Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) at Dallas Cowboys (11-2)
Sunday, December 18, 2016, 8:30 P.M. ET
AT&T Stadium (100,000)
Network Television: NBC
Play-By-Play: Al Michaels Analysts: Cris Collinsworth Sideline: Laura Okmin
Bucs Radio: US 103.5, Flagship Station (103.5 FM, 620 AM & 95.3 FM)
Play-By-Play: Gene Deckerhoff Analyst: Dave Moore Sideline: T.J. Rives
Last Game: Tampa Bay Won vs. New Orleans, 16-11; Dallas Lost at New York Giants, 10-17
The primetime stage is set.
Tampa Bay and its surging defense are set to travel into Dallas for Sunday Night Football with postseason implications. The Cowboys, winners of 11 of their last 12, have the NFL’s fifth-ranked offense and two MVP candidates in rookie sensations, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. While the former has struggled a bit as of late – less than 200 yards passing the last three weeks – Tampa Bay isn’t expecting anything less than the athletic signal caller who took the league by storm.
For any uncertainty under center in Dallas, there’s little doubt with regards to the NFL’s second-ranked ground attack. Elliot leads all running backs with 1,392 yards, thanks in large part to an All Pro-laden offensive line. Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith spoke this week about the challenge of facing the elite front and matching the Cowboys’ jumbo personnel packages in an effort to limit Elliott and high-powered run game.
The Bucs defense has improved drastically since Week 9. Turnover differential and third-down rate tell the story, as the Bucs have taken the ball away 15 times since Week 10 and are 64 percent on third down this season. They’ll look to continue that trend against a Cowboys team that has converted 42 percent, with just four interceptions.
Offensively for Tampa Bay, much has been made (at least by the media) about Jameis Winston showing this Sunday why he was selected No. 1 overall: to lead his team on the big stage. The second-year quarterback, who will have Adam Humphries back, has thrown six TDs and three INTs during the win-steak but is looking to finish more drives in Dallas against the NFL’s 16th ranked defense.
By all accounts, this is the Bucs biggest game in six years. With a chance to tie the franchise’s longest win-streak, while beating an elite team in the process, Tampa Bay could assert itself as a team no one wants to face in January.
Read what the Pewter Reporters think of the Sunday night matchup in Dallas.
PewterReport.com Publisher & Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
The 8-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are heading into their biggest game in years as they travel to Dallas to face the 11-2 Cowboys. Tampa Bay is hot, coming off a five-game winning streak, while Dallas’ 11-game winning streak ended with a 10-7 loss at New York on Sunday Night Football. Both of the Cowboys’ losses this year have come at the hands of the Giants and have been by a combined four points. While Dallas hasn’t played well offensively on the road the last two weeks in a narrow, 17-15 win at Minnesota and last week’s loss at New York, converting just 2-of-24 third down opportunities, America’s Team is quite a different animal at home, where rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott have propelled Dallas’ offense to score 26 points per game.
The Bucs defense has been dominant throughout the team’s five-game winning streak, allowing only the Chargers (21) to eclipse the 20-point barrier. Tampa Bay’s defense has become a takeaway machine (14) and a monster on third downs (29.4 percent) during that five-game span and is firing on all cylinders. If the game comes down to turnover differential and third down conversions – and the Bucs continue to play they way they have on defense – Tampa Bay has a real shot of pulling off the upset in prime time and improving to 9-5.
What concerns me, as I alluded to in my recent SR’s Fab 5 column, is the inconsistency of Tampa Bay’s offense in terms of point production. Since a 27-point outburst in a 36-10 win against Chicago, the Bucs offense has scored 19 points at Kansas City, 14 points against Seattle, 21 points at San Diego and 16 points against New Orleans in recent weeks. The Bucs will likely need to score 24 points or more to win at Dallas, and while I applaud the job Dirk Koetter has done as a game-managing head coach in relying on the leg of Bryan Anger and the play of the defense to win games, his play-calling needs to improve outside the first quarter when his scripted plays, which have worked well early, run out.
