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!