Monday Night Football 10/8
Monday Night Football 10/8
Bills-Cowboys Monday preview
(Sports Network) - In the six years and nine months since he parted ways with the organization, you have to believe there were days when Wade Phillips wished he was still head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
Monday night, when Phillips brings his Dallas Cowboys into Ralph Wilson Stadium to meet his former employer, is not likely to be a date found on that list.
The injury-ravaged Bills enter Monday night's game having struggled mightily on both sides of the football during a 1-3 start, and will for the second straight game be featuring an all-rookie backfield of quarterback Trent Edwards and running back Marshawn Lynch. Buffalo enters the primetime contest as a heavy underdog, a situation the once-proud franchise will likely find itself in for most of the remainder of 2007.
Dallas, meanwhile, is flying high in its first year under Phillips. The Cowboys are off to their first 4-0 start since 1995, when they finished 12-4 and won the Super Bowl under Barry Switzer. A win on Monday would make America's Team 5-0 for the first time since 1983, and would also help their head coach settle a score with the Buffalo organization.
Phillips was fired by Wilson following the team's 8-8 season of 2000, though the Bills owner contends to this day that Phillips quit. The issue was the owner's wish to fire special teams coach Ronnie Jones (now the defensive coordinator at a Dallas-area high school), while Phillips adopted an "if he goes, I go" stance. Phillips went, going on to serve assistant stints in Atlanta and San Diego before resurfacing as a head coach with Dallas after Bill Parcells resigned this past offseason.
And Buffalo, which made two playoff trips during Phillips' three years at the helm, has not been back to the postseason since. The Bills are a combined 39-61 (.390) in 100 subsequent games under the likes of Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, and current head man Dick Jauron.
On Monday, Phillips intends to add to the misery in western New York, while ratcheting up the north Texas hysteria with a win for his new outfit.
Dallas has a 4-3 lead in the all-time regular season series with Buffalo, and was a 10-6 home winner when the clubs last met, in 2003. The Bills won the previous meeting, a 10-7 victory at home in 1996. The Cowboys are 0-2 in Buffalo since scoring their only win there all-time, a 49-37 triumph in 1971.
In addition to the regular season series, the teams met in back-to-back Super Bowls, both won by Dallas. The Cowboys were 52-17 victors in Super Bowl XXVII in Pasadena, and took a 30-13 decision in Super Bowl XXVIII from Atlanta.
Phillips is 0-1 in his career against the Bills, for whom, as mentioned, he served as head coach from 1998 through 2000. That loss came for Phillips' Broncos in 1994. The Bills' Jauron has never met the Cowboys as a head coach, but has faced Phillips head-to-head. Jauron's Bears defeated Phillips' Bills during the 2000 campaign.
WHEN THE COWBOYS HAVE THE BALL
With apologies to the New England Patriots, the Cowboys offense has been arguably the most exciting in the NFL through four weeks. Dallas leads the NFL in total offense (440.8 yards per game) and scoring offense (37.8 points per game), and is tied for the league lead with seven rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Tony Romo (1199 passing yards, 11 TD, 3 INT) is back on his Pro Bowl pace of 2006, having completed a healthy 59.5 percent of his passes and posted a terrific 112.9 passer rating. Wideout Terrell Owens (19 receptions, 3 TD) and tight end Jason Witten (20 receptions, 3 TD) have been Romo's favorite targets, though it was No. 2 receiver Patrick Crayton (13 receptions, 2 TD) that stole the show in last Sunday's 35-7 win over the Rams. Crayton caught seven passes for 184 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the victory. Running backs Marion Barber (306 rushing yards, 6 receptions, 5 TD) and Julius Jones (176 rushing yards, 1 TD) have helped open things up for the offense, and combined for 102 yards on 21 carries last Sunday. If the Dallas offense has a liability, it is an inconsistent o-line that has allowed six sacks of Romo through four games.