I expect a close game, and the Bucs have a chance at winning on the road where they are 5-1. But the Cowboys’ loss to the Giants last week shook them up and they still need to win to clinch in the NFC East and secure a home playoff game and possibly homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Dallas has just as much to play for as Tampa Bay does and I’m giving the Cowboys the advantage because they are at home, have more experience in big games in primetime and do a good job lighting up the scoreboard in Dallas where they are averaging 27.5 points per game.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Cowboys win 23-20
Reynolds’ Pick To Click: Bucs QB Jameis Winston
PewterReport.com Editor and Chief & Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
Time to shock the world. Time to announce to the NFL that the Bucs are back and it isn’t a fluke. Time to beat a very good football team, on the road. Sounds like the headlines written before Tampa Bay traveled to Arizona in Week 2 to take on the Cardinals, a team many had advancing deep into the playoffs. Tampa Bay wasn’t ready, and left with their tails tucked between their legs after a 40-7 smack down by Arizona. But this is a different football team. A much better football team.
In my opinion it comes down to stopping Ezekiel Elliott. If the Bucs can limit Elliott and the Cowboys running game, they win this football game. Sorry, I am not a big believer in a fourth round rookie quarterback beating this Mike Smith-led defense. I could be wrong, but if they can shut down veterans like Russell Wilson, Alex Smith, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees, I am not losing sleep over Dak Prescott.
Of course more will need to happen than just playing good defense, but I believe this is the week that the Tampa Bay offense gets back on track. Jameis Winston is due for a big game, and Mike Evans, who has been somewhat neutralized the last two weeks, is itching to get back on track. I think the Winston and Evans combination shows the national TV audience why they will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come for opposing defenses. Doug Martin will have a solid game with over 80 yards on the ground, and Charles Sims showcases his speed in the open field on the fast turf under the bright lights. I expect a slugfest, but one that the Bucs finish on top of when the final whistle sounds.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 23-20
Cook’s Pick To Click: Bucs QB Jameis Winston
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Eric Horchy
The Bucs seem to be catching the Cowboys and an opportune time, but only time will tell.
Dallas dropped its second game of the year, quarterback Dak Prescott may be hitting the dreaded ‘rookie wall,’ and the Bucs are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. But last week’s loss to the New York Giants denied Dallas the change to seal up the NFC East title and gave a couple other conference contenders hope that they can still attain homefield advantage in the postseason.
The Tampa Bay defense knows the challenge it faces with the Cowboys’ offensive line and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. Stopping the run hasn’t been a strong point. The Bucs rank 21st in rushing defense on the year, surrendering 110.7 yards per game, but they’ve been a little better (99.2 yards per game) during the current five-game winning streak.
Sunday night, however, the Bucs in the box are going to rise up to the challenge. Tampa Bay’s going to do just enough containing Elliott and force Prescott to lead the charge. For as much credit as the Cowboys’ offensive line gets, the 21 sacks and 57 quarterback hits the unit’s surrendered are far from being tops in the league.
Speaking of running games, it’s going to be Doug Martin and Co. that win the day. Martin and the ground attack is due for a breakout. Coming against the NFL’s second-ranked rush defense doesn’t sound like a great time for that to happen, but the Bucs will top the 113 yards the New York Giants picked up Week 1 in Dallas – a season-high for an opponent.
Horchy’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 26-20
Horchy’s Pick(s) To Click: RB Doug Martin/LB Kwon Alexander
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Zach Shapiro
For Tampa Bay to win this game, one would think the Bucs would need to limit Ezekiel Elliott to less than 120 yards from scrimmage. That and create turnovers, and judging by how the secondary confused the likes of Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, that seems entirely possible against a rookie QB.
The defensive line for Tampa Bay is facing its biggest test Sunday, but Gerald McCoy called it one he’s looking forward to. For a D-Line that’s had success sacking and moving QBs off their mark, the matchup against the Cowboys front seven is primetime-worthy in itself.
Offensively, Jameis Winston acknowledged the excitement of a national stage with postseason implications but stressed the need for the Bucs to play within themselves. Tampa Bay’s offense has been one or two plays away from breaking a few explosives or finishing drives with a TD, and if they can protect the ball Sunday night, I expect them to get over the hump in that respect. Doug Martin, as I see it, will have a tough time against the league’s second-ranked run defense but Winston will show he’s ready to lead a playoff run and makes enough plays with his arm.
Vernon Hargreaves gets his second pick of the season and Lavonte David forces Elliott to fumble, two turning points to set up the Bucs upset and sixth straight win. Bucs go into Dallas and leave 9-5.
