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Pregame primer: Bills vs. Cowboys (plus five things I'm looking for)

Welcome to the extended preseason.

The Buffalo Bills begin the painful process of playing out the string at 1 p.m. Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys visit Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first of two meaningless games to end the 2015 season.

The Cowboys similarly do not have anything to play for, and have already ruled out star receiver Dez Bryant (sorry, fantasy owners), meaning Sunday's game should have the look and feel of a preseason contest.

Nevertheless, here are all the details you need to know before kickoff, plus five things I'll be looking for:

• TV: Fox. Announcers: Kenny Albert (play by play), Daryl Johnston (color analyst).

• Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play by play), Mark Kelso (color analyst).

• Series history: Dallas leads, 6-3. Last meeting: Oct. Nov. 13, 2011, 44-7 Cowboys win in Dallas. The Bills are looking for their first win against the Cowboys since 1996.

• Milestone watch: With 27 rushing yards, Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor will set a franchise single-season record, breaking the mark of 476 set by Doug Flutie in 1999.

• Uni watch: The Bills are pairing blue jerseys with white pants against the Cowboys.

• Next up: The Bills wrap up the 2015 season when the New York Jets visit Ralph Wilson Stadium at 1 p.m. next Sunday. It's possible the Bills could play spoilers against the Jets.

Once Sunday's game gets started, here are five things I'll be looking for:

1. The running back rotation. With LeSean McCoy out, there will be plenty of playing time to split up between rookie Karlos Williams and former practice-squad player Mike Gillislee, who has scored in each of the past two games. Williams has been dynamic at times, but his hard-running style has led to a concussion and shoulder injury, both of which have taken him out of the lineup for weeks at a time. Gillislee, meanwhile, is making a big push to show he can be a contributor next season, as well.

2. Which young players get time? Rex Ryan said the team's primary objective is to win the game, but that's something all coaches are contractually obligated to put out there. The truth is, the Bills would be better off getting some more of an evaluation on players like right tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, Tight end Nick O'Leary, edge rusher Max Valles and wide receiver Dez Lewis, among others. Seeing them in game action might help give the Bills a better idea if they can be counted on in 2016.

3. The defensive communication. Not that it really matters at this point, but can the Bills finally manage to get the plays called in and players lined up correctly on defense before the opposing offense is ready to snap the ball? Linebacker Preston Brown and defensive end Mario Williams both questioned this week why it's been such an issue getting the plays in on time. Correcting that would at least be a small step in the right direction if that happens.

4. Does Matt Cassel get into the game? The Cowboys benched the former Bills quarterback in favor of Kellen Moore, removing even a little more intrigue from what looks like a dreadful game on the surface. If Moore struggles, would Jason Garrett go back to Cassel? Seeing him play would at least give Bills fans something to pay attention to Sunday.

5. The crowd's reaction. There's no other way to put it: The Bills are one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL. They couldn't back up their coach's brash talk, and played bad – or stupid – football far too much this year. Fans justifiably have a reason to be disappointed following a 16th straight season that will end without a trip to the postseason. They'd be justified in demonstrating that disappointment Sunday in the form of boos for the home team.


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