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Game Notes

Dallas Vs Tampa Bay Staff Picks And Pregame Notes

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Buccaneers

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.

Jameis Winston, BuccaneersAs 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!!!



This is the General Staff account for Inside The Star, a blog for Dallas Cowboys news, scores, schedule, rumors, and analysis. We are the official home for @CowboysNation on Twitter. Follow us today for new content updates straight from our timeline. To learn more about our staff, please visit our Staff listing.

Game Notes

NFC East Showdown: Cowboys Offense Primed to Dominate Redskins

Brian Martin

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Will Dallas' Recent Offensive Success Continue Against Washington?

The Dallas Cowboys are probably as confident as they have been all season as an offense after completely manhandling the Jacksonville Jaguars defense last week. They were able to put up 40 points on the Jaguar's top-ranked defense and now have to do the same against their division rival, the Washington Redskins.

I don't think there would be any argument if I were to say the Washington Redskins defense isn't nearly as talented as the Cowboys faced last week with the Jaguars. In fact, the Redskins are ranked near the bottom of the league in almost every defensive category, which should have Dallas' offensive players primed for this matchup.

As things stand right now, the Washington Redskins are giving up 21.2 points per game which ranks 24th in the NFL. They are also giving up 344 total yards (25th in the NFL) and 227.2 passing yards a game (24th). The lone bright spot of their defense is stopping the run, where they are currently ranked 12th in the NFL and are only allowing 116.8 rushing yards to opposing running backs.

Luckily, the Dallas Cowboys and Quarterback Dak Prescott looked to have found a groove with their passing game last week against the Jaguars top-ranked passing defense. With the Redskins ranked near the bottom of the league in passing defense, I think the Cowboys should and probably will build upon the success they had last week.

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

Now, I fully expect the Cowboys passing game to find success once again against the Redskins, but I also believe Running Back Ezekiel Elliott to dominate on the ground like he has in the past against Washington.

Zeke only played in one game against the Redskins last season, but absolutely dominated in that contest. He rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns a year ago and I wouldn't be surprised if he is close to that milestone this week as well, even if it is against the strength of Washington's defense.

I'm really hoping I'm not a being a little overconfident here, but I guess I'm just buying into the success the Cowboys had on the offensive side of the ball last week. The offense finally started to do the things that have made them successful in the past and I'm expecting that to carry over into this week.

I believe we will see Prescott using his mobility once again, although I don't know if he will rush for 83 yards. I'm also expecting to see Wide Receiver Cole Beasley heavily involved in the passing game again because Washington doesn't have a defensive back who can cover him. Of course, let's not forget Ezekiel Elliott. I'm expecting him have a big game as well.

Overall, I really don't see the Washington Redskins defense giving the Dallas Cowboys any problems on the offensive side of the ball as long as they execute the way they did last week. I know when these two teams square off against one another it's usually a slobber knocker, but I think the Cowboys are the better team and is the one that comes away with the victory.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys offense will dominate the Redskins defense?



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Game Notes

Can Dak Prescott Continue His Washington Domination On Sunday?

Kevin Brady

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Dak Prescott, Redskins

There has been a lot of change within the Dallas Cowboys since 2016.

Veteran playmakers like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are no longer around, Tony Romo lost his starting quarterback job, and Dallas has jumped from league best to worst to average seemingly every week.

One thing hasn't changed these past two years, however, and that is the Cowboys beating the Washington Redskins. In fact, since Dak Prescott took over as the starting quarterback in Dallas the Cowboys are 4-0 against Washington. Even as the sky was falling in Dallas a year ago, and the Cowboys offense looked like the worst in football, they still found a way to dominate Washington 38-14 and snap their then-three game losing streak.

In his four career games against Washington, Dak Prescott has quarterback ratings of 103.7, 108.9, 82.2, and 93.4. To put this into context, Prescott's average quarterback rating this season is 85.5 and that is really driven by his outlier positive rating of 118.6 against the Detroit Lions. To be fair, however, his 54.5 rating against Seattle was also a heavy outlier.