The Cowboys will be facing a Bills team that is last in NFL total defense (430.2 yards per game) and passing defense (282.2 yards per game) as Week 5 begins, and is contending with myriad injuries on that side of the ball. A secondary already without cornerback Jason Webster (forearm) and safety Ko Simpson (ankle) for the year will also be missing their respective replacements, Ashton Youboty (ankle) and Jim Leonhard (calf), on Sunday. Donte Whitner (32 tackles) will likely switch to free safety for the Dallas game, and will have to help assist probable starting corners Terrence McGee (12 tackles, 1 INT) and Jabari Greer (10 tackles, 1 INT), both of whom had interceptions off of Chad Pennington in last week's 17-14 win over the Jets. In the front seven, middle linebacker Paul Pozluszny (forearm) is done for the year, and end Ryan Denney (foot) will miss at least one more game. On the bright side, end Anthony Hargrove is slated to return after serving a four- game NFL suspension. The front seven is led by linebacker Angelo Crowell (35 tackles), who had 11 tackles against the Jets, and end Aaron Schobel (16 tackles), who has one of Buffalo's four sacks on the year.
WHEN THE BILLS HAVE THE BALL
Looking to build on a very positive first NFL start will be Edwards (331 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 INT), who was efficient and earned a victory while subbing for the injured J.P. Losman (knee) last Sunday. Edwards was a crisp 22-of-28 for 234 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the win, with all 22 of his completions going to receivers and tight ends. No. 1 wideout Lee Evans (11 receptions) turned in his best game of the season to date with six catches for 72 yards, while fellow receivers Josh Reed (10 receptions) and Roscoe Parrish (14 receptions) had four receptions each. Tight end Michael Gaines (6 receptions, 1 TD), the ex-Panthers starter, also made his presence felt with four grabs for 20 yards and his first touchdown of the season. In the running game, Marshawn Lynch (307 rushing yards, 3 TD) has done a nice job given his rookie status and the presence of a thin offensive line. The Cal product, who went for 79 yards and a touchdown on 23 totes last Sunday, is still seeking his first 100-yard game as a pro. The Buffalo line has allowed 10 sacks of Edwards and Losman through four contests.
Edwards will be facing a Cowboys defense that enters Week 5 with a league- high- tying nine interceptions and NFL-best plus-seven mark in turnover margin, but is expected to be without top cornerback Anthony Henry (12 tackles, 4 INT) on Monday. Henry, who led the NFL in picks heading into Sunday's game, is nursing an ankle injury, and will likely be replaced in the lineup by Jacques Reeves (20 tackles, 1 INT). Looking to put the heat on the rookie quarterback will be a pass rush that generated three sacks of Marc Bulger last Sunday, including a combined 2.5 from outside linebackers Greg Ellis (2 tackles, 1.5 sacks) and Demarcus Ware (15 tackles, 3 sacks). The Cowboys have a total of nine sacks through their first four games. In the run- stopping game, Dallas is surrendering just 80.5 ground yards per contest thanks in large part to the efforts of linebackers Bradie James (21 tackles, 1 INT) and Akin Ayodele (17 tackles), strong safety Roy Williams (20 tackles, 2 INT), and linemen Jay Ratliff (9 tackles, 1 sack) and Marcus Spears (7 tackles, 0.5 sacks).
The Cowboys offense has a number of must-starts, including Romo, Barber, Owens, Witten, the defense, and kicker Nick Folk. After Crayton's performance against the Rams last week, you might want to consider taking a flier on him as well. Julius Jones remains something of a risk, but did score his first touchdown of the year last Sunday. You have to look long and hard to find a Buffalo player worth starting, though if you're desperate, and play in a league that values completions, Edwards might not be a total disappointment.
The depleted Bills displayed a great deal of toughness and desire in beating the Jets last week, but they simply don't match up well with the Cowboys. The thin secondary won't be able to hold down the Dallas passing attack for four quarters, and Buffalo will not apply enough pressure to Romo to keep him on the run. On the other side of the ball, Edwards comes off a nice outing, but is still a rookie making his second start. Expect the Cowboys pass rush a playmaking secondary to make him look like the greenhorn that he is.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cowboys 30, Bills 10
Re: Monday Night Football 10/8
Bills-Cowboys Monday preview
The Buffalo Bills will enter Monday night’s showdown against the Dallas Cowboys with a young squad looking to make the most out of a season marred by injuries. ESPN will be providing full coverage of this 8:30 p.m. EDT contest. Bodog.com has installed the Cowboys as 10-point visiting favorites, with a total set at 44 ½.
Dallas’ head coach Wade Phillips has been looking to prove his critics wrong, failing to reach the big game with four separate teams. Oddly enough, his closest run for Super Bowl contention came in two out of three seasons as head coach of Buffalo. Times may seem to be changing however, with the Cowboys looking to notch their fifth win of the season.
