The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hosting a playoff game this week as they take on the Dallas Cowboys Monday night in the NFL’s Wild Card Round.
We fired off some questions regarding the state of Dallas’ team for David Halprin of Blogging The Boys to see if he can shed some light on what’s going on with the Cowboys.
1. Right off the bat, what does the future hold for Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys? Is that a marriage that will continue, win or lose on Monday night?
That’s a popular question right now. It was actually asked of Jerry Jones a day or so ago and he came out and basically said that McCarthy’s future isn’t dependent on the outcome of this game. He said he has a lot more information to evaluate McCarthy on than just this game and intimated that the coach’s job was safe. But, of course he’s going to say something like that, he’s not going to rock the boat heading into the game so it’s hard to know if Jones really believes what he is saying, or if he is just not creating a story the week of the playoff game.
For a while now I have believed that McCarthy’s job status was tied to the playoffs. Another one-and-done might just be too much for the franchise and they have always wanted to get Sean Payton back in the organization after he left all those years ago. There is also the possibility of Dan Quinn being a candidate to be elevated to the top job. I still kind of feel that McCarthy’s job is related to his postseason success this year. Jerry says no, but we’ll see if that holds up if the Cowboys lose.
2. Dallas was averaging nearly 30 points per game throughout the regular season and near the top of the league in red zone efficiency. What has been the reason for their success offensively and what can the Buccaneers do defensively to stop them?
It’s been a combination of things that have the Cowboys offense scoring so many points. One is Dak Prescott. Everyone is talking about how many interceptions he has thrown, and it’s true it’s way too many. But, he has been lighting it up in almost all categories since he returned from injury. When Prescott gets on a roll with accurate passing, the Cowboys offense is a beast. The only thing that slows it down is penalties or the aforementioned interceptions.
Complementing that is the Cowboys generally can run the ball well, and that is important for red zone success. Ezekiel Elliott is about as good as anybody if you only need a few yards, so being able to run the ball effectively for scores really helps the red zone efficiency. And the Cowboys defense is very good about getting turnovers, leading to some easy scores that can jack up the point totals. The key to stopping them is to slow down the run game, force them to go on long drives and wait for them to self-destruct. The Cowboys specialize in blowing up their own success.
3. The Cowboys were Top 10 in scoring defense in 2022. How have the Cowboys been able to achieve this? Were there any weaknesses on their defense that Buccaneers offense can try to exploit?
The Cowboys defense has had two different seasons in one. For much of the year, their pass rush was terrorizing offenses and were leading the league in sacks. The secondary was strong with three competent corners and some very effective safeties. They were elite. The only thing they did poorly was defend the run. Then injuries started to happen. They lost starting corner Jourdan Lewis, then starting corner Anthony Brown. The pass rush also slowed down and went into a month-long dry spell where the sacks were hard to come by and lesser quarterbacks were having success. So the defense they present today is not as good as the one they had for much of the season. The outside corner opposite Trevon Diggs is a big weak spot and I’m sure Tom Brady is going to pick on it repeatedly. The Cowboys run defense is also suspect. Those two areas are easily exploitable.
4. We all know the players Micah Parsons and Dak Prescott are and what they bring to the defense and offense for Dallas. But are their others that came on strong throughout the season that Tampa Bay should be concerned about?
Edge players Dorance Armstrong and Sam Williams are two guys that can cause havoc in the offensive backfield. Armstrong is a veteran who is having his best year and has an all-around game, he even makes some plays on special teams by blocking punts. Williams is a rookie who gets limited playing time due to the Cowboys depth at the position, but he makes the most of his opportunities. The Cowboys pass rush doesn’t stop with just DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons.
On offense, running back Tony Pollard has finally had his breakout season. He is electric with the ball in his hands. Ezekiel Elliott still does a lot of the meat and potatoes runs to pick up short yardage, touchdowns and such, but Pollard is the one who can do real damage in just one play. A defense has to keep him under control because when he gets rolling, it’s almost impossible to stop the Cowboys offense.
5. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Dallas is favored by 2.5 points as the away team. How do you see this game playing out?
I think it’s going to be a close game. Over the last month the Cowboys have not been as good of a team as they had been previously, and some of that is due to injuries. The Cowboys like a quarterback they can pressure and sack, but Brady is renowned for getting the ball out of his hands quickly and that can frustrate the Cowboys defense. The Cowboys offensive line has been going through some re-shuffling and the running game has been hurt by that. I think both teams will struggle to score a lot of points, and it will come down to the wire. But I’ll take the Cowboys in a 24-21 win on a last-second field goal.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the over/under is currently set to 45.5 for this matchup.