Dallas Cowboys: Bucs provide ideal bounce back opponent
By Brad Austin
Fresh off a shutout embarrassment to the Colts, the Dallas Cowboys find an ideal bounce back opportunity in the unbalanced Buccaneers.
Nothing that happened last Sunday was beneficial for the Dallas Cowboys. A sound beating by a more invested Colts team has ushered in an avalanche of doubt.
Aside from a strong effort by Ezekiel Elliott, the offense was awful and couldn’t execute tying their own shoelaces. Basic shortcomings shown again by Dak Prescott continue to cause serious concern among the fan base.
The typically stingy defense couldn’t stop the run, pressure the pocket, or disrupt third down conversions (8 of 12 made). The performance was just plain ugly.
Still needing a win to secure the division title, Dallas now welcomes in a Tampa Bay team that provides a great opportunity to redeem their most recent failures.
BUCS OFFENSE VS COWBOYS DEFENSE
The Dallas defense has proven on several occasions they can limit very potent NFL offenses. It’s easy to write the Colts mishap off as simply a bad day at the office.
However if continued exposure occurs this week, real concern will surface. Especially if the 5th ranked rushing defense allows over 100 yards again. During the last six games, the Colts (178 yards) were the only team to rush for over 100 yards.
Fortunately the Tampa Bay offense has a dreadful ground attack (28th in yards, 31st in yards per carry). It’s an ideal spot for Dallas to resurrect run dominance.
At the same time, the Bucs boast the best passing offense in football. While they’ve cooled down some as of late, it’ll still be a prime test for the Cowboys air defense.
One positive is the Tampa Bay line is nowhere near as QB protective as the Colts. 37 sacks (9 in last 3 games) should allow Dallas’ pressure unit to reclaim their identity.
COWBOYS OFFENSE VS BUCS DEFENSE
Winning once does not dismiss Dak’s awful play the last two weeks. He’s done some good things, but many rookie mistakes cannot be scapegoated with poor blocking.
If he doesn’t clean it up, and most doubt he can under this staff, the ceiling for this team is one playoff win at best. I’d rather miss the playoffs and clean house before limping in and losing in the Wildcard round only to keep the coaching status quo.
It won’t get easier for Prescott to shine than against Tampa Bay’s 30th ranked defense. The perfect cure for the red zone afflicted has allowed 40 touchdowns in 51 (78.4%) opponent trips. If Dallas’ red zone struggles continue this week, all hope is lost.
Tampa Bay is equally bad at stopping the run and pass, ranking 27th in both categories. Their sole pass rusher with 7+ sacks, Jason Pierre-Paul, is a familiar face. Pierre-Paul has 11.5 sacks, but hasn’t sacked a Dallas quarterback in the last four meetings.
Zeke will run well, the line should fare better, and receivers will get open. It’s time for Dak to prove there’s any hope he has what it takes to ever lead a deep playoff run.