Welcome to another week of prime time football, folks. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in Arlington right now gearing up for their recently flexed week 15 match-up with the Dallas Cowboys, and the 'Boys have found a little something extra to play for this week.
The Buccaneers are currently tied for the lead in the NFC South with the Atlanta Falcons at 8-5 each, so their season is on the line and that's exactly what we all expected. The Cowboys, however, enter this game tying for the league lead with the New England Patriots at 11-2, and that second loss seems to be the factor everyone is paying attention to.
After losing to the Giants in week 14 the Cowboys were still locks to make the playoffs, but now the Giants have a chance to make it as well. Dallas was swept by the Giants this season, they're the only team to beat the Cowboys yet, so obviously the prospect of playing the Giants during the post season isn't very attractive to anyone right now. But how can the Cowboys fix that?
For starters, they can win at home tonight. They'll need some luck for things to play out in their favor, but winning at home is the best way to gain some security for January.
As of the time of writing this (2:58 PM CST), the Giants have improved their record to 10-4 with a win over the Detroit Lions today. Luckily, the Giants have only NFC East opponents remaining with the Eagles next week, and the regular season finale against the Redskins. Divisional games have a way of being unpredictable, and we need a couple of upset losses.
But all of that is yet to play out and doesn't matter much right now, not any more than the NFL's investigations into the Giants for some week 14 communications infractions. All that matters right now is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and getting back on track.
The Buccaneers won't be an easy win, should the 'Boys come out on top, and that's even if this Dallas offense can find some rhythm again. Dak Prescott has struggled in recent weeks, though he found a way to make things happen in weeks 10-13. Ezekiel Elliott hasn't been running at his previously dominating pace in that time either, but he's still on top if Scott Linehan will keep in the game when it matters most. Dez Bryant had a bad game in week 14, but he has those a few times a year and bounces back without much worry the next week (usually). So that leaves the defense.
Sure, there's still Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, and Terrance Williams, but when you have three big-time stars on the field, you expect them to be the focus and for everyone else to do their parts to help the team win. And yeah, I'm discounting the big-time star label from Witten; he's great, but not as productive as of late. Maybe he'll show us something familiar against the Bucs tonight...
Jameis Winston is no slouch, and he's got some weapons the Cowboys will need to work to shut down. Tampa Bay's defense is stout so if the Cowboys have any trouble moving the ball, it'll be that much more important for this defense to stop Winston & Co.
Dallas has won five of their last six meetings with the Buccaneers, including their last game at AT&T Stadium (2012), and lead the series with a record of 13-4. Now, let's get a few picks from the ITS staff.
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Brian Martin | @Bmart0204
This could very well be another loss for the Dallas Cowboys if they can't overcome their struggles on the offensive side of the ball. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the hotter teams in the NFL right now and it has everything to do with the way their defense is playing.
It could be another long day for the Cowboys offense if they continue to play the way they have the last few games. But, I'm predicting that Dak Prescott and the rest of the offense get things back on track this week at home and do just enough to come away with a victory.
Cowboys 24 – Buccaneers 17
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Jess Haynie | @CowboysAddicts
Dallas had an identity crisis in New York and will get back to what fueled their 11-game win streak. Ezekiel Elliott should have a heavy workload against Tampa's 21st-ranked run defense. Fresh-legged Darren McFadden could make some noise, also.
If the run game is allowed to do its job by Scott Linehan, things should line up for Dak Prescott to get back to his efficient, winning play. It will also help to keep Jameis Winston from lighting up the scoreboard.
Cowboys 27 – Buccaneers 23
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Kevin Brady | @Kevinbrady88
I know the sky seems to be falling around Cowboys Nation, but this team is going to be alright.
Sure, it was a tough loss last week, but I think Dak Prescott and the Cowboys get back on track tonight. The Buccaneers are good, and will cause some problems for a struggling Cowboys offense. But in the end, Dallas makes a couple more big plays than Tampa.
Ezekiel Elliott has a big game, and the Cowboys squeak out a home win.
Cowboys 23 – Buccaneers 16
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Bryson Treece | @BrysonTreece
The Cowboys are in need of momentum. They had it to spare throughout the middle of the season, and even managed to win a few games largely on that momentum before the Giants put their giant foot down. Now's the time to get it back.
Don't underestimate the power of mojo, brothers and sisters, and expect the mojo to return to the Dallas offensive roster tonight. The Buccaneers aren't an easy team to beat, but they're not incredibly difficult either. The Cowboys will find a way to win, and it'll be just convincing enough to let us all breathe a sigh of relief, at least for one more week.
