Cowboys vs Buccaneers: Gut projection
Projection: Dallas Cowboys 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23
This one isn’t going to be for the faint of heart. This matchup is going to be a four quarter war of stamina, guts, and nerves for the teams, coaches, and fans.
This one sets up for a bit of points in it but is ultimately decided by the turnover battle. In a change of fortune, Dallas comes out on top of the turnover margin in this one and it is the difference maker in a four-point win.
A hugely important stat to notice is that Tony Pollard had just seven carries last week. Whether by design or how the game shook out, he practically got a week to rest. That is vital in this matchup. The Bucs allow 120.7 rushing yards per game and Pollard will be key in getting this ground game going with chunk plays. Ezekiel Elliott will grind out his tough yards for first downs, but Pollard’s ability in the run and pass game has to be utilized this week.
Getting the ground game going also makes Prescott’s life so much easier. He can rely on play action with linebackers slowed down and defensive backs caught with their eyes in the backfield. This opens up easy throws and lets the Cowboys get into the full playbook.
Amidst all the interceptions, all the noise, taking on the GOAT on the road, this game will be the defining moment Dak Prescott needs when he throws a fourth quarter touchdown to go up late.
Defensively, as discussed earlier, the Cowboys have their hands full in the pass game. The quickest way to slow it down is going to be pressure. Unlike a few of the recent QBs that Dallas has seen, Brady does not have the mobility they did. If they can generate pressure, their odds of getting home go up substantially.
Micah Parsons has to have a defining moment in this game. It could be late sack, a forced fumble, or an interception, but this is where big time players make big time plays. Parsons, Demarcus Lawrence, and the defensive line need to be able to pin their ears back and pass rush.
The best way to let that happen is to play with a lead. That won’t be most of the game, but it will be when it matters. A late lead pits the greatest comeback artist of all-time against a Cowboys’ defense everyone is counting on to crumble. Only they don’t. Dan Quinn gets the ‘Boys to stand tall in the biggest moments of their careers to this point. Onto the Divisional Round.