Sun. Jan 29th, 2023

The ultimate sport of Tremendous Wild Card Weekend pits the NFC South champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in opposition to the Dallas Cowboys. 

These two groups met again in Week 1, when Tampa beat Dallas 19-3 in probably the most embarrassing video games of the season for the Cowboys — a sport that ended with Dak Prescott struggling a damaged thumb that seemed prefer it may finish the Cowboys’ probabilities of even making it to the place they’re now. We all know what occurred subsequent: the Dallas protection and Cooper Rush stepped up and saved the season, then Prescott returned and took the offense to a different degree whereas the protection backslid. The Cowboys now enter the rematch as a street favourite. 

The Buccaneers had been actually one of many NFL’s most disappointing groups this season, ending the yr with an 8-9 report and moving into the postseason solely by advantage of getting performed in arguably the league’s worst division. And but, none of that issues what you get to the match. They’ve a chance now to play a house sport, and to make up for what they could not do all through the common season. 

So, which of those two groups will advance to tackle the 49ers subsequent weekend? We’ll discover out quickly sufficient. Earlier than we break down the matchup, this is a have a look at how one can watch the sport. 

Tips on how to watch

Date: Monday, Jan. 9 | Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa)
TV: ESPN | Stream: fuboTV (attempt without spending a dime)  
Comply with: CBS Sports activities App 
Odds: Cowboys -2.5, O/U 45.5 (courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook)

When the Cowboys have the ball

Take a look at the general numbers, and the Cowboys had one of many NFL’s greatest offenses this season regardless of their beginning quarterback lacking a 3rd of the yr. They completed eleventh in complete yards and fourth in factors, in addition to seventh in Tru Media’s model of EPA per play. Slim it down to simply the video games after Dak Prescott returned from damage, and the Cowboys principally matched the Payments for second in EPA per play. 

However there’s nonetheless one thing about their offense that leaves one chilly. They will undergo stretches the place they appear fairly dangerous, and battle to get the ball to their most explosive playmakers. That occurred of their playoff loss in opposition to the 49ers final season, when Tony Pollard obtained simply six complete touches and CeeDee Lamb was focused 5 instances, in contrast with 13 touches (for 35 yards) for Ezekiel Elliott and a mixed 18 targets for the likes of Dalton Schultz and Cedrick Wilson. The Cowboys limped their approach to 307 complete yards and 17 factors, and received despatched residence early in embarrassing vogue.

This season, they principally averted these forms of video games… aside from bookending the season with them in opposition to the Buccaneers in Week 1 and the Commanders in Week 18. These may need been the 2 worst video games of Prescott’s whole profession (by EPA per dropback, they had been sixth- and fourth-worst, in response to Tru Media), as he mixed to finish simply 28 of 66 passes for 262 yards, one landing, and two interceptions. Lamb had 7 catches for 81 yards and a rating on 18 targets in these two video games, whereas Pollard had 15 touches for 41 complete yards. 

Merely put, none of that may occur if the Cowboys have a hope of profitable this sport on the street. They should be the group that led the league in scoring between Prescott’s return in Week 7 and Week 17, scoring at the least 27 factors in all however one sport regardless of averaging 1.6 turnovers per contest. The offensive line’s decline over the second half of the season (and Tyron Smith’s relative struggles switching again to the best aspect after a Corridor of Fame profession on the left) led to a decline in dashing effectiveness, and Prescott’s newfound aggression has had its positives (extra explosive performs) and downsides (extra picks). 

The way in which for Dallas to win this sport is by concentrating its offense round its explosive gamers. Matriculating the ball downfield all sport lengthy performs into Tampa’s palms. Mike McCarthy, Kellen Moore, and Co. must keep away from the temptation to lean on what’s acquainted and protected (Zeke runs on first-and-10, checkdowns to Schultz over the center, and many others.), and as an alternative attempt to press the benefit they’ve on this contest. 

When the Buccaneers have the ball

The Buccaneers offense this season has not seemed all that very similar to what we noticed throughout the first two years of the Tom Brady period. In 2020 and 2021, Tampa checked in seventh and second in complete yards, third and second in complete factors, third and first in Soccer Outsiders’ DVOA, and fifth and third in Tru Media’s model of EPA per play. This season, the Buccaneers ranked fifteenth in yards, twenty fifth in factors, sixteenth in DVOA, and twenty second in EPA per play. 

The problems alongside the offensive line — Ali Marpet’s retirement, Ryan Jensen’s knee damage, the lack of Alex Cappa in free company, Tristan Wirfs’ accidents, Donovan Smith’s precipitous decline — had been evident for many of the season, they usually impacted each facet of the offense. 

The run sport was just about a catastrophe for your entire season. Tampa ranked thirtieth in rush offense DVOA, and solely two NFL groups averaged fewer yards earlier than contact per carry (1.16), in response to Tru Media. The Dallas protection really completed the season ranked fifth in rush protection DVOA, however the Bucs ran throughout them when these two groups met again in Week 1, with Leonard Fournette turning his 21 carries into 127 yards. (Fournette then averaged 3.2 yards per carry over the remainder of the season. His 127 yards in opposition to Dallas accounted for 19% of his complete dashing yards all yr.) 

Tampa additionally discovered itself unable to push the ball down the sphere within the passing sport for many of the season. After Tom Brady averaged 9.06 air yards per try in 2020 and eight.07 per try final season, his common go traveled simply 6.83 yards within the air this season, in response to Tru Media. Simply 1.0.4% of his passes traveled at the least 20 yards downfield, a steep drop from a excessive of 15.4% throughout Tampa’s Tremendous Bowl season. The one time it actually seemed just like the Bucs may get the ball downfield was two weeks in the past in opposition to the Panthers, when Brady and Mike Evans repeatedly torched poor C.J. Henderson, who gave up 7 catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns when in protection vs. Evans. 

The Cowboys have been very susceptible to downfield passes in current weeks, however it’s principally been groups focusing on whichever cornerback is aligned throughout from Trevon Diggs. (If the 2 matchups between these two groups over the previous two seasons are any indication, Diggs will shadow Evans. In these two video games, Evans has totaled 8 catches for 95 yards and a landing.) Since Anthony Brown was misplaced for the season, Dallas has tried Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright, Mackensie Alexander, and Trevon Mullen, and none of it has labored. Xavier Rhodes has been getting work in that spot throughout practices, and he may get the primary alternative on Monday night time. Brady must be prepared to work that matchup with Chris Godwin, Russell Gage, Julio Jones, or whomever else aligns throughout from Rhodes (or no matter nook the Cowboys throw on the market). 

The way in which Dallas can mitigate all that is by rediscovering its go rush, which has disappeared down the stretch of the season. After recording a number of sacks in every of the primary 12 video games of the season, Dallas has two sack-less video games in its final 5, and totaled simply six sacks in these 5 contests. Previous to that, the Cowboys had averaged 4 per sport. (Apparently, the Cowboys nonetheless persistently received strain throughout that stretch; they had been simply unable to show that strain into sacks.) Except Micah Parsons, Demarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Sam Williams, and Dante Fowler dominate the sport up entrance, it may be troublesome for Dallas to take care of issues on the again finish. 

Featured Sport | Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Dallas Cowboys

Prediction: Buccaneers 27, Cowboys 26

By Admin

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