Cowboys 24 – Buccaneers 13
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This game is by no means in the bag. The Cowboys will have to fight to win it, but I'm more of the opinion that the demon they'll be fighting is themselves, and not so much the Buccaneers.
Penalties, drops, interceptions, and fumbles have been gradually plaguing this team lately. Throw in a dose of offensive coordinator miscalculation and I think these 'Boys are ready to get down with this dirty, dirty South opponent. Buccaneers are going down!
Stay Safe Cowboys Nation. LET'S GO COWBOYS!!!
Ezekiel Elliott Productive in Cowboys Blowout Loss to Colts
It was as ugly of a performance as we’ve seen from the Dallas Cowboys in the Jason Garrett era. For the first time in a decade and a half, the Cowboys were shut out and it was a game full of bad pretty much everywhere you looked. Everywhere accept Ezekiel Elliott.
What a waste!
Elliott and the Cowboys offensive line played well for much of the game even with All-Pro Right Guard Zack Martin missing his first career start and losing starting Left Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo went out with an eye injury.
On the day, Ezekiel Elliott carries the ball 18 times for 87 yards and added another seven receptions for 41. 25 touches for 128 total yards is a good game, but with nothing else going right for the Cowboys it was a game that ultimately didn’t matter.
The one play where Elliott and the offensive line failed to come through was early in the game in a fourth and one that the Colts defense seemed to have snuffed out and blew up from the start. Elliott was able to convert a fourth and one later in the game. It looked like Elliott was close to breaking one for a long run several times but got tripped up at the end of the runs. He was his typical self this week. Taking runs that looked to be going for a loss and turning them into positive gains.
In the race for the NFL's rushing title, Elliott has extended his lead on Todd Gurley to nearly 100 yards rushing. At 1,349 rushing yards on the season, Elliott will have a great shot to set a career high in rushing yards with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants remaining on the schedule. The Bucs have allowed the sixth most rushing yards and the fourth most rushing touchdowns in the NFL this season while the Giants have allowed the fifth most rushing yards and the seventh most rushing touchdowns in 2018.
It was a horrendous loss at a time when the Cowboys could have locked up the NFC East and there is zero excuse for it. They got out coached, out played, and were beaten physically on both sides of the ball and that doesn't happen very often, especially to the defense.
But if we're looking for something positive to take away from this game, it's that with all the offensive line injuries and the poor play of the passing game, Ezekiel Elliott and the running game continues to find ways to shine. With as bad as the loss was, that's something to hang your hat on.
All the Cowboys need to do moving forward is Feed Zeke!
Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Can’t Finish Drives, Division Clinch with Shutout Loss at Colts
What is there to say about the Dallas Cowboys week 15 performance? After five straight wins, the last three coming at home, the Cowboys have only a return home to look forward to, facing the 5-9 Buccaneers on Sunday after a 23-0 defeat at the Colts.
Shutout for the first time since 2003, the Cowboys playoff hopes didn't take a hit despite the Redskins and Eagles winning on the road. Washington's last-second win went final just before the Colts ran the clock out on a game the Cowboys simply weren't ready for.
The Cowboys moved the ball well at times but failed to ever come away with points, opening the door for the Colts to expose this defense like it hasn't been all season. The Cowboys front four was hardly a factor on defense, allowing Colts Running Back Marlon Mack to average 5.1 yards a carry. Scoring the Colts only touchdowns, Mack and Andrew Luck assured the Cowboys running game wouldn't be a factor with their 10-0 halftime lead. Down to three backups at LG, C, and RG, Quarterback Dak Prescott stood little chance to bring the Cowboys back as the second half quickly got away from Dallas.
Internally, the Cowboys will have much more to say about their effort on Sunday, but here are just a few of my observations in the first somber edition of Sean's Scout since week nine.
- The Cowboys defensive problems up front extended well into the second level, with Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith both playing one of their worst games of the season.
The Colts took a blocked Brett Maher field goal 44 yards for the game's opening score. Mack accounted for 34 of these yards and the touchdown. On his seven yard run to set up first and goal, Smith was caught taking a poor angle on Mack. The Cowboys were aggressive rushing up the field on the play, with Smith ending up being in the best position to slow Mack.
Vander Esch was sealed and couldn't fight to get off, which happened again three plays later on third and goal. Leighton looking like a rookie for the first time was just the start of the Cowboys problems, and with Sean Lee being active yet conceding starting snaps to him, it shouldn't take long for Vander Esch to figure things out again.
- Jamize Olawale's dropped touchdown on third and goal to bring up a failed fourth and one was the moment the Cowboys were taken out of this game.
