Bills a downfield threat and is on pace for his first 1,000-yard receiving season since 2015 with Arizona.

Beasley, a fan favorite during most of his seven years in Dallas, has been a reliable possession receiver for his new team. He also has found the end zone four times in the past six games, including last week in a 20-3 drilling of the Denver Broncos.

“A part of you wants to win a little bit more maybe, I guess, but I want to win them all,” Beasley said when asked about returning to Dallas. “So it’s not really that much different. It’ll be fun to go against a lot of guys that I’ve (faced) in practice over the last few years, so it will be cool to do that.”

Buffalo plays winning teams the next four weeks, including 9-2 Baltimore and 10-1 New England. This stretch should reveal whether the Bills are a potential postseason threat or a pretender.