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Let’s just say it, if the Cowboys can’t beat the Bucs on Sunday they don’t deserve to win the NFC East

Nothing is assured in the NFL, but the Cowboys absolutely have to beat the Bucs this week.

Tampa Bay Bucaneers v New England Patriots Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Just one win. That’s all it will take for the Cowboys to close out the NFC East and get ready for playoff football. After the Cowboys beat the Eagles in Week 14, the math was kind. Win one game among the last three to play and the Cowboys were the NFC East champs. Seemed easy enough, especially since the last two game were against underachieving teams - the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants.

But after the Cowboys went to Indianapolis on Sunday and put up little resistance in a humiliating defeat, fear and angst started to set it. Could this whole thing go awry? Could that five-game win streak all be for naught?

Those questions are probably oversold because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not a good football team. They are 5-9 on the season and almost everyone believes they will be firing their coach at the end of the season. This is a team that looks to be ready for a major overhaul. Unlike some bad teams down the stretch who are suddenly starting to put it together and have hope for the following season, the Bucs are not showing signs of a revival.

Dirk Koetter is unlikely to survive Black Monday if reports like this are true.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have begun gathering information on potential head coaches and are making contingencies for a coaching search, with Dirk Koetter unlikely to be back next season, league sources said. Tampa can finish no higher than .500 and has several big-picture decisions to make this offseason, including what to do with quarterback Jameis Winston, who is entering his fifth-year option in 2019, which is currently only guaranteed for injury.

It’s already being assumed that Koetter and current Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken will be hot commodities on the open market as coordinators after the season ends.

Koetter has been a well-respected NFL coordinator for over a decade now, and will have his pick of several jobs if he is let go as expected in Tampa. Monken has earned rave reviews for his work with Tampa’s offense in 2018, taking over play calling, and is atop the wish list of several potential head coaches who are trying to pencil in potential staffs ahead of their interviews with owners next month.

Some names to keep in mind if the Cowboys decide to part ways with Scott Linehan once the season is over.

In Tampa Bay, the QB-carousel of Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a curiosity. Winston has returned to the helm but his future in Tampa is cloudy.

The last couple of weeks have not helped Jameis Winston’s cause for a big contract. He threw an ugly pick on first down of a one-score game in the second half on the road. Baltimore has a tough defense, for sure, but the Glazers are going to have a huge decision to make there. If they want to attract the best head-coaching candidates possible, they best not try to make keeping Winston a prerequisite.

The offense has been a mixed-bag for Tampa, but their defense is downright awful. They give up 28.8 points per game (30th in the league) and they really are equally bad against the run and the pass.

This is a team just playing out the string, with a coach who almost assuredly won’t be in control next year. Plus, they will be on the road.

This is the NFL, you can never count on anything except the Patriots winning the AFC East. But if the Cowboys can’t come out on Sunday and manhandle the Bucs on their way to an NFC East crown, then we’ll know this team isn’t a contender.

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