The wild-card weekend is ending, and we’ve got a matchup of Tom Brady against a team he has never lost against. The Cowboys and Buccaneers met for a Sunday night matchup in Week 1, and Tampa Bay emerged victorious. The Buccaneers’ rushing attack was at its peak, and the Cowboys’ offense could not get anything going in that contest.
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Vegas Line: Cowboys -2.5
Over Under: 45.5
IR: CB Anthony Brown, CB Jourdan Lewis, OT Terence Steele, DT Johnathan Hankins
Out: CB Trayvon Mullen
IR: OLB Shaquil Barrett, OG Aaron Stinnie, OT Josh Wells
Doubtful: TE Kyle Rudolph, OG Nick Leverett
Questionable: OT Donovan Smith, C Robert Hainsey, OG John Molchon, DT Vita Vea, OLB Carl Nassib, CB Carlton Davis, S Keanu Neal, S Logan Ryan, S Mike Edwards
Data to Know Provided by Sports Info Solutions
Cowboys Pass Offense vs. Buccaneers
- Dak Prescott led the NFL in interceptions despite only playing 12 games this year, and he has thrown one in seven straight games.
- This season, Prescott averaged 7.3 yards per attempt, had a 66.2% completion rate, a 5.8% pass touchdown rate, and a 3.8% interception rate.
- The Buccaneers will play a lot of zone coverage and bring much more pressure than the Cowboys.
- The Buccaneers’ main zone coverage is Cover 3.
- Cover 3 accounts for 27% of Prescott’s interceptions. His touchdown rate is the same as his interception rate against Cover 3.
- Since Prescott returned from injury, Lamb has a 27% target share against Cover 3 and averages 2.76 yards per route run.
- Michael Gallup gets targeted on 16% of his routes against Cover 3 and averages less than one yard per route.
- T.Y. Hilton has barely played but appears to be a better deep threat than Gallup. Hilton has 17 fewer yards on 83 fewer routes.
- Dalton Schultz is Prescott’s second main target against Cover 3, and he has been targeted on 24.7% of his routes.
- Cornerback Carlton Davis is someone Dallas should target between the 20s, but Sean Murphy-Bunting is the player to attack in the red zone.
- Noah Brown has a route tree that works well against Davis.
- Getting Lamb on Murphy-Bunting in the red zone is his path to scoring a touchdown in that area of the field.
- The Buccaneers have given up plenty of points to slot receivers, which bodes well for Lamb and Brown.
- When tight ends have beaten the Buccaneers, it has been from the slot, and Schultz has lined up in that area often,
Cowboys Rush Offense vs. Buccaneers
- The Buccaneers’ run defense is not as strong as in years past. They give up the 13th most yards per carry to running backs and the ninth-most yards after contact.
- The explosive plays must come from Pollard, and the methodical moving of the chains runs must come from Ezekiel Elliott.
- Six teams ran for more than 150 yards against the Buccaneers: Ravens, 49ers, Chiefs, Browns, Falcons (twice) and Panthers. Each of these teams had multiple players find ways to run effectively.
- The Trenches Tool does not give the Cowboys an advantage, but their ability to run the ball is imperative to their success in the game.
- Pollard averages more yards per carry, yards after contact, missed tackles,and broken tackles per attempt than Elliott.
- Elliott has 14 more rushing attempts inside the 10-yard line and, as a result, has three more rushing touchdowns.
Buccaneers Pass Offense vs. Cowboys
- The Cowboys give up 6.9 yards per attempt, a 4.2% pass touchdown rate and a 2.9% interception rate.
- Brady averages 6.4 yards per attempt, a 66.8% completion rate, a 3.4% pass touchdown rate and a 1.2% interception rate.
- The Cowboys play a lot of man coverage. When they play zone, it’s usually Cover 2.
- Brady averages 5.7 yards per attempt against man coverage and 6.4 yards against Cover 2.
- The Cowboys don’t blitz at a high rate and trust their four defensive linemen to get pressure.
- Mike Evans has the highest target share and yards per route run against man coverage.
- Chris Godwin is the main target against Cover 2 coverage, with the running backs being the second most likely targets.
- Evans averages less than one yard per route against Cover 2.
- Russell Gage gets targeted on 25.2% of his routes against man coverage.
- The Cowboys give up the most yards per target on vertical routes among all the playoff teams.
- Evans has 21.9% of his targets come from Vertical routes, and Julio Jones has 18.6%.
- Without Kyle Rudolph, Cameron Brate and Cade Otton will be the primary tight ends.
- I prefer Brate because he’s a veteran with playoff experience and familiarity with Brady.
Buccaneers Rush Offense vs. Cowboys
- The Cowboys’ run defense is better than the Buccaneers; they rank 22nd in yards per carry and 15th in yards after contact.
- Fournette is built for punishing runs in the postseason, but this offensive line has yet to do him any favors in the run game.
- The Buccaneers allow the second-highest rate of runs where running backs are hit at the line of scrimmage and have the sixth-highest stuff rate.
- Rookie Rachaad White was not a factor in the first matchup but has earned the coaching staff’s trust since.
- In a close game, I expect Fournette to see at least 65-70% of the work, but if it’s a negative game script, White will find himself on the field at a higher rate.
- The Cowboys have allowed just six rushing touchdowns and zero receiving touchdowns to running backs this season.
- If the Buccaneers get down to the 1-yard line, I’m expecting Brady to sneak it.
This will be a heavyweight battle, and it will come down to the trenches and finishing drives in the red zone. I expect the Cowboys to throw the first punch and lead at halftime by going Lamb’s way in the passing game. Brady has seen a Dan Quinn scheme in the playoffs plenty, and his second halves have always been magical against it.
Given that, I expect the Buccaneers to make the necessary adjustments, so the game script never gets either team in desperation mode to abandon the running game. This game boils down to the trenches, and I expect the Cowboys to win that battle and win this game close.
- WR CeeDee Lamb
- QB Tom Brady
- WR Mike Evans
- RB Tony Pollard
- WR Julio Jones
- QB Dak Prescott
- WR Chris Godwin
- RB Ezekiel Elliott
- RB Leonard Fournette
- TE Dalton Schultz
- WR Russell Gage
- DST Cowboys
- K Ryan Succop
- K Brett Maher
- DST Buccaneers
- WR T.Y. Hilton
- WR Noah Brown
- TE Cameron Brate