Every week here on Blogging The Boys I've looked at what a selected panel of national sportswriters predict for the upcoming Cowboys game. And in those weekly posts, I've often referred to our panel of sportwriters as "experts," even though not all of our panelists have lived up to that description this season.
The Cowboys have the best record in the NFL at 11-2, and one of our panelists, David Steele of the Sporting News, has exactly that record in predicting the outcome of Cowboys games so far this season. That doesn't mean he blindly picked the Cowboys to win 13 games and they happened to lose two of those contests. Steele picked the Bengals for the win in Week 5 and picked the Cowboys over the Giants last week for his only two "losses."
The worst record among our panelists is held by Mike Florio, who hasn't been arrested yet, and who is the head honcho at Pro Football Talk. Florio has only managed to accurately predict the outcome of Cowboys games five times this season, which is quite remarkable given that the team has the best record in the league at 11-2. All of which suggests his picks are more the product of wishful thinking than any type of analytical process.
As such, it doesn't come as much of a surprise to find that Florio is once again picking against the Cowboys this weekend, the seventh time he'll be picking against the Cowboys this year, as the little table below illustrates:
Perhaps I should re-title this series of posts into "Nine Experts (plus Mike Florio) ..."
In any case, here's what our panel of national sportswriters (plus Mike Florio) has to say about Sunday's game.
David Steele, Sporting News (11-2)
||23-17||After the Cowboys lost Sunday night, guess who’s tied for the NFL’s longest winning streak? Your Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and a defense that has given up 12.8 points per game during that run. Not the best prescription for Dak Prescott’s attempt to get back on track. It’s going to have to be a steady diet of Ezekiel Elliott again if the Cowboys want to make things easier on themselves again.|
Sam Farmer, LA Times (10-3)
||24-21||People were blitzing Dak Prescott early, and he was killing them. Now, teams are rushing four and dropping seven, and the Cowboys rookie is having problems. There's potential for an upset, but…|
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com (10-3)
||24-20||Believing in Ezekiel Elliott here. If Zeke truly is league MVP, then he'll get his against the hottest defense in the league. The Cowboys' passing game has been downright cold for weeks now. Dak Prescott has been provided time to throw, but either isn't seeing the field well or is in a slump. Last week, he was just 7 for 21 from a clean pocket, according to stats maven Pro Football Focus. Dallas can ill-afford a repeat of that performance against a defense that is allowing 12.8 points per game over its last five (lowest in the NFL since Week 10). As for Jameis Winston, he'll be asked to put up points Sunday night. Can he do it? The huge uptick in the play of the Cowboys' defense has been as shocking a development in Dallas as the 11-2 record. The 'Boys have allowed 25 points combined over the last two weeks. If they cover Mike Evans, Cowboys win.|
Peter Schrager, Foxsports (8-5)
||23-20||Can I take the Bucs over the Cowboys in good faith? You better believe it. The Dallas offense has hit an unexpected road bump the past two weeks, averaging 12 points per game, and the Tampa defense is suddenly the 85 Bears re-incarnated. No one — not Philip Rivers, not Russell Wilson, not Drew Brees and not Alex Smith — has been able to figure them out. Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander could give Dak Prescott fits, and if this is the biggest game the franchise has been in since 2007 I don’t expect Jameis Winston to wilt away. Upset special. Give me the red hot Bucs, and let’s enjoy (suffer?) through a week of Tony Romo speculation before Cowboys-Lions Monday night football.|
Michael Smith, Pro Football Talk (8-5)
||31-24||The Bucs are one of the hottest teams in football right now, but I think Dak Prescott is going to bounce back from a rough game last week and turn in a big game this week.|
Chris Simms, Bleacher Report (7-6)
||24-21||Dak Prescott had to live in a 3rd-and-long world last week, and it wasn’t fun for him. He’ll do so again versus a secondary that’s three deep at cornerback and much improved at safety. Mistakes will be made.|
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports (8-5)
||23-20||This is an enormous game for both teams. For Tampa Bay, it’s a proving ground. For the Cowboys, it’s a chance for Dak Prescott to get back on track. I think the Cowboys win the game, but it won’t be easy.|
Greg Cote, Miami Herald (7-6)
||24-20||Been a long time since Tampa Bay was this close to the Game of the Week marquee. But Sunday night gets a good one here. Dallas, trying to buff the rust off its America's Team shield, aims for a first-round bye. Tampa, trying to shed its laughingstock image, fights for a playoff spot. Bucs beat the 'Boys 10-6 last season, and it's with defense that Tampa has surged to five wins in a row now. With Dak Prescott feeling a bit of pressure for first time, give me the home team.|
Chris Burke, SI.com (7-6)
||23-17||Dak Prescott is in a rut. The Tampa Bay defense is on a roll. Does either recent trend reverse Sunday night, or do the Buccaneers inch closer to wrapping up a playoff berth while simultaneously putting Dallas’s No. 1 seed in jeopardy? Tampa Bay is allowing just 12.8 points over its past five games, all wins, and it picked off Drew Brees thrice last Sunday. Elsewhere, Prescott fired two interceptions (doubling his season total) in a frustrating loss to the Giants. The Cowboys’ central focus again will be feeding Ezekiel Elliott against a beatable Tampa Bay run defense. The Bucs will try to do the same with Doug Martin—he’s had 87 combined carries the past four weeks. Early success from Martin would set up those Jameis Winston-to-Mike Evans shots downfield.|
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk (5-8)
||24-23||The Buccaneers have made far more accomplished quarterbacks look like rookies this year. What will they do to a rookie? We’ll know it when we see it.|
The over/under for the game is currently set at 46.5, and only two of the picks above are taking the OVER on that. What's your expectation, can the Cowboys find back to their high-scoring ways or will this be as tight a game as most of the predictions above suggest?