The obvious first; Dallas has one of the most potent offenses in the league. Quarterback Tony Romo has passed for a grand total of 1,119 yards, while tossing the skin into the end zone 11 times (QB Rating of 112.9). Wide receiver Terrell Owens is Romo’s No. 1 target but the field has been stretched out to incorporate tide end Jason Whitten (304 receiving yard, three TDs) and wide out Patrick Clayton (262 receiving yard, two TDs).
The Cowboys are 6-2-1 ATS in their last nine contests in October, and have rocked the ‘over’ 9-2-2 in their last 13 road games.
Buffalo has been sputtering on the offensive side of the ball, struggling to cross the goal line for 10.3 points per game. With signal call J.P Losman out with a sprained left knee (an injury he suffered early on in a win against the Jets), 23-year-old slinger Trent Edwards will resume quarterbacking duties. Taking over for Losman last week, Edwards went air for 234 yards and a TD, while getting picked off once.
The Bills are 5-13-1 ATS in their last 19 home games versus a team with a winning record.
In the defensive scheme of things, Buffalo has been crushed against the ground game (282 ½ yards allowed). Overall, the Bills have laid down their arms on the secondary and in the box, allowing a league worst 430 ½ yards per game. With only four interceptions, four sacks and one lonely forced fumble, safety Jim Leonhard has been the only positive part to this fading defense that Buffalo can field. And Leonhard is one player among the slew of others that are sitting on the sidelines in plain clothing due to the rash of injuries that have plague the Bills.
In a close win against the Jets last week, the Bills only allowed 14 points (17-14). The point is that Buffalo has nailed the ‘over’ 10-3 in its last 13 after allowing less than 15 points in their previous game.
At a perfect 4-0 this year, the Cowboys defensive squad seems to be finally clicking since giving up 35 points in Week 1 against the Giants.
Dallas’ safety Roy Williams has been on fire, 20 total tackles with two picks. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware has also seen improved performance from week-to-week, snatching up 10 tackles with three sacks in his last two contests.
The Cowboys are 41-11-1 ATS in their last 53 games after allowing less than 90 yards rushing in their previous game. In last week’s win over St. Louis, the Rams posted a low 62 yards rushing, with 187 total yards.
The ‘over’ has gone 18-8 in the Bills last 26 games following an ATS win.
Just an observation before I close out this preview; Dallas’ QB Tony Romo has been extremely mobile this year, rushing for 71 yards and two scores in 2007.
Re: Monday Night Football 10/8
What bettors need to know: Cowboys at Bills
Phillips back on top
The Buffalo Bills fired Wade Phillips as their head coach back in 2000. Now he returns to upstate New York as coach of the unbeaten Dallas Cowboys. Phillips is hoping to lead the Cowboys to their first 5-0 start in 24 years with a win over his former team.
"Well, you know, it's not another game, I guess," Phillips told USA Today when asked about his return to Buffalo. "I have great memories there and all the people there I consider friends."
He also joked around with the media when asked what he thought of the Bills’ decision to fire him after an 8-8 season in 2000. “I believe (New England coach) Bill Belichick was 5-11 that year,” Phillips said, laughing. “They kept him around. I don't know how he did since then.”
The Bills are 1-3 this season and haven’t made the playoffs since Phillips left the club. They have only had one winning season since then.
Bills start with Edwards again
Rookie quarterback Trent Edwards will make the second start of his NFL career Monday night. He came in for the injured J.P. Losman last week and completed 22 of 28 passes for 234 yards with one touchdown in a 17-14 win over the Jets.
"The hardest part is when things don't go right," Edwards told the Dallas Morning News. "I said this after the game that it seemed like for me the most part everything did kind of go our way."
Things are not as likely to go his way against a Dallas defense that has eight sacks and eight interceptions in its last three games. The Bills are already concerned that the Cowboys will blitz more than usual to knock the inexperienced Edwards off his game.
"They are going to try to show [Edwards] some different looks and pressure him,” Bills receiver Lee Evans told the Morning News. “They will make him make some decisions. I definitely expect them to do something like that.”
The Cowboys faced three rookie quarterbacks last season and beat all of them.
Romo’s the real deal
Tony Romo spent three seasons sitting on the Dallas bench before getting his chance last year. He came in for heavy criticism when he lost the final five games of last season, but a 4-0 start this time around has cemented his status as one of the best QBs in the league.
“Anytime you're playing like our quarterback is playing, that's a key factor," Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips told USA Today. "I've seen the quick release and great arm, but it's his presence in practice. I've seen a lot of players who were great in practice, but he carries it over to the game."
