The playoffs are here with the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers matching up in a playoff showdown on Monday Night Football. This game will feature plenty of firepower and figures to be one of the better matchups of Wild Card Weekend. Before the Cowboys and Buccaneers square off, here are three bold predictions for Monday’s game.
1) Cowboys hold Buccaneers’ run game in check as Tampa totals fewer than 55 rushing yards
When these two teams matched up back in Week 1, the Buccaneers’ run game dominated the contest. Tampa Bay totaled 152 rushing yards, and their ability to easily run the football ended up being the biggest reason they won the game.
Flash forward to today and things are entirely different. The Buccaneers have been unable to replicate their run game success from Week 1 at any point this season, and have been one of the worst rushing teams in football.
The Buccaneers are graded (63.7) as the worst running team in football, via Pro Football Focus, and are last in the NFL in rush EPA (-0.207). Five times during the regular season the Buccaneers totaled fewer than 55 rushing yards in a game, and they reached the 100-yard mark in a single game just three times over the course of the 18-game season. Their two running backs, Leonard Fournette (3.5 Y/A) and Rashaad White, (3.7 Y/A) both averaged under four yards per carry.
Dallas’ defense has been much better against the run in their last three games, and they’ll get even better in that department this week with Leighton Vander Esch and Jonathan Hankins returning for this game. The Cowboys flip the script from Week 1 and hold the Buccaneers’ run game in check all night long.
2) Dak Prescott bounces back in a huge way, putting together one of the best performances of his career
Last week against the Commanders was arguably the worst performance of Dak Prescott’s career. Dak completed just 37% of his passes, the worst mark of his career, and had the worst CPOE (-23.7) and EPA+CPOE (-0.096) in the entire league. Prescott was awful, there’s no way around it. However, as we’ve seen throughout his career, when the 29-year-old signal-caller has a bad performance he usually bounces back in a big way the next week.
While the Tampa Bay defense does have plenty of talent, they are just two weeks removed from giving up 341 passing yards and three passing touchdowns to Sam Darnold. We’re going to see a similar performance from Dak Prescott on Monday night, as he puts together one of the best games of his career. Just like he did back in Week 1 of the 2021 season, Prescott tosses three touchdown passes against the Buccaneers’ defense and puts together a lights-out performance.
3) The game is decided by a field goal attempt
At this current moment, the Cowboys and Buccaneers are two very evenly matched teams. Both have their flaws and their fair share of injuries, but it would be pretty surprising if this wasn’t a close game. Dallas is currently favored by 2.5 points, via DraftKings Sportsbook, showing the oddsmakers also believe this one will come down to the wire.
Just like their matchup did back in Week 1 of the 2021 season, this one’s going to come down to the last second. Either Brett Maher or Ryan Succop are going to have a chance to send their team to the next round by converting a game-winning field goal.