Maybe we've been undervaluing this Bills team through the first 12 weeks of the season. Even after they raced out to an 8-3 start, they weren't considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender -- partly because they're unlikely to steal the division crown away from the Patriots, which will force them to enter the playoffs as a wild card team and thus, spend January away from home; and partly because their quarterback has been considered by many (including me) to be a liability.
But maybe they're actually good -- not just because of their defense, but also because of their quarterback. Against the Cowboys in Dallas on Thursday, the Bills made a convincing case. They actually looked like a team capable of winning playoff games -- not just because of their defense, but also because of their quarterback.
On Thanksgiving, the Bills went into Dallas and earned a thoroughly dominant 26-15 win. Josh Allen outplayed Dak Prescott. The Bills' defense contained one of the league's best offenses. And after the first quarter, the Bills never looked like they were in danger of losing. That's how much better they were than a now 6-6 Cowboys team that continues to play well below its talent level, which will only lead to more questions about Jason Garrett's job status. But the story is Buffalo -- a team that is suddenly 9-3 with a young quarterback playing the best football of his career and a strong defense. The Bills, from quarterback to defense, might actually be good.
Thanksgiving brought a wild day of football and there's a lot to go over. Fortunately Will Brinson, John Breech, Ryan Wilson and Sean Wagner-McGough are here to break everything down on the Pick Six Podcast. Listen to the full show below and be sure to subscribe here for daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.
Why the Bills won
Allen played arguably the best game of his young career. The Cowboys' disappointing defense had no answers for his mobility, and Allen displayed nearly flawless decision-making and pinpoint accuracy -- two traits that have often eluded him -- to pick apart Dallas through the air and the ground. To put it another way, he outplayed Prescott, an MVP candidate for much of the season, by a wide margin.
Allen finished 19 of 24 (79.2 percent) for 231 yards (9.6 yards per attempt), one touchdown, no interceptions, and a 120.7 passer rating. He added 43 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
His touchdown pass to former Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley was a sweet play, as Allen did well to step up in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield.
His rushing touchdown should be a familiar sight by now. It was the 16th rushing touchdown of his career, even though Thursday was only the 24th game of his career.
Since the beginning of October, in an eight-game span, he's accounted for 18 touchdowns. In that span, he's been picked off only twice.
He might not be a top-10 quarterback right now, but he's trending in the right direction. He's displaying signs of progress. And with the Bills' defense playing this well, he's clearly good enough to help the Bills grab a playoff spot and maybe even secure the Bills' first playoff win since 1995.
Why the Cowboys lost
Their offense sputtered. Yes, their defense failed to slow down Allen, but we knew their defense wasn't any good heading into the matchup. It's what we expected. The first 12 weeks of the season demonstrated that. But we expected more from an offense that came into the game ranked second in DVOA and fourth in points per drive.
The Cowboys took the opening possession of the game and marched downfield for a touchdown. They didn't score again until garbage time -- with kicker Brett Maher notably missing two field goals. Ezekiel Elliott ran well against a bad run defense, but once the Cowboys fell into double-digit deficit in the second half, he understandably wasn't able to impact the game. Prescott turned the ball over twice in the second quarter with a gift of an interception on a screen pass he should've dirted and a fumble that was later turned into a Bills touchdown.
The Cowboys managed to pile up 426 yards on offense, but scored only 15 points -- and eight of those points came late in the fourth quarter when the Bills had already secured the win. Prescott was lucky to escape with only two giveaways. Maher was a disaster. And the Cowboys appear to be in the process of unraveling.
At 6-6, the Cowboys are still atop the NFC East. But with this much talent on both sides of the ball, they shouldn't be in a close race with the 5-6 Eagles. The race should already be over, but it's not.
And now we wait to see how long Jerry Jones is willing to let this continue.
After the Bills strip-sacked Prescott in the second quarter, they faced a fourth-and-1 from the Cowboys' 30-yard line. Sean McDermott kept his offense on the field instead of settling for a long field goal.
Allen fumbled the snap. Improbably, he managed to recover the ball from a pile of bodies and still pick up the first down.
On the next play, the Bills dialed up a touchdown pass via receiver John Brown and running back Devin Singletary.
The Bills never trailed the rest of the way.
Play of the game
It's not often a quarterback keeper for a gain of three yards is worthy of this kind of recognition, but Allen's aforementioned run on fourth down really was that ridiculous. How many other quarterbacks could've pulled off something like this?
It looked like the Bills were trying to set up a running play to the right. It looked like it was going to end in disaster when Allen couldn't handle the snap. Instead, Allen picked up the first down himself. And on the next play, the Bills took a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
It doesn't sound like Jones will even consider replacing Garrett during the season.
"This is not the time," Jones said after the game, per Charean Williams.
That said, Jones' comments don't exactly bode well for Garrett's long-term future in Dallas.
It won't get any easier for Buffalo. The Bills host the Ravens next week.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, will be back in primetime against the Bears in Chicago on Thursday night in a battle between two 6-6 teams.