Wild Card Round Analysis
The Dallas Cowboys (12-5) will be getting their rematch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9) in the Wild Card Round. The season opener against the Bucs was an all-around disaster for the Cowboys.
Tampa Bay came out of that contest on top 19-3. The Cowboys simply could not get anything going on the offensive side of the ball, passing for only 173 yards and rushing for 71 yards. Along with a bad loss to begin the season, the Cowboys lost Dak Prescott for the foreseeable future with a thumb injury.
But with 18 weeks in between their first matchup the Cowboys have gotten progressively better in all aspects of the game. The Cowboys finished fourth in scoring with 27.5 points per game and fifth in points allowed per game with 20.1.
The Cowboys have had their flashes of looking great but concluded their regular season with a loss to the Washington Commanders in a disappointing fashion of 26-6. If the same team shows up against Tom Brady and the Bucs, it will result in another first-round playoff exit.
This is certainly a different team than the Buccaneers saw in week one but how will this matchup end?
QB Matchup: Dak Prescott vs Tom Brady
Dak Prescott has had a roller coaster of a season for the Dallas Cowboys. After underperforming in their first matchup in week one, missing five weeks due to a thumb injury, then leading the Cowboys to the best scoring offense in the NFL, then throwing an interception in seven consecutive games.
Prescott has all the tools and talent to be an elite quarterback. He just has to become more consistent and limit the interceptions (which has never been an issue until this season). And the turnovers are not simply due to Prescott’s decision-making, a multitude of them have come from his receivers’ mistakes.
Nevertheless, Prescott has to put his best performance together to win this week’s game against the Buccaneers. In his career, he is 0-3 against Tom Brady-led teams. This game is a big test for not only the Cowboys but also Prescott. He has a lot to prove this upcoming Monday against the G.O.A.T.
Tom Brady is 7-0 against the Cowboys in his career.
There truly is not much to say with this one, Brady simply has the Cowboys’ number every time they step on a field together.
In week one, Brady completed 18 of 27 passes for 212 yards along with a touchdown and interception. Not a dominating performance but enough to walk out of AT&T Stadium with a win. However, Brady has struggled at times this season. In December Brady threw seven interceptions in four games played.
In what could be his last season in Tampa Bay, Brady will certainly be looking to end on a good note, not a first-round exit.
Cowboys’ Keys to Winning
Get the offense rolling/ Take care of the rock: If this offense can play as it did against the Minnesota Vikings where they won 40-3, the Cowboys should come out and dominate. The Cowboys need to come out and get all of their playmakers involved. Last postseason against the San Francisco 49ers, Ceedee Lamb and Tony Pollard only had eight touches combined. OC Kellen Moore simply cannot let that happen again. Those two Pro Bowlers will win the game with their playmaking ability. Also, the Cowboy cannot miss out on easy opportunities to convert any type of point, ESPECIALLY in the red zone.
As I’ve stated, Dak Prescott cannot turn the ball over. Tom Brady and Tampa Bay’s offense will make them pay if they do. On special teams that should be another emphasis going into Monday night. Two special teams’ turnovers last week changed the entire momentum of the game against the Commanders. Turnovers simply cannot happen in the playoffs.
Micah Parsons: The two-time All-Pro needs to show up on Monday night. When Parsons gets going he truly is unstoppable. In their last matchup, the reigning DROY had five tackles along with two sacks on Tom Brady.
It’s been four weeks since Parsons was able to record a whole sack. And it does seem like teams are starting to scheme against him better limiting his big-play ability. Not only does Parsons need to show up, but DC Dan Quinn needs to scheme him differently. Parsons is being used strictly as a pass rusher off the edge as of late. He is playing his best football when he is lining up all around the field, he is too versatile and effective in multiple roles to just line him up in the same position every play.
If Quinn gets Parsons back moving from linebacker to defensive end to nickel corner, Parsons will wreak havoc on the Bucs’ offense.
As a whole the Cowboys defense should strive. The Buc’s offensive line is pretty banged up from an injury standpoint and Dallas needs to exploit that. They should have countless opportunities to get to Brady and create takeaways.
Final Prediction: Cowboys 31 -Buccaneers 17
I can confidently say that I think the Cowboys surprise a lot of people this Monday night. After last week’s poor performance, the Cowboys should prepare and come out with a fire set underneath them. Tampa Bay is not the team they were the past two seasons and their performance in the last month or so has been underwhelming.
This team has too much talent and potential to have back-to-back season first-round exits. This is the year they can make a deep playoff run if the offense gets going.
Going into their matchup last season against the 49ers, I had a certain feeling they would come short. And it did in a heartbreaking loss.
This is potentially Brady’s last game as a Buccaneer and it could also be his first loss against the Dallas Cowboys.
And if the Cowboys once again fall short, HC Mike McCarthy could certainly be on the hot seat. In my opinion, they need to at least make the NFC Conference Championship to secure McCarthy’s job. Jerry Jones is growing more impatient by the year with his team’s constant underperformance.
Nevertheless, I think the Cowboys can win in a rather dominating performance. In all three phases, I expect Dallas to control the game. What will the outcome be?
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