Buccaneers at Cowboys: Preview, Prediction, Odds

BY Fansided and Stephen Forsha/FanSided via NFL Spin Zone • December 16, 2016

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Sunday Night Football, game which features two of the top teams in the NFC. The flexed game that will air on NBC has the 11-2 Cowboys, who are still working on clinching the NFC East championship for the second time in three seasons, and the Buccaneers, who are in a virtual tie with the Atlanta Falcons for the top spot in the NFC South.

Dallas is coming off just their second loss of the season, seeing their 11-game winning streak snapped by the New York Giants last Sunday, while the Buccaneers are on a five-game winning streak.

Tampa Bay still isn’t a lock to play in the playoffs like the Cowboys, so even though this is an important game for the host Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, the Buccaneers need a victory a little more as they control their own playoff destiny, currently holding on to the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff bracket.

A win for the Cowboys will clinch the NFC East and a first-round bye if they win on Sunday Night Football, along with a loss or tie by the New York Giants or a Dallas tie and Giants loss. They can also clinch home field advantage in the game with a win, plus the Giants and Detroit Lions tie in their Sunday afternoon game.

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    Either way, both teams still have a lot to play for, but for Tampa Bay, they have the most to lose as their playoff spot isn’t locked up like the Cowboys’.

    Keys To Victory

    The Cowboys will win this game if they take advantage of the 21st-ranked Tampa Bay run defense. Ezekiel Elliott needs to deliver a dominant performance, as does the offensive line, to win this game.

    Dallas’ offensive line needs to be better pass protection, and the wide receivers need to help out their rookie quarterback more. Their offense isn’t running as smoothly as it once was earlier this season. In the past two games against two solid defenses (Giants and Minnesota Vikings), Prescott has been sacked six times. That can’t happen a third-straight week.

    The Tampa Bay defense will need to put pressure on the Cowboys offensive line and quarterback and disrupt them like the Giants have in their two wins over the Cowboys. Tampa Bay has defensive tackle Gerald McCoy coming into this game with 26 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles. Watch him against the likes of Zack Martin, Travis Frederick and Ronald Leary in the trenches.

    At times this season, the Cowboys defensive backs have given up big plays which have resulted in touchdowns, including last Sunday when Odell Beckham Jr. took advantage of the Cowboys defense and went 61 yards for a touchdown. Winston and Mike Evans (80 receptions, 1,100 yards, 10 touchdowns) need to do the same this Sunday night if they want to be the second team this season to defeat the Cowboys.

    Odds

    Point Spread: Dallas -7
    Moneyline: Dallas -290, Tampa Bay +245
    Over/Under: 46.5

    Prediction

    Even with the Buccaneers having McCoy bringing his abilities to disrupt an offense, the Cowboys should be able to run the football at will against the Tampa Bay defense if they play up to the best of their abilities like they have most of this season. The Cowboys need to control the line of scrimmage, control the clock, and keep Winston and Evans off the field at all costs. If the Cowboys are able to do that and get back to how they were playing games before this past couple-game stretch, they should be fine and earn the win.

    Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 17, Dallas Cowboys: 31



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