Prescott isn't the only Cowboy who has exercised this dominance over Washington, though. As Staff Writer John Williams has pointed out, Jason Garrett is 11-4 against the Redskins since becoming the Cowboys head coach, and Dallas has won six of their last eight against Washington since 2014.

So heading into Sunday's rematch with their division foe, history says the Cowboys should be feeling rather confident, right?

Well there's another streak occurring the Cowboys will actually be looking to break on Sunday. That, of course, is their winless start on the road this season.

Ironically the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys have actually been a good road team until now, going a combined 12-4 the past two seasons. And, since the new stadium opened in 2009, the Cowboys have been historically better on the road than at home, making this year's 3-3 start even more bizarre.

To put it simply, "somethings gotta give" on Sunday. Either Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will continue to beat up on the Redskins and get a leg up in the NFC East, or this horrendous road start will continue for another week.

Either way, I'm sure the takes will be hot on Monday morning.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Defense Getting Players Back at the Right Time

John Williams

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Could Any of These 3 Cowboys Disappoint Cowboys Nation in 2017?

The Dallas Cowboys have played really well on defense this season allowing the seventh fewest rushing yards per game, the third lowest yards per carry, and the eighth fewest passing yards per game this season. They've done it for most of the 2018 season without Defensive Tackles Maliek Collins and David Irving, and Linebacker Sean Lee, who's missed the last three games with a strained hamstring.

This week the Cowboys play the NFC East leading Washington Redskins, making this a very important matchup for the Cowboys playoff chances. The Dallas Cowboys are 2-2 in the NFC in 2018, so a win against the Washington Redskins on Sunday carries much more importance. If the Cowboys have hopes of making the playoffs, they're going to have to improve their record against the NFC and they can on Sunday with their defense getting back to (nearly) full health.

Still awaiting word on Chidobe Awuzie's availability for this week.

Antwaun Woods, Tyrone Crawford, and David Ross have held up really well on the Cowboys defensive interior without Irving and Collins, which makes their return even more important. Better depth along the defensive interior is only going to help those guys have more productive snaps. Both Collins and Irving are explosive penetrating defensive tackles that give interior offensive lineman fits with their combination of strength and quickness. They play the run and pass with equal effectiveness and make life a lot easier for the linebackers and the defensive ends.

In their first game back in week six, Irving and Collins combined for two quarterback pressures, a quarterback hit (Irving) and a sack (Collins). Irving also drew a holding call on a punt.

Getting them back takes so much pressure off the defensive ends to generate pressure in passing situations. With better pressure from the interior of the defense, DeMarcus Lawrence and the other defensive ends will have better opportunities for sacks because opposing quarterbacks won't be able to step up in the pocket with as much ease as they have through the first five games of the season.

The linebacker duo of Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch have been one of the best position groups for the Cowboys this season. As good as they've been, Sean Lee is still one of the better linebackers in the NFL. Though he's leading the Cowboys in solo tackles with 43, Leighton Vander Esch probably sees a decrease in his snaps with Lee returning. They'll all play, however, and the Cowboys will look for ways to have them all on the field together.

Getting Lee, Irving, and Collins on the field at the same time with the defensive parts that the Cowboys already boast in Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Byron Jones is going to make playing offense nearly impossible.

How do you attack these guys?

The Washington Redskins rank in the bottom third in passing yards, yards per attempt, and are 18th in the NFL in passer rating. Washington ranks in the top half of the league in rushing yards per game, but rank 23rd in yards per attempt.

If there's an area where the Dallas Cowboys defense has been susceptible this season it's against the pass and having all of their best defensive players available for this week seven NFC East matchup is going to make all the difference. They'll be able to generate pressure with fewer blitzes because of the ability of Irving and Collins to generate pressure from the interior.

Though the Redskins have had some success on the ground in 2018, it's going to be tough sledding for Adrian Peterson and the Redskins run game. Lee, Vander Esch, and Smith all play the run extremely well and with the improved talent at defensive tackle, Peterson is going to find very few open lanes against the Dallas Cowboys defense.

The elite defense that we imagined this team could be may be right around the corner. Having everyone healthy and on the field together as the Dallas Cowboys get ready for the stretch run of the NFL season is huge.

Get ready NFL. Points are going to be really hard to come by.



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