This sequence was particularly deflating because the Cowboys did a great job getting down the field to have an opportunity to score. The fourth down decision to run out of a heavy formation, inviting extra defenders to the line of scrimmage, looks especially egregious when stacked against the Amari Cooper rush that picked up the Cowboys initial first down. Rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz got involved, Elliott ripped off a 24 yard run, and the Cowboys still came away empty on this drive.
A year removed from coaching the Cowboys linebackers, Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus had his way with Scott Linehan's offense all afternoon, stymieing their most promising drive after Olawale should have scored easily.
- The Cowboys only chance to get back in the game was taken away from them by a Joe Looney holding call, just another example of players that had carried them through a winning streak not playing up to standard.
The Colts took the second half kickoff down the field to extend the lead to 17-0. On fourth and two on the ensuing possession, Prescott hit an injured Cole Beasley for 18 yards to the Colts' 23-yard line. The Cowboys red zone offense certainly doesn't provide the confidence that Dallas would finish the drive, but Looney's hold negated Beasley's catch and forced a punt.
The Colts tacked on a field goal and finished out the game without the Cowboys threatening again. Looney played down to the level of Adam Redmond to his left, who replaced Xavier Su'a-Filo, and Connor Williams in for Zack Martin - though I thought Williams held up fairly well and should be in play to earn more snaps wherever needed.
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The Cowboys can regroup and still accomplish everything they set out for this season, forced to make this loss to the Colts and afterthought like their last one to the Titans became. A five game win streak as a response is out of reach, but a streak of just one is all Dallas needs to clinch the NFC East and focus on improvements for the playoffs.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Indianapolis
In a game we all hoped would clinch the NFC East division, the Dallas Cowboys instead got shut out by the Indianapolis Colts in one of their worst performances of the season. It was a deplorable performance in every aspect of the game and something we hope to never see again.
I knew sooner or later the Dallas Cowboys self-inflicted wounds would catch up to them, and that's exactly what happened against the Colts. They had far too many penalties and mental mistakes once again and it allowed Indianapolis to take over the game. The Cowboys beat themselves plain and simple.
Before I get on a rant about yesterday's game, I better stick to the topic at hand and share with you what I believe to be The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Dallas Cowboys. As always, please feel free to use the comment section located at the end of the article to share any of your thoughts and opinions on this topic.
In a game where just about everything went wrong for the Dallas Cowboys it sometimes a little difficult to find any kind of silver lining. That was the case this week after the Cowboys were shut out by the Indianapolis Colts. But, the good for me is that Dallas still holds their playoff fate in their hands, despite the embarrassing loss.
Any thoughts of sitting any of the starters for the Cowboys has now gone out the window. They absolutely have to play to win to close out the 2018 regular-season, because they failed to do what needed to be done against the Colts to secure the NFC East division title. Luckily though, it didn't close the door on their playoff aspirations.
With the Buccaneers and Giants left remaining on their schedule, the Cowboys will have to find some way to get back to their winning ways. Hopefully this was just the slap in the face they needed in order to put things in perspective. They simply can't afford another showing like they had against Indianapolis at any point moving forward.
I knew exactly what I was going to put in the section as soon as it happened during the game. The bad this week for the Dallas Cowboys against the Indianapolis Colts for me was without a doubt their banged up, patched together offensive line.
The Cowboys were forced to go with a patchwork offensive line for the majority of the game against the Colts yesterday afternoon after Xavier Su'a-flio left the game after an eye injury, forcing the Cowboys to go with their third string offensive guard Adam Redmond. Su'a-flio immediately had to leave the stadium to have his eye examined by an optometrist, suggesting that it was a pretty significant injury.
Unfortunately, another injury on the OL for the Cowboys leaves them severely thin depth wise at the most inopportune time. Hopefully a week of rest has done Zack Martin's injured knee some good and he will be able to return to the lineup as soon as possible. That would allow Connor Williams to move back to LG and hopefully solidify the offensive line once again.
Maybe I underestimated the Indianapolis Colts offense or maybe I just overrated the Dallas Cowboys defense, but something was clearly off yesterday afternoon on the defensive side of the ball for the Cowboys. After being so good nearly all season, they were just plain ugly against Indianapolis.
The Cowboys defense didn't have an answer for the Colts offense, especially in the running game. Marlon Mack, a solid runner although not spectacular, completely gashed the Cowboys usually stout run defense. He ran for 139 rushing yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns, something that's been unheard of against Dallas' run D.
I was honestly completely shocked he had so much success. There were far too many missed tackles and blown assignments to my liking and I believe the coaching staff will make sure to focus on clearing that up moving forward. This team can't afford to let opposing offenses control the clock with their rushing attack. That's the Cowboys MO.
What's your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against Indianapolis?
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