The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have officially been eliminated from the playoffs for the 10th straight season. They still have an opportunity to play spoilers for the NFC East leading, Dallas Cowboys. While the season is over early again for the Buccaneers, if they could win one more game I think most people would want to see them beat the Cowboys in Jerry World. 

The Dallas Cowboys have all but locked up the NFC East crown. However, after a five game winning streak, they were shut out by the Indianapolis Colts. Was this a fluke game? Maybe, but the Colts defense isn’t a ferocious force by far. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off a road loss to the Baltimore Ravens where the Ravens rushed for 242 yards and lead time of possession 37-23. The Bucs were only able to put up 12 points but when you don’t have the ball, you really can’t score. 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers rush defense really wasn’t the biggest problem coming into the game. Honestly, the Ravens just have so many rushing weapons. The Dallas Cowboys might not have Lamar Jackson in the backfield but their quarterback is mobile enough to escape when needed. Dallas is sitting at 8-6 with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins just one game back. They can’t afford to lose this week so expect to see them go all out. Can the Bucs expose the Cowboys? Let’s take an in-depth look at how the Cowboys have been successful this season.

COWBOYS OFFENSE

The Cowboys offense is not something the Bucs should be afraid of this weekend. They average less than 20 points per game with 19.7, 26th in the league. Dallas scored less than 23 points in nine games this year and have won three of them. If the Bucs want to win this game, their defense will need to be on top of its game. 

Dak Prescott isn’t a world beater passing the ball. He ranks 17th in passing yards with 3337, 21st in touchdowns, 17, and has eight interceptions. Dak rushes the ball well when he needs to. With 303 yards this season and five touchdowns, Dak is effectively running the ball. 

In what was supposed to be their most efficient feature, the Dallas offensive line has been ineffective. They’ve allowed the second most sacks in the entire NFL, 51. They are missing multiple starters due to injury but they still have Zack Martin and Tyron Smith who are two of the top three guards and linemen in the NFL. They have had better success run blocking with Ezekiel Elliott leading the NFL in rushing yards. 

GROUND GAME

The Dallas Cowboys currently have the leading running back in the NFL. Ezekiel Elliott currently has 1349 yards and six touchdowns on the ground this season. With no competition behind him, Zeke carries the load for Dallas. In his last game against the Buccaneers, Elliott ran for 159 yards and a touchdown. He’s averaging over 100 yards per game over their last five but hasn’t found the end zone since week 12.

Behind Zeke, there is only one player with more than 100 yards and that’s Dak. Rod Smith is their official backup and has not been having a productive season. With 99 yards on 30 carries he’s averaging 3.3 yards per carry and has yet to find the end zone. The Cowboys like to run the ball but they have a true bell cow. The Bucs need to be aware because they don’t want a repeat performance of last week. 

RECIEVING THREATS

The Dallas Cowboys don’t have the best receivers but since they’ve acquired Amari Cooper, they’ve been a different team. Dak averaged just over 200 yards passing per game without him and averaging almost 275 yards with him. Cooper has transformed into a new player since being traded. He’s averaging 96 yards per game with six touchdowns in those seven games. 

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Besides Cooper, the Cowboys best receiver is Ezekiel Elliott. So far this year Zeke has 72-543-3, which lead the team in each category, outside of Amari. Cole Beasley is their next best threat with 54 catches, 528 yards, and two touchdowns. Averaging less than 10 yards per catch isn’t exciting but he’s been a reliable slot receiver for a few seasons. 

The tight end position for the Cowboys has been abysmal since Jason Witten retired. Only Geoff Swaim has more than 20 catches and no one has more than 250 yards or more than two touchdowns. There have been rumors they are trying to persuade Witten out of retirement for their playoff push, but that is unlikely. 

COWBOYS DEFENSE 

In what has been a big surprise this season, the Cowboys defense has been one of the best in the league. Dallas has allowed the fifth fewest total yards this season. They’re ranked fifth against the run, 93.4 yards per game, and seventh against the pass, 224.1 yards per game. They are also allowing the fourth fewest points per game in the league, 19.2. The Cowboys only allow half a point less than what they score per game, so this could be a close one. 

The Cowboys may not have any big names on their defense, but they have a complete unit. They may have one of the best linebacker groups in the NFL. Leighton Vander Esch is a serious contender for defensive rookie of the year. Jaylon Smith is finally looking like the superstar he was in college. Sean Lee, when healthy, is still a highly capable linebacker. 

Dallas hasn’t been great at getting to the quarterback but their best defensive end, Demarcus Lawrence, is on pace for another double digit sack season. Jaylon Smith has been a productive blitzer from the middle linebacker position with four so far this season. 

The Cowboys only have eight interceptions this season and only two coming from cornerbacks.  Vander Esch has two interceptions, while Jaylon Smith has two forced fumbles. The Cowboys as a team forced 12 fumbles recovering eight of them. The Cowboys are good for forcing at least one turnover per game so the offense will need to be careful. 

COWBOYS SPECIAL TEAMS

So far this season, Dallas’s special teams have been subpar. While they have made the seventh most field goals, kicker Brett Maher is ranked 24th in field goal percentage, 81.8. Most noticeably missing the game-tying attempt at the end of regulation against the Washington Redskins. Maher has only missed one extra point this season but six field goals missed could be better. 

Dallas’ punting has been average as well. Chris Jones is averaging 45.1 yards per punt, 18th, with only 40.6 net yards, 21st. Only 26% of his punts, 14, are inside the 20-yard line. Jones has been average this season and so has Maher. The Bucs shouldn’t be threatened on fourth down this week. Expect a low scoring game this week in Dallas. 

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