JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 11: Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dives for a touchdown during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 11, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will look to break their seven-game losing streak against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday and need to win convincingly to stand a chance of saving their coach. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys are fighting for the division lead - or at least a Wild Card playoff spot. Both teams have something to play for, but the Bucs have failed to show up in previous weeks. Can they do so this week?
If you ask me, the answer is clearly no. The Dallas Cowboys have too much depth at wide receiver, will make an effort to match up Demarcus Ware with Jeremy Trueblood, and Josh Freeman has simply not played well enough to win this game.
Tampa Bay does have a chance to win this game, but they will have to show up and play the best football they are capable of playing. Recent history suggests the Bucs will do the exact opposite, and play their worst football: that's what they've done the past two games.
To stop the Cowboys, the Bucs will have to figure out a way to stop Tony Romo and his plethora of wide receivers. Aqib Talib will be back and the Bucs can count on him to match up with physical monster Dez Bryant, but they have to account for Miles Austin, Laurent Robinson and Jason Witten as well. With Ronde Barber often playing the tight end, E.J. Biggers will have to stop Miles Austin, while Elbert Mack or Myron Lewis is likely to be tasked with stopping Laurent Robinson. That is not going to end well.
Worse yet, the Cowboys offensive line has been excellent at stopping pass rushers, especially their offensive tackles. With Doug Free at left tackle and first-round pick Tyron Smith at right tackle the Cowboys have excellent bookend tackles. That's a problem for a Tampa Bay team that cannot generate consistent inside pressure, and whose best players are its defensive ends. And we haven't even talked about a running game that isn't overly strong, especially since it relies on Felix Jones now that Demarco Murray has gone on IR. But the Bucs have been
The Bucs defense is likely to be torched by a multidimensional and explosive Dallas offense. So the only chance the Bucs have is to generate points on offense, and hope to force a few turnovers. Of course, to do so, they need Josh Freeman to play well. He certainly didn't have a good game against the Jaguars and has been inconsistent at best this season. Accuracy has especially been an issue, and while the Dallas defense is not good outside of their pass rush, Freeman can't be inaccurate and expect to put up any points.
There is Legarrette Blount, but he has not impressed the past two games. And, as we've said all year long, the Bucs seem to be entirely incapable of using the running game as the basis of their offense.
And, of course, that pass rush could destroy the Bucs. Look for the Cowboys to try to isolate Ware on Trueblood, who simply doesn't have the talent to stop Ware. Donald Penn would have a better shot and has done well against some premium pass rushers this year, but he's also coming off a terrible game against Jeremy Mincey of all people.
There is one positive: the Cowboys have managed to blow a lot of leads in the second half this year, and have not been able to consistently win games in the fourth quarter. If Josh Freeman manages to recapture last year's fourth quarter magic, there's always a chance the Bucs squeak out with a close win.
Ultimately, though, I think the Bucs lose this game - and lose it in blowout fahsion. 31-17 seems like a reasonable score to me. What do you think?