The Buccaneers travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys Sunday night, as we have a repeat matchup of the NFL opener in 2021. The offseason for both teams has not treated either team well, and the departures will be on display. Who steps up for the Cowboys pass-catchers outside Ceedee Lamb and Dalton Schultz? The next question is how healthy Chris Godwin is, and if he’s limited, who becomes the second option for Tom Brady? Finally, can the Cowboys block the Buccaneers’ defensive line without Tyron Smith?
Vegas Line: Buccaneers -2.5
Game Total (Over/Under): 50.5
Cowboys: LT Tyron Smith (IR), WR Michael Gallup (Out), WR James Washington (Out), QB Dak Prescott (Questionable).
Buccaneers: WR Chris Godwin (Questionable/considered a game-time decision), WR Russell Gage (Questionable), S Mike Edwards (Questionable).
Buccaneers-Cowboys: Information to Know
Buccaneers Offense vs. Cowboys Defense
- Bruce Arians is no longer on the coaching staff, and Byron Leftwich will be the sole play caller for this team.
- The interior of this Buccaneers’ offensive line is an entirely new group, and last season all ranked in the top 20 of the SIS Points Earned system.
- There is no clear indication of who will be the number 3 WR after Mike Evans and Chris Godwin; however, with the practice time missed by Russell Gage, I expect Julio Jones to be on the field a lot more.
- I expect the Cowboys to throw plenty of blitzes at the interior portion of the offensive line and try to pressure Brady early and often.
- Brady tore up the Cowboys when they played Man and Zone last year, averaging over nine yards or more against both.
- Rob Gronkowski led them in targets against Zone Coverage last season.
- Leonard Fournette will have a majority of the workload in this game.
- Rookie Rachaad White is listed as the team’s number 2 running back and will look to be the lead back to give Fournette a break.
- The Cowboys’ defense is one of ten teams not to allow ten rushing touchdowns to running backs.
Cowboys Offense vs. Buccaneers Defense
- Tyron Smith is a massive loss for the Cowboys, and the Buccaneers’ defensive line is one of the best in football.
- The counter is that Dak Prescott was pressured on 205 dropbacks last season and posted an 11-3 touchdown to interception ratio while ranking 12th in yards per attempt.
- While under pressure, CeeDee Lamb led the Cowboys in targets, with Dalton Schultz second.
- Noah Brown is the only player with NFL experience, so I think it’s likely that he is the player the Cowboys will play in 2 WR sets.
- Ezekiel Elliott, before tearing his PCL in Week 4, averaged 4.5 yards per carry.
- Tony Pollard, during this time, had 38% of the attempts.
- The Buccaneers, despite barely stacking the box, have one of the best run defenses in football.
Data Provided by SIS
Offensive Statistics and Tendencies
|YPA vs Zone||8.2||8.2|
|YPA vs Man||7.6||7.9|
|YPA vs Blitz||7.7||7.0|
|% TGT to Wide||28%||30%|
|% TGT to Slot||38%||44%|
|% TGT to RB||19%||19%|
|% TGT to TE||24%||20%|
|Gap Run %||50.1%||32.2%|
|Zone Run %||47.7%||66.0%|
|Red Zone Pass Rate||64.1%||61.3%|
|Red Zone Rush Rate||35.9%||38.7%|
Defensive Statistics and Tendencies
|Zone Coverage %||62.6%||46.5%|
|Man Coverage %||22.0%||38.1%|
|Primary Coverage||Cover 3||Cover 1|
|Secondary Coverage||Cover 4||Cover 3|
|Stacked Box %||9.3%||26.2%|
- Mike Evans
- If Godwin is out, Evans is the unquestioned WR1 of this Buccaneers offense to begin the season. I expect him to be the featured WR in this offense with their injuries.
- He wasn’t an impact player in last year’s opener, only going for three receptions for 24 on six targets, but with the current pass-catching room, I expect a heavy target game for him.
- CeeDee Lamb
- Lamb was targeted ten or more times in five games last season, and in those games, he had over 100-yards in 60% of them.
- He will have to be the lead receiver in this offense and should be targeted at a high rate.
- Dak Prescott
- In last year’s matchup, he had 21 dropbacks with pressure and threw for 121 yards and a touchdown
- He is not my favorite for a multiplier spot, but someone I will be getting too often.
- Tom Brady
- Five quarterbacks threw for over 300 yards against the Cowboys last season, and Brady threw for the most at 379 yards.
- I lean towards the Wide receivers for the multiplier spot, but the quarterbacks are not completely out of the question.
- Leonard Fournette
- Fournette will be the workhorse in the backfield and, outside of being tired, will not leave the field.
- White is a rookie who will need to prove he can protect Brady to get on the field often.
- Dalton Schultz
- Schultz will be the number two pass catcher in this offense and will be a great player for play action towards the goal line. I don’t love the matchup as the attention will be on him, and these linebackers for Tampa Bay are top-tier.
- Julio Jones
- Jones played in the preseason with Brady, and if Godwin can go, I expect him to be the WR on three-wide sets. Gage was signed in the offseason but has missed a lot of time in the last few weeks, and Jones has been healthy.
- Buccaneers D/ST
- Pressure leads to sacks and turnovers. The Buccaneers will be able to generate a lot of pressure. The Buccaneers are not my preferred defense, but I will utilize them in builds where you utilize five Buccaneers.
- Ryan Succop and Brett Maher
- I’m not a fan of the kickers on the slate because they both have missed multiple kicks indoors over the last few years. Nor do they have the leg to make it from over 50 yards. They make the pool because I can see multiple short-range field goals from two offensive lines with problems and against defensive lines that can generate pressure.
- Cowboys D/ST
- Brady is not someone that turns the ball over much, as he had 751 dropbacks and only 12 interceptions, but with the missing pieces on the interior, the Cowboys are a viable play.
- Noah Brown
- Brown will be extremely popular, but it’s for a good reason, and at his price, it doesn’t take much to pay off.
- Cade Otton
- With Kyle Rudolph out, Otton is likely to be the player that gets a lot of play time.
- KaVontae Turpin
- Turpin is a gadget player that will be a very deep GPP option and will be a player I will not utilize in Tony Pollard builds. If Turpin gets utilized on offense, his style matches the same role we anticipate Pollard seeing.
- Simi Fehoko
- If Tolbert is ruled inactive, I expect Fehoko to be third in line for snaps. The inactive report will be big on whether he stays in the pool.
- Jake Ferguson
- The Cowboys had two tight ends on the field for 20 dropbacks in last year’s game, and during the preseason, he showed flashes as a capable pass catcher. Ferguson is the $200 punt play on DraftKings.