Shapiro’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 24-23
Shapiro’s Pick To Click: Jameis Winston
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
I can’t fault Scott for picking the Cowboys to win at home, but I still believe the Bucs are actually the better team today than are the Cowboys, despite their 11-2 record and all of the (undeserved MVP hype for their rookie quarterback and running back). In the last five weeks we’ve already faced up and soundly beaten four quarterbacks who are all demonstrably better than Prescott, including at least one sure first ballot Hall of Famer, while Prescott the unproven rookie has mostly benefited from the Cowgirls’ strong offensive line and talented RB.
Our defense is better than the ‘Boys defense, and our quarterback is better than their quarterback. We have possibly the best wide receiver in the league, and other guys who have stood up and produced despite not being high draft picks, including our great tight end from Harvard. We have strong running backs too in Martin and Rodgers, and a very good receiving and third down back in Sims. All we need is for Coach Koetter to open up the play book and let’em go play toss and catch and run the ball.
I pick the Bucs to beat the Cowboys in a hard fought close game, 28-24. Then on to the NFC South Division Championship and the playoffs next month.
Naples- I truly wish I could agree with you but just can’t. First, Dallas is a better team than we are. First, let’s talk qb. Prescott has only thrown 4 picks all year against 20 TD’s. He is also more mobile than JW. There is a reason DK doesn’t open it up more. When he did earlier this year Winston was a turnover machine. Next let’s talk O-line. They are much more solid with 3 consensus All-pro’s. We may have 1. Next let’s talk receivers, we basically have 1, ME. They are VERY solid and have at least 2 top caliber NFL receivers. Tight ends look about equal to me. On Offense, DALLAS clearly has the edge. Defense- our D-line is better than theirs. The LB’s are about equal, maybe SLIGHT advantage us. DB, clearly the edge goes to Dallas. So to me the Defenses are a toss up. Special teams, our punter and coverage are WAY better, our placekicker is inconsistent at best. We have the edge on ST. Long story short, we are very comparable teams except on offense where DALLAS is elite and we are average. I know the Dallas offense has been of for the last two road games but this is a different team at home. Sooo while I would love to agree, I can’t. Best,Bucnut
We’ll soon see.
We’ll agree to disagree.
We will. I truly hope you are right.
Last night Dallas O was elite and ours was average. The game played out much as I thought it would except that our O-line and Winston were worse than I thought they would be. We killed our Playoff chances last night.
23-20. It’s going to be a low scoring affair. The big trick here is for us to run effectively.
The other big trick is to stop their running game.
Those two items are easier said than done.
I think in the end it’s all about which QB wants to win more.
This will define Jamies Winston year and possibly his career. These huge games do that.
Case in point. Eli Manning. I believe he is average at best, but when the big time game starts something happens to him. He squares his shoulders and wins the big ones.
Let’s see if Winston has “IT”.
I think he does.
It’s a dog fight my friends.
BREAKING OUT MY GOOD LUCK SELMON JERSEY FOR THIS ONE
I am sticking with what I said last week when I predicted the Bucs would beat the Saints at home, lose to Dallas and the Saints on the road and then beat the Panthers for a 9-7 season and miss the playoffs. The Bucs made a lots progress this year but are not yet a playoff ready team.
How can the hottest team in the NFL in the month of December not be a “playoff ready team”?
I mean, really. Until the Bucs prove otherwise they ARE the hottest team in football as of today.
I think you should think about what I posted. Looks like I am correct and all the homers wrong,
No comment on the “predictions” but I do think the young Buccaneers will be prepared and will play to win. I’m convinced they’ve learned how to practice to win games and take their job seriously every day of the week. It’s damn encouraging and I look to rooting for this reality football game to include a Buccaneer victory.
Gee imagine that Bucnut2 down playing how good Winston is and being mr. negative about the bucs chance to make the playoffs. Very predictable, at least he’s consistent.
Well- let’s see. DK is OUTPLAYING JW. Want to reconsider your post?
I believe the Bucs will win in a low scoring game. Find a way. Go Bucs!
Surprisingly the pressure is on the Cowboys in spite of their league-best record. They, and in particular Dak Prescott, must know the reaction they’ll get from Jerry Jones should his team embarrass him on national TV by losing to the perceived “lowly” Bucs. Not to mention the all too fickle fans who will no doubt begin chanting for
“Romo—-Romo” if the young rookie QB falters.
