The Dallas Cowboys hit the road to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Wild Card playoff game on Monday night. The Cowboys finished 12-5 on the year and were a very strong team for much of the season. But injuries on defense and along the offensive line have slowed them down, and it all came to a crashing halt in Week 18 when they were embarrassed by the Washington Commanders 26-6.
The Buccaneers started strong with a 19-3 rout of Dallas in Week 1, but since they have been very inconsistent, struggling mightily on offense for much of the year. They won the NFC South with an 8-9 record, but do have an ace in the hole in the form of Tom Brady. The same Tom Brady the Cowboys have never beaten.
Taking in the totality of the season, the Cowboys are favored by 2.5 points according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
But a quick spin around the internet shows many aren’t buying that. It may be recency bias from the Cowboys face-plant in Week 18, but the Buccaneers are a popular pick for the upset.
The Cowboys have marched sloppily into the playoffs with Dak Prescott continuing his interception streak. They have become dependent on playing on a lead so they can get their running game rolling and tee off with their pass rush. They have the capacity to pour it on and run away, but close games aren’t their strength.
The Buccaneers will work to stay in it early with their run defense and some key third-down stops. They also had great success running on Dallas in the Week 1 meeting and Tom Brady has been sharper with the downfield passing game of late with more help with his receivers. Mike McCarthy’s team is headed for more early playoff disappoint against a sub-.500 team, albeit one with the GOAT at quarterback.
Pick: Buccaneers win 24-20 in the Upset of the Week
This is the kind of pick you find all over the place. Playoff Tom Brady will strike again in these predictions.
This game may come down to the Brady and Mike Evans connection. If these two can link up multiple times as they did a couple of weeks ago, we could see Tampa Bay pull off the upset against this 12-win Cowboys team.
Cowboys vs. Buccaneers Score Prediction
Buccaneers 24, Cowboys 21
Of course any prediction of a Bucs win means they cover.
MDS’s take: The Cowboys’ performance in Week 18 didn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but I expect them to play well enough to beat a Buccaneers team that didn’t inspire a lot of confidence all season.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 20, Buccaneers 16.
Florio’s take: Tom Brady has 47 career playoff games. This one will be number 48. Win or lose, it’s quite possibly his last game in Tampa. The Cowboys, meanwhile, look like they peaked too soon. Why are they favored?
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 19, Cowboys 16.
Above we have a split decision, with the Cowboys covering in their predicted win above. But that’s not always the case. Even predictions of the Cowboys winning often come without them actually covering.
This game is about the Cowboys. They are the up-and-down team that has shown a top-five scoring offense and defense, rarely at the same time. The Bucs have shown neither, a remarkably consistent defense that makes the opposition work and a Tom Brady offense that relies on short passing and converting on third-and-3. They haven’t played well for more than a quarter at a time all season; why start now?
I’m not worried about Dak Prescott’s meltdown in Week 18 and the Cowboys’ odd effort in that game. I am worried about the Cowboys’ defense springing leaks at cornerback, linebacker and defensive tackle. Will Dan Quinn be confident enough in his personnel to mix up the Cowboys’ looks snap-to-snap? Will Brady give Micah Parsons a chance to get the passer? I’m taking the Cowboys because their average game is better than the Bucs’, but there’s also only one team here with championship experience. I don’t feel good about picking either team.
Cowboys 21 - Buccaneers 20
Expert opinion seems to be going against the Cowboys covering.
Some of the BTB staff have been picking games with Tallysight. Below we pick all of the Wild Card Round games.