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Bills may be overmatched against Cowboys

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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On paper this game looks like a mismatch in many ways.

The Bills are down to a rookie quarterback with one career start, a rookie running back and nine players on injured reserve. The Cowboys are firing on all cylinders. They are the best team in the NFC, undefeated, the No. 1 offense in yards per play and the Bills defense is last in the league in giving up yardage per play. Dallas is the top turnover team and gets the ball back for their offense almost three times a game.

On paper it looks like the Bills are in for a long night, but no one really knows what the Bills have in Trent Edwards. The question is, could he give the Bills what Derek Anderson has delivered in helping make Browns competitive right away? Heck, he may be the next Tony Romo.

If you like the Cowboys ...

1. The Cowboys have the No. 2 offense averaging 32 points play against the No. 32 defense.
2. Terrell Owens has a touchdown reception in 15 of his last 16 games.
3. Dallas leads the NFL in the turnover margin with a plus-7.
4. Dallas leads the NFL in percentage of interceptions by a defense with nine in 147 pass attempts.
5. Buffalo quarterbacks have been sacked one time every 9.5 passes.
6. Dallas has won all four of their games by double digits.
7. Buffalo now has nine players on injured reserve.

Rick Stewart / Getty Images
Trent Edwards will have his hands full against the Cowboys' defense.

If you like the Bills ...

1. The Bills have won three of the last four regular season games between these two teams.
2. Edwards completed 22 of 28 passes in his NFL debut, leading the Bills to a win over the Jets.
3. Lee Evans came alive with Edwards at quarterback, grabbing six for 72 yards.
4. The Cowboys have injuries in the secondary and there will be matchups Edwards will like.

Key matchups

1. Bills WR Lee Evans vs. CB Terence Newman: Evans has to be a vertical threat on every play for the Bills to have a productive offense. Marshawn Lynch is going to make the Cowboys drop a safety down in the box and Edwards has to go up top to Evans. Newman is coming off a foot injury and will be challenged by the world-class speed of Evans. Pressure from the front seven should help Newman.

2. Cowboys WR Terrell Owens vs. CB Terrence McGee: The Bills' secondary sure could use Nate Clements for this matchup, but they didn't feel it was good business to pay him what the market said his value was last spring. Now the 5-foot-9 McGee covers a guy who loves the national spotlight of MNF. T.O. has 19 receptions with a 19-yard per catch average and three touchdowns. If Romo senses the Bills are using safety help on Owens, then he will go to Whitten or the run game.

3. Bills DE Aaron Schoebel vs. OT Flozell Adams: Schoebel only has one sack after recording 14 in 2006. Adams has the benefit of a quick decision-making quarterback. Schoebel has the advantage of home-field noise to affect the first-step quickness Adams needs against Schoebel. Schoebel will get to Romo once, but they need more against the No. 5 passing attack.

4. Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware vs. LT Jason Peters: Ware is starting to heat up quarterbacks in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense, and he will get the green light a lot against a rookie quarterback with only one NFL start. As soon as the Cowboys reduce the Bills to a one-dimensional passing team, Peters will have his hands full with Ware.

5. Bills SS Bryan Scott or George Wilson vs. Cowboy TE Jason Witten: Starting Bills safety, and a Dick Jauron favorite, Jim Leonhard is out with a calf injury. That will cause the backup Scott to start at strong safety. Witten already has 20 receptions and three touchdowns and should be ready for a big night attacking the Bills' secondary. Witten's best game as a pro has been six receptions for 116 yards. He should top that production in this game.

Terrell Owens needs seven receptions to tie Larry Centers for 12th all-time:
Rk Player Rec.
1 Jerry Rice 1,549
2 Cris Carter 1,101
3 Tim Brown 1,094
4 Marvin Harrison 1,039
5 Andre Reed 951
6 Art Monk 940
7 Isaac Bruce 902
8 Jimmy Smith 862
9 Keenan McCardell 861
10 Irving Fryar 851
11 Rod Smith 849
12 Larry Centers 826
13 Terrell Owens 820

When the Cowboys have the ball

The Cowboys can come at an opponent from many directions. They average 4.9 yards a rush and have two backs that already have 99 carries and 382 yards. Some thought teams could double-cover T.O. when Terry Glenn got hurt, but Witten and Patrick Crayton answered the challenge with 33 receptions for 566 yards and five scores. Romo can run if he has to; he only gets sacked once every 20 passes and he takes what the defense gives him.

Buffalo only has ½ a sack from the back seven players, and Romo should figure out the Bills' scheme quickly and attack the weak spots. The Bills could use London Fletcher and Takeo Spikes against the Cowboys' running game. Clements could really help against Owens, but the Bills go with a number of inexperienced players and will be lucky to hold Dallas under their 35.5 point per game average on the road this year. I could see the Cowboys getting off to a slow start but quickly dropping this offense into overdrive. Last, the Bills' defense loses on third down 50 percent of the time and that means the Cowboys can sustain a number of 10-plus play drives.

When the Bills have the ball

The traditional method of playing a high-powered team like the Cowboys is to ask your offense to eat up the clock with a consistent running game. Dick Jauron will do just that and there are some decent running opportunities inside, but sooner or later Edwards is going to have to make plays in the passing game. When Edwards sees Roy Williams down in the box, it's time to throw but the Bills don't have the vertical threat tight end to take advantage of the read. The next problem Edwards faces is two-fold. The Cowboys already have nine interceptions and with Greg Ellis back on the field the pass rush will reduce the time Edwards gets to find an open receiver.

The Bills can't afford to get down by 10 points early because Edwards will have to throw it 35 times and not enough good things can happen for the team. Keep in mind starting Dallas corner, Anthony Henry, will not play and there could be good reasons to attack Jacques Reeves with Roscoe Parrish and Josh Reed. Short passes off the three-step drop will prevent the sack and put the ball in the hands of athletes who should do well against the Cowboys' third corner. This would have been a nice matchup for Peerless Price, but he's the latest Bills player to have his season end early with an injury.

Bottom line

If the Bills were at full strength, I would still take the Cowboys in this game. If the game was at 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon I would consider it a much closer game especially in Buffalo. The Bills lost at home by one point to the Broncos (15-14) and beat the Jets (17-14).

This game is against a beatup Bills team on prime time so there will be no letdown. I like the Cowboys with their fifth win by a double-digit margin this year.

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