This what you play the game of football for. This opportunity the Cowboys have in front of them is why a team works so hard all year long and the Dallas Cowboys are one of 14 teams still fighting for the Lombardi Trophy. If they are going to find a way to lift that piece of hardware at the end of the year, it will take a full team effort and a heightened level of play from their star quarterback to do so.
Often times it is not fair how a quarterback is evaluated. There are so many variables that go into wins and losses that it almost feels silly to put the burden of the team’s expectations on the back of one man. However, the reality of the situation, for better or worse, is that all eyes will be on the quarterback position throughout the playoffs and with that comes scrutiny. The best ones, or the ones who are playing the best at the time, are the ones that get championed at the end of the season. The Dallas Cowboys will look to Dak Prescott to be the man that rises to the occasion if they are going to make something happen this time around.
On the other side, you have the GOAT. Tom Brady has been there, done that. The Buccaneers will be counting on him to do the heavy lifting and feed his dangerous corps of receivers.
A quick look at both quarterbacks heading into the game.
Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott
This is the time of year when your star quarterback needs to be just that. It may not always be fair, but this team will go as far as Dak is able to take them. Some may look at the Cowboys last quarter century and assume that Dak is just one of the quarterbacks that hasn’t risen to the occasion and that's simply not true and we all know unfair narratives are built when you are the quarterback of Americas Team.
It is truly difficult to win a Super Bowl . Winning the Lombardi Trophy could arguably be the hardest championship to win in all of sports and it takes a full team effort from your supporting cast, an elevated level of play from your stars, good health, and honestly a good amount of luck to get the job done. At times you may need the calls or the ball to bounce your way but you may see scenarios that are beyond your control and the will have to do what they can to put themselves in the best position to succeed when the unpredictable occurs.
Some interesting Dak Prescott stats:— Tony Catalina (@Tony_Catalina) January 11, 2023
49-16 vs NFC opponents
30-9 vs teams w/ losing records
4-1 on Monday Night
34-8 when commits NO turnovers
15-12 on natural grass#DallasCowboys #CowboysNation pic.twitter.com/XH06F4VNu6
Dak has had a problem turning the ball over as of late, throwing an interception in seven straight games. If that is the results of the quarterback, and that is going to continue, it will be extremely difficult for this Cowboys team to continue their run to the Super Bowl. We all know turnovers give the opposing offenses extra chances and the pressure it puts on the defense to bail the offense out becomes too tall of a task at times to be successful.
Simply, it isn’t all Dak’s fault and if it was we would be able to pin point the root of the problem and understand a plan of attack to fix it, but it isn’t just that simple. The Cowboys wide receivers struggle to separate from coverage, the play calling can limit the group at times, and you will see these receivers and tight ends run choice routes that have the targets in the same area causing unnecessary bunching and tough reads for Dak. The trust just isn’t all the way there for Dak Prescott and the group as it seems CeeDee Lamb is the only wide receiver that has truly risen to the occasion this year, and it has caused issues on more than a few occasions with the other guys in room. Luckily this trend of turnovers has been an exception and not the rule for Dak in his career and with a heighten awareness of the situation this can very well be slowed down or eliminated heading into the playoffs. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore needs to understand his offense and what is the right call for this group and situation and put them in the best chance to succeed and when he does Dak and the boys have to go out and execute.
This is the highest rate of interception he has ever had in his career and the Cowboys offense still finished top five in total offense and there was a clear production increase when Dak came back from injury as compared to the Cooper Rush led offense. This group can score with anybody and a huge reason for that is Dak Prescott. If Dak is able to limit the interceptions even a little bit, and the team as whole can slow other costly mistakes while simply just doing what they need to do, this Cowboys team is a very difficult team to beat.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady
When it is playoff time and Tom Brady is involved, the expectations and the anticipation are always high. No matter what the regular season looked like you can expect Tom to raise his level when the stakes rise. Nobody has had more playoff success and nobody is more feared when it comes to this time of year. Brady has earned the respect he commands and is the main reason why Cowboys fans around the world are uneasy about playing an 8-9 team in the playoffs.
Frankly, this fear is rooted in reputation and has very little to do with what we have seen from the Buccaneers this season as they have only scored north of 24 points twice all season. On paper the Cowboys are a better, more complete team, but the fear, rightfully so has more to do with what Brady has done in the past and the level he brings his play to in do-or-die situations that makes you uncomfortable when facing a legend of the game.
Make no mistake though, the Cowboys will certainly have their hands full on Monday night. The cornerback spot is a real question mark for this team and just exactly how they’re going to handle it outside of Trevon Diggs remains a mystery. It could be newly signed Xavier Rhodes or a host of the other young and newly joined cornerbacks getting a chance to stop Tom Brady. We may not know exactly who yet, but what we do know though is Brady is going to attack it. Brady is going to tell us early on who the weakness is and he is going to exploit it and it will be up to Dan Quinn and the group to figure out how to counter act the attack.
This game will be so important for this Cowboys defense to find a plan and hone in on it. We have seen these young cornerbacks at times give their man a ton of space underneath in hopes of not being beat over the top, but against Brady that may not be the answer. Tom has no issues with taking what you give him and he will get the ball out quick and hit the slant all night if it is there. This group may need to step up and challenge these receivers to try and bide some time for this pass rush to get home. Brady, when given time, can slice you up all night, but when he has pressure at his feet he gets uncomfortable in the pocket and will quickly get rid of the ball to a check down or out of bounds instead of taking a hit to live to see another play.
The recipe for success is simple for this defense. Get to Tom Brady and you win the game. Make him uncomfortable, make him get out of rhythm and you will be moving on to the next round of the playoffs.