Romo has a 10-4 record in 14 regular season starts. He’s thrown for 27 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and more than 3,800 yards in his career so far. His 112.9 passer rating this year ranks second only to two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady.
"I never look at myself in the third person," Romo told USA Today. "Each step has been good. As a backup, you're trying to get on the field and get better. When it happens it feels normal. That's what you work yourself up for is to be successful."
Romo has thrown for 1,199 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in four games this season.
Bills defense gets a boost
The Bills are hoping to get two important defensive players back for the clash with Dallas, the team with the best offense in the NFL.
Linebacker Keith Ellison practiced this week for the first time since suffering an ankle injury in preseason. He expects to play on Monday night.
“It felt pretty good playing on it, so tomorrow we’ll see how sore it is,” Ellison told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “I feel real good about it, but that’s up to the coaching staff and what they decide to do with me. Whatever they ask, I’m going to try as hard as I can. I think I’ll be all right to go out there and play.’’
Defensive end Anthony Hargrove is also eligible to start after serving a four-game suspension for substance abuse. He returned to practice this week and is likely to start because of an injury to fellow defensive end Ryan Denney.
“I want to come out here and show them I can play on Monday night,” Hargrove told reporters.
The Bills defense ranks last in the NFL this season, giving up an average of 430.2 yards and 23.2 points per game.
Re: Monday Night Football 10/8
Cowboys Team Report
PERSONNEL ANALYSIS: The Cowboys have been pleased with the play of CB Jacques Reeves, who has been starting this season while Terence Newman deals with a plantar fascia injury. Reeves already had great speed, but his technique has improved this season and he's playing with more confidence, which you can see in how he attacks airborne balls. He has good size, and although he's not ideally physical at the point of attack, the coaching staff likes the fact opponents haven't been able to take advantage of Reeves by throwing exclusively at him. . . . .
Just as Newman gets healthy enough to start, the Cowboys have lost CB Anthony Henry for a couple of weeks with a high ankle sprain. Newman is the Cowboys' best cornerback and among the best in the league, but he's still bothered by a small tear in his plantar fascia and patellar tendonitis. He has been playing slot receivers from the nickel package the past two weeks, but now he will be forced to start. It will be interesting to see if Newman's foot can hold up playing 60 snaps a week instead of 25-30.
SCOUTING REPORT: RT Marc Colombo, picked off the scrap heap by Bill Parcells two seasons ago, has done a really nice job. The former No.1 pick has the classic tackle's physique with his 6-7 frame and long arms that keep defenders at bay once he locks on. He has average footwork and athleticism, so he can struggle with speed rushers at left end. Colombo, however, plays with a toughness and tenacity that makes up for some of his physical shortcomings.
UNDERACHIEVING: LT Flozell Adams already has seven penalties this season, which is too many for a player of his talent and pedigree. When focused, Adams can be a terrific run blocker and a good pass protector. He has good feet and a great physique for a tackle, although, like Colombo, he struggles with speed rushers because he's not a fluid, nimble lineman. If Adams can limit his procedure penalties and play with more focus and intensity, he can be a dominant lineman.
Re: Monday Night Football 10/8
Bills Team Report
PERSONNEL ANALYSIS: WR Peerless Price's season-ending surgery to repair a disk in his neck came as a surprise to the Bills. He had complained of soreness early last week, but participated in the first two days of practice. But an MRI revealed the disk problem, which prompted immediate surgery. Price was the team's No. 2 receiver and an experienced complement to top WR Lee Evans. Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish already had a large role in the offense, but now they will get even more playing time. Though both are better suited to play in the slot, they are sure-handed and run well after the catch. Reed is not fast, but he's strong enough to beat press coverage. Parrish has great speed and has improved his route running and feel for finding soft spots in defenses. . . .
The team expects Donte Whitner to make smooth transition from strong safety to free safety. With Jim Leonhard out with a calf injury, the Bills didn't have another free safety on the roster. Thus, they turned to Whitner, who has the outstanding speed to run with receivers, the range to cover a lot of ground and the ability to make plays from sideline to sideline. He also has the recognition skills to make secondary calls. The safety positions are interchangeable, so Whitner will continue to get chances to play closer to the line of scrimmage, where he is strong in run support. But the team needs him to play more in coverage right now because the secondary is short-handed.
