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Cowboys - Buccaneers - Three Key Matchups for Tampa Bay on Defense

Here are my three key matchups for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on defense.

E.J. Biggers vs Miles Austin

This matchup will probably decide the game tonight. Aqib Talib will move with Dez Bryant over the field, leaving cornerback E.J. Biggers on Miles Austin whenever the Bucs go to their nickel defense - which they should do often against the Cowboys. Miles Austin is a fast, talented receiver who is an excellent route runner, and has enough agility to break a lot of tackles after the catch.

Meanwhile, E.J. Biggers has struggled whenever he's had to guard a quality wide receiver with Ronde Barber moving inside in nickel sets. He's struggled against Calvin Johnson and against Jordy Nelson in particular, and with Miles Austin and Laurent Robinson behind Dez Bryant the Cowboys have the kind of depth at wide receiver to make life hell for Biggers. Look for Romo to pick on the third-year cornerback, and look for that matchup to decide the outcome of this game more than any other matchup.

The Bucs' defensive line vs Tony Romo
The Bucs need to pressure Tony Romo, but they more than anything need to keep him in the pocket. Romo is an excellent quarterback, but he is perhaps most dangerous when allowed to scramble and improvise. For the Bucs to stop Romo they need to pressure him - and that will be hard enough with Doug Free and Tyron Smith as the tackles without taking into account Romo's scrambling ability.

This demands disciplined play on the defensive line, and it requires the defensive line to play like a unit. That's something the Bucs have struggled to do all seasons, as stunts have routinely failed to work and the Bucs have given up contain on seemingly every play. If the Bucs do that against Romo, they'll be killed.

Ronde Barber vs Jason Witten

The Bucs have used Ronde Barber on versatile tight ends a lot this season. When Jimmy Graham was in the game for the Saints, Ronde Barber was on him. When Jermichael Finley was in the game for the Packers, Ronde Barber was on him. And when Jason Witten is in the game tonight, I expect Ronde Barber to be on him.

Jason Witten is one of the best blocking and pass-catching tight ends in the league, and that's why this matchup will present a problem for the Bucs. Ronde Barber has been a problem in run defense all season long, and Jason Witten has the ability to eat him up. Barber has done a good job in pass defense, and I'm a little less concerned about that aspect of this matchup. But the Cowboys should be able to really take advantage of Barber in the run game.