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Buccaneers vs. Cowboys Preview: What do the stats say?

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football tonight, which means we need some previews. Let's take a look at the stats and see what they tell us.

Dallas' Defense

Bucs Dal
Off Pass      (yds/g) Off Rush   (yds/g) PF         (ppg) Def Pass      (yds/g) Def Rush   (yds/g) PA         (ppga)
Rank 15th 17th 18th 28th 2nd 5th
Yds/g 250.3 104.8 22.5 267.8 83.1 18.3
Diff (Def - Off)
Pass Rush PA
yards yards points
17.5 -21.7 -4.2

Dallas poses yet another strong defense that the Bucs' offense must face. Fortunately, the Bucs have faced strong defenses in Points Against with Kansas City and Seattle. Surprisingly, San Diego has a top 10 rush defense.

All of those prior games can give us an insight as to how the Bucs offense can do. Unfortunately, versus KC and Seattle, the Bucs were only able to put up an average of 17 points.

Bucs' Defense

Dal Bucs
Off Pass      (yds/g) Off Rush   (yds/g) PF         (ppg) Def Pass      (yds/g) Def Rush   (yds/g) PA         (ppga)
Rank 20th 2nd 6th 16th 21st 16th
Yds/g 233.1 152.2 26.2 249.8 110.7 22.8
Diff (Def - Off)
Pass Rush PA
yards yards points
16.7 -41.5 -3.4

We already know that the season average does not do justice to what the Bucs' defense has been producing during the five game win streak. For my Drive Analysis, I do not include points scored outside the defense's realm of control.  For the past five games, the defense is permitting 12.4 points per game allowed. In those same five games, the defense has created 14 turnovers.

How has Dallas' offense fared recently?

Game 11 vs Washington -  31 points

Game 12 vs Minnesota -€” 17 points

Game 13 vs New York Giants -€” 7 points

Minnesota's defense PPGA rank is 2nd at 17.3 points. NY Giant's defense PPGA rank is 7th at 18.8 points.  Washington's defense PPGA rank is 22nd at 22.4 points, but Washington's offense is a top 10 offense whereas the other two teams rank 24th and 25th, respectively.

The caveat would be that both Minnesota and the Giants have better run defenses. That is something the Bucs' defense is not so great at defending consistently.

Conclusion

The Dallas Cowboys represent the most complete team that the Bucs will face, offensively and defensively by total rankings. But I like finding patterns and trends to give me, perhaps, a better picture.

Dallas Cowboys
Games 11 - 13
Game Team PF PA Diff
11 Was 31 26 5
12 Min 17 15 2
13 NYG 7 10 -3

It seems the point differentials for the past three games have been very close.

Dallas Cowboys
Games 1 - 13
game team PF PA Diff
1 NYG 19 20 -1
2 Was 27 23 4
3 Chi 31 17 14
4 SF 24 17 7
5 Cin 28 14 14
6 GB 30 16 14
7 Phi 29 23 6
8 Cle 35 10 25
9 Pit 35 30 5
10 Bal 27 17 10
11 Was 31 26 5
12 Min 17 15 2
13 NYG 7 10 -3

For being the 6th best scoring team and 5th best defensive points against team, Dallas seems to be involved in a lot of games where the differential is 7 points or less. I was expecting Dallas to be more dominant in their games.

The most recent two games for Dallas were against top defenses with Minnesota and NY Giants. The Bucs' defense shares that commonality of being dominant in recent games. If the Bucs want a chance to win, then the defense must continue on creating turnovers -€” specifically turnovers that lead to points such as pick-6's, pickup-6's, or turnovers with under 50 yards to traverse to score a TD.

I would like to believe there is an offensive spurt waiting to burst out of the Bucs' offense, but the offensive line is preventing it from having a competent run game. No competent run game equates to more third and long situations.

The Bucs' offense's prime directive, that I have seen, is to try to limit the opposing offenses to 10 offensive drive opportunities or less. The run game does not have to be highly effective, but barely competent to eat up clock to shorten the game. Coach Koetter knows his positives rely on the defense; limiting the negatives of offensive turnovers as well as 3-n-outs.

TB Bucs
TOP and Opponent Offensive Drive Opportunities
Game Team TOP Result Opp Off Drives
Min : Sec
9 Chi 37 : 9 W 13
10 KC 35 : 18 W 9
11 Sea 33 : 39 W 10
12 SD 31 : 41 W 10
13 NO 33 : 15 W 10

This game should not be a high scoring affair. If there is a high scoring affair, then it would probably mean a blowout win for one team.