SCOUTING REPORT: RT Langston Walker is a mountain of a man (6-8, 366) with surprising mobility for his size. He engulfs defenders and has the strength to deliver a powerful punch and drive opponents off the line of scrimmage. Because Walker is so tall, he has to work harder to bend his knees and maintain good leverage. He is effective in pass protection when he uses his big hands and long arms to control and redirect pass rushers. He gets into trouble when he gets sloppy with his techniques. He must keep his feet apart and stay balanced. When he doesn't, he is vulnerable against speed rushers.
UNDERACHIEVING: DE Aaron Schobel received a four-year contract extension this summer that made him the team's highest-paid player. But so far, he hasn't played to the level that made him a Pro Bowler last season. Following his 14-sack campaign in 2006, Schobel is receving more attention from opponents, who are using tight ends or running backs to help double-team him. Schobel still plays with a relentless style that allows him to generate pressure on quarterbacks, but he must do more to impact games. While he has shown flashes of ability, the team needs him to display more consistent dominance to improve what has been a non-existent pass rush.
Re: Monday Night Football 10/8
Dallas 10 point road favorite over Buffalo
Monday Night Football Preview
The Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills are both coming off Week 4 victories, but you can't say their seasons are going in the same direction as they meet on Monday night.
The Cowboys ran roughshod over the St. Louis Rams last time out, going up 14-7 by halftime and cruising from there to a 35-7 victory. Tony Romo completed 21-of-33 pass attempts for 339 yards in that contest, with three touchdown strikes and one interception. Patrick Crayton was good for 184 yards off seven receptions and scored twice, and Jason Witten had the other TD catch. Terrell Owens picked up just 33 yards.
On the ground, Julius Jones rushed for 52 yards off 13 carries and scored a touchdown in the second quarter, while Marion Barber had 50 yards. Romo also rushed for a score.
That win improved Dallas to 4-0 on the season, putting them in control of the NFC East division ahead of the Washington Redskins (2-1) and the New York Giants (2-2). The Cowboys have managed to score 151 points in four games, while allowing 72 points.
The Bills put up 10 points in the fourth quarter on Sunday and then held on for a 17-14 win over the division-rival New York Jets. Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards, playing in place on the injured J.P. Losman, went an efficient 22-of-28 for 234 yards passing with one touchdown strike (to Michael Gaines in the fourth quarter) and just one interception.
Gaines had only four catches for 20 yards in that contest, while Lee Evans had six catches for 72 yards to break out of his early-season doldrums. Marshawn Lynch led the way on the ground for Buffalo, rushing for 79 yards and a score off of his 23 carries.
For Buffalo, though, Sunday's result marked only their first win of the season - although it did move them into a second-place tie in the AFC East division with the Jets at 1-3, well behind the 4-0 New England Patriots but a game ahead of the winless Miami Dolphins. Edwards will again lead the way for Buffalo on Monday night, as Losman's knee sprain is expected to keep him off the field for the next couple of weeks at least.
The oddsmakers aren't too keen on the Bills' chances of increasing their winning streak to two games - the Cowboys are pegged as 10-point road favorites, with a total of 44.5.
Buffalo and Dallas haven't met in a regular-season game since November 9, 2003, when the Cowboys slipped past the Bills for a 10-6 home victory. Dallas was listed as a 4-point favorite on their own field in that contest, and they only managed to PUSH that spread. UNDER bettors got paid on that day, as the combined score ended up well below the posted total of 36.5 points. Buffalo last beat Dallas back in September 1996.
Here are the official injury reports for both the Cowboys and the Bills for Monday night:
Courtney Brown CB Out Week 5 (biceps)
Terry Glenn WR Out Week 5 (knee)
Anthony Henry CB Out Week 5 (ankle)
Oliver Hoyte RB Doubtful Week 5 (neck)
Keith Davis S Questionable Week 5 (shoulder)
Greg Ellis LB Probable Week 5 (Achilles)
Terence Newman CB Probable Week 5 (foot)
Ryan Denney DE Out Week 5 (foot)
Kevin Harrison LB Out Week 5 (knee)
Jim Leonhard S Out Week 5 (calf)
J.P. Losman QB Out Week 5 (knee)
Peerless Price WR Out Week 5 (neck)
Coy Wire LB Out Week 5 (knee)
Ashton Youboty CB Out Week 5 (ankle)
Keith Ellison LB Questionable Week 5 (ankle)
The Bills have a Week 6 bye, while the 'Boys will play host to the New England Patriots.