The Matchup That Will Define Buccaneers-Cowboys in Week 16 - Anthony Amico, The Action Network
The Cowboys open as a touchdown favorite over the Bucs.
Anthony Amico breaks down the matchup that will define the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Dallas Cowboys matchup with a betting pick, DFS advice and more.
Biggest mismatch: Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott vs. Bucs Run Defense
Even though the Cowboys aren’t as strong as they used to be on the interior of their offensive line, Elliott easily leads the league with 286 carries and 1,349 rushing yards. Not once this year has Zeke had fewer than 15 carries per game. Since his rookie season in 2016, Elliott is the only player in the league to average more than 100 yards rushing per game. In fact, Elliott ranks second all time with his per-game rushing average of 101.6 yards, trailing only Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown, who has 104.3.
If you are in the red, then you’re one of the lucky ones as Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be on your television sets today. TV coverage map courtesy of 506 Sports.
Will Cowboys’ Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin miss his 2nd consecutive game on Sunday? - David Moore, SportsDay
For the first time since being drafted instead of Johnny Manziel, Zack Martin missed an NFL game. It didn’t go well for the Cowboys offense as they didn’t score a single point without him.
Martin has played with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee for a significant portion of the season. He aggravated the injury in the second half of the win over Philadelphia on Dec. 9 and was unable to return. When the Pro Bowl left guard was unable to play against the Colts, it ended a string of 77 consecutive starts.
But Martin is optimistic about his chances today as he spoke to the media on Friday.
“I’m feeling better, and I’m hopeful for this week,’’ Martin said of Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay. “I’m going to keep listening to the trainers. “I’ve still got a couple of days to keep getting better, but I’m hopeful.”
Cowboys’ Anthony Brown: Questionable for Sunday - Roto Wire Staff, CBS Sports
The Cowboys could be without their nickel corner on Sunday as Anthony Brown’s status for the game is uncertain.
Brown was a full participant in practice Wednesday, but began a downward trend Thursday by only practicing in a limited capacity. That downward trend would end with Brown being a non-participant in Friday’s practice. If Brown misses Sunday’s contest, it’ll be his first missed game of the season. In addition, Jourdan Lewis could see more snaps if Brown were to miss time.
Here is the final practice report:
The Dallas Cowboys have officially placed tight end Geoff Swaim on injured reserve, and activated running back Darius Jackson from the practice squad.
1. Zeke - starting RB, 2-time Pro Bowler— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 22, 2018
2. Jaylon - starting Mike, 100+ tackles
3. Maliek - starting 3-tech
4. Dak - starting QB, 1-time Pro Bowler
5. Anthony Brown - starting nickel
6. Kavon Frazier - special teams ace
7. Darius Jackson - 3rd RB
8. Rico - 4th TE
PLAYERS TO WATCH
5 Bucs to Watch Against Dallas - Carmen Vitall, Buccaneers
Base camp over on the Bucs website provide five players to watch, including how a familiar foe could open up the field for Tampa Bay’s offense.
1. Receivers DeSean Jackson & Mike Evans
One thing that Head Coach Dirk Koetter has identified about the Dallas defense this season is their propensity for playing single-high coverage. He said they’re in an eight-man front almost every play. This allows them to get a ton of pressure on the opposing quarterback, but it doesn’t come without a price. With Jackson slated to play Sunday, Dallas will have to contend with the deep threat that he presents when he’s on the field. That’s what Jackson brings to the field and it may not be coincidence that the Bucs have seen a downturn in explosive plays without him on the field. Even when Jackson isn’t the one making the catch, he’s involved more than you probably think. He draws a defender – or even two – with his ability to stretch the field vertically. This leaves fewer defenders to deal with slot receiver Adam Humphries, tight end Cameron Brate or, you know, the guy that has the second-most receiving yards in the league, currently (Mike Evans. I’m talking about Mike Evans).
I’ll never forget the time he dropped the ball before crossing the goal line when playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, but this is still my favorite DJax moment.
Desean Jackson - Me— Jordan R. (@doctorspeaking) December 8, 2015
Dallas Cowboys - feelings pic.twitter.com/FJK7Nb6lSM
5 Players to Watch: Buccaneers @ Cowboys - Kristi Scales, 5 Points Blue
And Evans and DJax won’t be the only Bucs receiver to keep an eye on. The shiftiness of Adam Humphries could be a problem if Anthony Brown is out and Jourdan Lewis is called into action.
2. Bucs WR Adam Humphries (#10) vs Cowboys CB Anthony Brown (#30)
Another favorite target of Winston’s is receiver Adam Humphries who wears the same number as the Cowboys’ Cole Beasley (#10) and is just a tad bit bigger than Beasley. Humphries is 5’ 11” and plays the slot receiver position, same as Beasley. Humphries is the Bucs’ second-leading receiver with 61 receptions. He helps the Bucs move the chains. He also has 5 touchdown catches this season. And a lot of his 671 receiving yards have been run-after-catch.
Cowboys CB Anthony Brown will draw the assignment to cover Humphries when he’s lined up in the slot. Solid tackling will be at a premium in this game. The Cowboys can’t afford to let the quick guys like Humphries get loose after a catch, and it’s always a challenge to tackle the bigger, physical receivers like Evans.
