Thanksgiving is a great time to sit down with family, watch football, eat a whole lot, and enjoy each other’s company. It’s also a perfect way for everyone to get on each other’s nerves — especially when the wacky extended family shows up.
In that spirit, the meeting of the Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys in Week 13 is as fitting a Thanksgiving matchup as you can get.
The Cowboys have been a staple on the holiday since 1966, and the Bills haven’t played a Thanksgiving game in 25 years. But Buffalo fans know how to have a good (sometimes destructive) time, and how to get under another fanbase’s skin. What’s more Thanksgiving than that?
They even got the family bickering started way ahead of time with a quasi-debate over which team is more about football. That pot was stirred by former Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley, who signed with the Bills in March and told The Athletic that Buffalo is “100 percent about ball and not a show or a brand.”
Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin — the Cowboys’ loudest (and sometimes sweatiest) defender — told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Beasley wasn’t even out of line:
“He’s right. There is a show here. That’s just what is,” said Irvin, who attended the Cowboys’ minicamp practice at The Star on Wednesday. “Football in Buffalo is football for Buffalo. Football for the Dallas Cowboys is football for the world. He’s right in that sense.”
When the two teams meet on Thanksgiving, the table will be set (pun very intended) for a game that might mirror your family’s dinner table:
Grandpa who has no filter: Jerry Jones, owner, Cowboys
Depending who you ask, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is either a football pioneer who turned his team into a global brand, or an offbeat character who likes to take the spotlight from Cowboys players. The reality is probably some kind of mix of both.
Sometimes he’s extremely Southern:
Jerry Jones on how he felt when Tony Romo went down: "Just about as low as a crippled cricket’s ass."— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) September 21, 2015
According to @mortreport, Jerry Jones on NFL lockout negotiations: "We're down to circumcising mosquitoes right now."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 17, 2011
And sometimes he’s — well — whatever you call this:
Jerry Jones: "I've been here 23 years. I've been here when it was glory hole days and when it wasn't. I want me some glory hole. "— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) July 29, 2012
Jerry Jones, for the second time in Dak’s career, reminds us: “He runs like the Daddy.”— David Helman (@HelmanDC) September 21, 2018
I love my job.
Jones probably won’t be the drunk uncle this Thanksgiving, although he’s been that before too. But invite Jerry to the table and you’ll probably get a soundbite to remember.
Annoying little brother: Cole Beasley, WR, Bills
Beasley climbed from undrafted free agent to fan favorite in his seven seasons with the Cowboys. So returning home for the holiday will be a bit of a family reunion for the Texas native.
The problem is that Beasley has burned through a lot of the goodwill he built in Dallas since joining the Bills in free agency.
In March, he zinged the Cowboys for not winning during his time with the team, and in April, he said “Buffalo shits on Dallas” when it comes to the team facilities. Even when he praised Bills passer Josh Allen and called him “the best athlete I’ve ever played with at quarterback,” it sounded like a dig at Dak Prescott.
He’s also complained about the way he was used offensively, accused the Cowboys front office of deciding who gets offensive touches, and said he’s glad to be in Buffalo where football “is purer.”
Maybe Beasley is just talking up his new team. He hasn’t talked much about Dallas since the offseason and has quietly put together solid numbers in his first season in Buffalo. The offseason bad blood has mostly dissipated and he’ll still likely get a warm welcome from the Dallas crowd.
Dad who keeps the peace: Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
There are a lot of lights and cameras in Dallas, and with that comes the risk of the team devolving into a soap opera. For the most part it hasn’t in recent years, and that’s because the drama doesn’t follow Prescott.
Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley both complained about their usage in the Cowboys’ offense before their departures, but the griping never boiled over into a real conflict. Even the potentially awkward transition from Tony Romo to Prescott in 2016 ended up being smooth.
In a pressure cooker environment, Prescott has been Steady Eddie for the Cowboys since day one.
Jones has called Prescott “The Daddy” a few times in the last few years. He probably doesn’t mean it the same way I do, but it’s apt either way.
The new significant other: Ed Oliver, DL, Bills
Thanksgiving’s best chance at awkwardness is when someone brings a new boyfriend or girlfriend to the dinner table. The most significant newbie this November is Oliver, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
He’ll be the only first-round rookie in the game, because the Cowboys traded away their pick to get Amari Cooper a year ago.
Oliver had a slow start to his rookie year, but got his first sack on Oct. 20 and then added two more in the two games prior to Thanksgiving. His presence is starting to be felt, just in time for his first trip back to Texas.
Oliver was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and played his college football at the University of Houston. Thanksgiving will be his first professional game back in his home state — not a bad time of the year to leave Buffalo for a warmer part of the country.
The wise elder: Frank Gore, RB, Bills
Gore has been playing in the NFL since approximately 1972, became the fourth player to ever crack the 15,000 mark earlier this season. Judging by the shrinking numbers that players put up on the ground, he might even be the last to reach that milestone too.
He’s eight years older than any of the other running backs on the Bills’ roster and 12 years older than any Cowboys running back.
Even if he’s not a man of many words, younger players listen when he has something to say — as they should.
The television: Jason Garrett, coach, Cowboys
Inanimate piece of machinery? Yep, that’s Garrett.
01000110 01101001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01101101 01100101 00101100 00100000 01001010 01100101 01110010 01110010 01111001 pic.twitter.com/8b3P5kMYPv— SB Nation (@SBNation) November 6, 2018
The kid who won’t sit still: Josh Allen, QB, Bills
Buffalo drafted Josh Allen because he’s a 6’5, 237-pound quarterback with a rocket for an arm. He fits the prototype of a statue in the pocket — but so far in the NFL, Allen’s done fantastic work as a runner.
He’s even prone to hurdle a defender or two.
Allen’s still only 23, so there’s plenty of time for his throwing skills to catch up to his legs. And so far in year two, they’re getting there fast. For now though, he’s the young gun that’s a pain in the ass to try and corral.
The one only focused on eating: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
Elliott has built his entire brand around eating.
I’m right there with you, pal.