The red-hot Tampa Buccaneers come to Dallas to play the Cowboys in a game with a lot of playoff implications for both teams.
Dallas currently stands firmly on top of the NFC playoff picture, with a two-game lead for home field advantage and a first round bye, while the Bucs sit in the 6th position at 8-5 with the Redskins and Packers nipping at their heels.
The Bucs are riding a five-game win streak into Big D, wins that include dominant defensive performances over elite quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Drew Brees.
The Tampa Bay defense smothered Brees and the Saints all day long in the team’s 16-11 win last Sunday, pestering the former All-Pro quarterback with three interceptions, 1 sack, and 5 quarterback hits.
The stout Bucs defense will face a Dallas offense that has cooled off the last couple weeks. The Cowboys’ offense has only mustered 24 points combined in its last 2 games versus Minnesota and New York.
Sunday night Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott finally looked like a fourth-round rookie after an otherwise dazzling debut campaign. Prescott doubled his season interception total throwing two picks in Sunday’s 10-7 loss to the Giants, while only throwing for 165 yards and one touchdown.
Dallas head coach Jason Garrett made it known there was never any thoughts about going back to veteran Tony Romo during Prescott’s struggle last Sunday night. Garrett is confident his young quarterback will bounce back.
“That’s what (Prescott) does best, he’s had a number of situations throughout the course of the year that he just handles,” Garrett said Wednesday. “There’s no question that’s his strength as a person, his poise, his composure, his confidence in himself to focus on the task at hand.”
Prescott says there were several breakdowns in the Giants game that need to be ironed out.
“I think I need to do a better job of communicating, putting everybody on the same page,” Prescott said. “That all falls on me when the offensive line, receivers, and me aren’t on the same page, I think that’s the easiest way I can sum it all up.”
Dallas will look to follow a similar game plan in this one, using the NFL’s leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott and one of the league’s best offensive lines to dictate the pace of play.
“As much as we’ve controlled the ball this year, actually Dallas is number one in the league in terms of time of possession,” Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter said. “Their offense really controls the ball.”
Elliott sounds like a man ready for a bounce-back performance from the running game against an ever-improving Bucs’ defense.
“They’re great pass rushers, but what I think we have on them is our physicality, our will to run the ball,” Elliott said. “That’s going to be big for us, getting the run game started early and setting the tone.”
Prediction Time: “Famous” Jameis Winston and the Bucs roll into Dallas trying to get Mike Evans and the passing game back on track early. The Cowboys stick to the script that has worked so well this season, as Elliott and the O-line take some pressure off of Prescott and control the line of scrimmage as well as the clock. The Cowboys grind out a 24-17 victory.