As end of Buccaneers’ season nears, will their coach, GM and QB be back? - Greg Auman, The Athletic
Jason Garrett is always believed to be in the “hot seat,” but it’s Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter who could be on his way out after three straight seasons without making the playoffs.
The three-year itch
In the last 20 years, there have been 20 head coaches finish Year 3 without a playoff appearance, and 10 were fired after that third season, though all had worse overall records than Koetter, who is 19-27. None of those 10 fired have returned to a full-time head coaching role since being dismissed.
But of the 10 head coaches brought back for a fourth season without making the playoffs, seven were ultimately fired during or after that fourth season. The best outcome for such a coach will be on the opposite sideline from Koetter on Sunday, in the Cowboys’ Jason Garrett. Garrett missed the playoffs in each his first three years in Dallas, then went 12-4 in his fourth year and is now in line for his third division title in five seasons this year. But Garrett went 8-8 in each of those first three seasons, so his teams were much more on the cusp of the postseason than the Bucs have been the past two years.
Garrett himself explains the importance of not being too hasty.
“I do think there’s value in being able to put your program in place and having some patience in terms of the kind of team you want to have, how you build that with the personnel you bring in, the guys you draft and bring to your team through free agency,” said Garrett, briefly a backup quarterback with the Bucs in 2004. “I think that’s an important part of the process. I’m surely an advocate for that. I think that’s what gives you the best chance, but ultimately the owners of each of these individual teams have to decide what’s best for them.”
Recent years have been much kinder to Garrett as no coach in the NFC has more wins (30) in the last three seasons than Garrett.
A Christmas wish for all 32 NFL teams - Michael Lombardi, The Athletic
With the spirit of the holidays, Michael Lombari offers up his wish list for every NFL team. What did he come up for Dallas?
DALLAS: My hope for the Cowboys is twofold. I sincerely hope that fans understand I don’t hate their head coach Jason Garrett, but I do hate how he operates the team. My other hope is that the team becomes mentally tougher, that the team adopts Zeke Elliott’s persona, not Garrett’s and follows Zeke’s lead. I don’t question Elliott’s mental toughness; I do question the rest of the ‘Boys.
That assessment is about as accurate as Die Hard being a Christmas movie. The laughable thing here is that most people recognize how Garrett instills mental toughness into his team, except last season they wish he could get that Zeke kid to keep his head straight. Zeke’s a leader now. Why? Because he’s followed Garrett’s lead.
Gut Feeling: Predictions For Cowboys-Bucs - Staff, Dallas Cowboys
The Mothership provide their gut feelings on today’s game.
Lindsay Draper: It’s time to dial in; there is no margin for error this week. The Cowboys are a better team, but Bryan Broaddus referenced it perfectly: whatever dark feeling this team had when they were 3-5 with their backs against the wall, they need to find that feeling again. I think if the Cowboys can somehow (defensively) put their foot on the throat of Tampa Bay EARLY, that’s all they’ll need. A big pick six or a turnover, maybe even a sack fumble on Jameis Winston – some big statement to show that Dallas is in the driver’s seat Sunday – and the Bucs will quit. They don’t have anything to play for, so take hold of this game early, and wrap this division up. Cowboys eliminate the Week 17 horror story none of us want to read as they beat the Bucs and wear their NFC East Champion hats all the way home to Christmas dinner.
Pewter Preview And Staff Predictions: Bucs at Cowboys - Mark Cook, Pewter Report
The Bucs writing staff offer up their predictions and not many people have faith in them this week.
PewterReport.com Editor Mark Cook: We can get into all the strategy and what needs to take place for the Bucs to steal a win in Dallas, but the bottom line is, once again it won’t happen. This team just doesn’t understand how to win on the road. Too many times they have had every opportunity to do so and just can’t. Why should this Sunday be any different?
Sure the Bucs will do some things to make it interesting. They might even have a lead briefly. But when adversity strikes, and the other team gains momentum, this team tends to go in a shell and compounds things even more by making mistakes that bury them.
The Cowboys have plenty to play for, the Bucs? Not so much. I do expect Jameis Winston to have a bigger game than he has had of late, as facing a historic franchise like the Cowboys will get him pretty amped up. Winston grew up and Eagles fan, so I would guess he despises the Cowboys as much as any team he has faced this season. Plus if I am Winston, I am letting it all fly. So you throw two interceptions? Big deal. What have you got to lose? The Bucs will need a 300 yard plus passing day from Winston if they are going to have any shot. Having DeSean Jackson back should help.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Cowboys 28, Buccaneers 20
Bucs-Cowboys: Predictions for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game at Dallas - Mike Sherman, Tampa Bay Times
The Bucs just watched the New Orleans Saints celebrate a division title a couple weeks ago, could they be witnessing it again today? The Tampa Bay Times’ staff provide their game predictions, and all six staff writers pick the Cowboys. Here’s an example:
Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer: The Bucs struggled on the road last week against one of the league’s best defenses on a sloppy track in Baltimore, and now they face another solid defense away from home. Tampa Bay’s offense hasn’t been the same the past two weeks, and Jameis Winston has lost 13 straight starts on the road. So that should tell you the Bucs will be in for a long afternoon at Jerry’s World. Prediction: Dallas 28-14.