The mighty Buccaneers, on the other hand, should be relaxed and eager to take on another highly favored foe. In a few short weeks the culture has changed dramatically for both the team and we fans. I often say that in the NFL it’s more mental than physical. It’s that old saying about the size of the fight in the dog meaning more than the size of the dog in the fight.
Things have been going well for the Cowboys; almost as if they could do no wrong. But I always say, “what you do when the “spit” goes bad” is more important. “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” The sun don’t shine on one dog’s ass forever. Let’s see what Prescott can do when he is not only facing pressure from Gerald but now also from Jerry.
Maybe with a little “luck” the “good guys” can score at least one more point and get the “W”. In the end that’s all that counts.
Beer are on ice and wings have been marinating. Now just waiting for the game to start. We finally get to see a game that really means something in mid-December.
I have the utmost confidence in the defense. I think they will hold Dak and Elliot to one of their worst performances of the year. The question is, will the offense show up for the entire game or just the first quarter? I think that all depends on the maturity level of Jameis. Is he ready to win a road game of this level? I hope so.
That’s about it. Sit back and finally enjoy a meaningful December game. Could be fun. Go Buc;s.
I don’t have that much confidence in our D
I don’t know if we are a “better” team than Dallas, but Dallas is not as good as their record. Easy schedule and caught teams like Packers at “right” time.
Anyways if we stop run I say we win, that simple. Dak isn’t good without that run. That option crap never works forever and eventually teams figure out ways to stop you. Just very hard to stop that O line and run. Will need some run blitzes and get creative because we aren’t big enough to stuff them often. Force Dak into 3rd and longs where he actually has to read defenses and go through progressions and he sucks.
I say Bucs win like 24-20. Go Bucs!!!!
It’s more about match ups than who is better or better record. Dallas has struggled against good defenses. I like the match up even though our O line isn’t running ball great. I think we can pass on them and open run game. Good chance for Bucs if we play smart.
You know Dallas really only has one good receiver, that’s Dez, and he’s not that good this year because of on going injuries. The other guys, Beasley, and Williams are really just role players, not much different that our WR2 & WR3. I believe Mike Evans is better than Dez Bryant, even when Bryant at a 100%. I would take Jameis over Prescot any day of the week. I believe that Jameis is better QB with a lot more upside. I would give the edge to Elliot over Martin in the running game because of Martin still coming back from his injury, and Dallas’ O-Line. Imagine if Martin ran behind that line at a 100% what he would do? Probably about the same as Elliot. So the only thing offensively that Dallas has over the Bucs is a better O-Line, and a slight edge with running the ball. Our defense is slightly better all the way around in my opinion.
So when you add it all up, I truly believe that the Bucs have a slight edge overall. A lot of people don’t think about the fact that Dallas has played an easier schedule than what the Bucs have this year. If Dallas played the Bucs schedule I doubt they would be 11-2. It will all come down to who will commits the least amount of turnovers, and do what they need to do to win. It will be a great game, and very enjoyable to watch.
I pick Tampa 27-24. I see Evans having a big home coming game in Texas, with Jameis having a career night on national television.
Dude- Dallas receivers are much better than ours.And although I agree that JW has more upside that doesn’t matter. All that matters is who plays better tonight and right now Prescott is better.
I cant watch this anymore. Winston SUCKS
Get a life already dude. Don’t watch again for all we care. You try to throw it with 3 dudes in your face every play. Yeah he had some bad throws but our offensive line was garbage. But you being the boring troll you are, you couldn’t probably wait to type your BS after the game.
But don’t worry we all know you were hiding when we came back after half time under your bridge.
Ok yea Winston sucked? Our d was awesome. Couldn’t even sniff Dak. Couldn’t stop run. O line gave Winston great time to throw? opened holes for Martin? Not. Your a nut alright if you think Winston was the biggest issue Bucnut2.
Our line couldn’t even block a screen right tonight.
Bucs o line sucked bad. They sucked against saints too. They haven’t run blocked for shot all year. Pass protection been inconsistent too. Our defense been carrying this team. Need to address O line in draft. Starts up front period, and now Naplesbucsfan can tell me how the o line didn’t stink and it doesn’t start up front on offense or defense…..same old same old.
OL sucks balls. Have been saying this all season long. Only one quality starter on the team, the best of the rest are no more than quality depth. Emphasize it in the draft or suffer the consequeness indefinitely.
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