Cowboys - Bills Preview & Prediction

The Bills' defense continues to be ravaged by injuries to the linebackers and secondary, but the Cowboys still want to make a concerted effort to establish the run.

KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 ET

GAMEDATE: 10/8/07

SURFACE: AstroPlay

TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya

SERIES: 10th meeting. Dallas leads the series 6-3. Dallas won the last meeting 10-6 on Nov. 9, 2003. The Bills won the last meeting in Buffalo, 10-7, on Sept. 22, 1996. Dallas and Buffalo played each other in back-to-back Super Bowls -- Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII - with Dallas being victorious in both. Dallas is 1-2 in games played in Buffalo.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bills' defense continues to be ravaged by injuries to the linebackers and secondary, but the Cowboys still want to make a concerted effort to establish the run. That should help limit the potential damage by DEs Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay, arguably the team's top two defenders who can be difference-makers in getting to QB Tony Romo. However, Dallas expects to eventually punch through in a big way -- the Cowboys have an NFL-high 107 second-half points. ... This is the Bills' fourth consecutive game against a 3-4 defense, so the offensive line should be prepared. Buffalo wants to shorten the game, and will lean heavily on RB Marshawn Lynch and short passes from fellow rookie QB Trent Edwards, who completed seven passes to tight ends in his debut. But to actually pull the upset, Edwards will at some point have to test the Cowboys' vulnerable deep pass coverage to WR Lee Evans.

KEY INJURIES: Cowboys: CB Anthony Henry (high ankle sprain) is out 2-4 weeks, replaced by Jacques Reeves; SS Keith Davis (strained biceps) and FB Oliver Hoyte (neck strain) are questionable. Bills: QB J.P. Losman (knee) is expected to miss at least one more game; With FS Jim Leonard (calf) out, Donte Whitner slides to free safety and SS Bryan Scott will start; LB Keith Ellison (sprain) and CB Ashton Youboty (ankle) have a chance to play.

KEY INJURIES: The Bills will wear throwback jerseys from the 1965 team that won the AFL championship. ... The Cowboys seek their first 5-0 start since 1983.

COWBOYS PERSONNEL NEWS: CB Anthony Henry (ankle sprain) could return for the game against the Patriots Oct. 14, owner Jerry Jones said.

Henry leads the NFL with four interceptions but will not play Monday against the Bills. "I don't think that it is as bad as some high ankle sprains that we've had with our players," Jones said.

--WR Terry Glenn is still anticipating a return to the Cowboys this season. Glenn is coming off two arthroscopic right knee surgeries since training camp with the last one on Sept. 13 to repair torn cartilage. It will be at least five weeks before the Cowboys can gauge Glenn's status for the season, owner Jerry Jones said.

-- DT Tank Johnson is at the Cowboys' headquarters working and out meeting regularly with the team's behavioral department.

Johnson is in the midst of an eight game suspension from the league for violating the personal conduct policy. He is talking weekly with commissioner Roger Goodell and hopes to have the suspension reduced to six games.

"He's working to try and do the kind of work and make the kind of impression that would influence the commissioner and let him get back early," Jones said.

--SS Keith Davis (pectoral) returned to practice Thursday and close to being ready for the Bills game. Davis missed last week's game against St. Louis.

--FB Oliver Hoyte (pinched nerve in neck) did not practice Thursday and could miss his third straight game. If he doesn't go, rookie Deon Anderson will start for the third straight week.

BILLS PERSONNEL NEWS: QB J.P. Losman, who is recovering from a sprained left knee ligament, did not practice for a second straight day and has all but been ruled out of Monday's game at home against Dallas.

--CB Ashton Youboty, who has a badly sprained ankle, did not practice for a second straight day. It's possible he could suit up for Monday's game against Dallas but not start due to his limited work with the first unit all week. Jabari Greer would get the nod in his place.

--LB Keith Ellison, who missed the year's first four games due to a high-ankle sprain, continued to practice and take part in all drills. Mario Haggan is still running with the first unit, but Ellison seems to be making good progress and could open at weak-side linebacker.

--WR Lee Evans, who snapped out of a season-long slump with six catches for 72 yards against the Jets last week, is still without a TD catch. He'll be going against ninth-ranked secondary Monday when Dallas comes to Buffalo. The Cowboys are expected to be without CB Anthony Henry, who has a high ankle sprain.

--RB Marshawn Lynch will have his work cut out Monday against Dallas. The Cowboys rank seventh in run defense, allowing 80.5 yards per game. Lynch leads NFL rookies with three touchdowns but his average-yards-per carry has dipped below 4.0 to 3.8.

INSIDE THE COWBOYS CAMPS: Now that the Cowboys are 4-0 and destroying opponents by double-digits, they have to manufacture things to work on. A top of their list is a punt coverage unit that allowed an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown by Rams return specialist Dante Hall. It was the only scored allowed a 35-7 victory but it points out that the Cowboys aren't perfect.

With the Bills and their strong return game up next, it's something the Cowboys are focusing on for the Monday night affair in Buffalo.

Another thing the Cowboys believe they need to work on is getting off to faster starts. It's well documented that the Cowboys are a second-half team. 107 of their 151 points have come in the second half, as have a bunch of their yardage.

The Cowboys like the idea that they are getting stronger as the games go along. But they would like to get on track earlier in games.

"I think that we must -- we've got to be more productive early or that is going to hit us," owner Jerry Jones said. "That's going to catch us. And I think we should work on that." Said receiver Terrell Owens: "I think the thing for us is what we need to start doing is starting kind of starting out faster and more efficient in the first half.

"Other than that, I think everyone knows that this offense can strike at any given time. Jason Garrett is doing a great job of playcalling, depending on the down and distance and guys are just going out there and making plays. But at some point in time, we have to realize that we're going to come down to a stretch of games (against) teams that are going to be efficient on offense, where the teams we have played as of late, they haven't really done anything offensively. But we've got some games here coming up that their offenses are pretty potent and we're going to have to try to put some points on the board in the first half."

INSIDE THE BILLS CAMP: The Bills will open with two more new starters and new players at three positions overall in their defensive secondary Monday night against high-powered Dallas. That has to leave Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Terrell Owens salivating.

Jabari Greer takes over for Ashton Youboty at right corner. Youboty, who had replaced Jason Webster, out for the season with a broken arm, is nursing a bad ankle sprain. The Bills may actually gain something with Greer, the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his five-tackle, one-interception performance against the Jets, in the lineup.

Meanwhile, newly signed free agent Bryan Scott will start at strong safety with Donte Whitner shifting to free safety in place of Jim Leonhard, who has been ruled out with an injured calf muscle.

The coaches like Scott, who is 6-1, 239, at strong safety instead of free and feel Whitner has the speed to play deep in their Cover 2 while continuing to support the run.

"My role will change this week," Whitner said. "Instead of being down (in the box) a lot, I'll be playing some free safety. The coaches feel like Brian is more suited for strong."

Scott, a second round pick of Atlanta in 2003, has appeared in 59 NFL games for the Falcons, Saints and Bills. He was signed after Ko Simpson (ankle) was placed on injured reserve after week one.

"(I think I bring) a little bit of knowledge, a little bit of size, experience and being able to be back there," Scott said. "If Donte sees something we'll be able to help each other out the whole game."

Stopping the Cowboys will take a team effort, no doubt. Dallas leads the NFL in both scoring (38 points) and yardage (441) per game.

"They're a great team, 4-0," Scott said. "They're riding really high right now. But it's really about us everyday just getting better so by Monday we're prepared and ready to go."

PREDICTION: Cowboys 34-17

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