After another bout of “coulda, shoulda, woulda,” the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be back in Raymond James Stadium facing a shell of a team in the Dallas Cowboys. When the schedule was released, this looked like a tough matchup from all angles based on the way last season turned out. Fortunately for Tampa Bay, declining performance and a laundry list of injuries make the Cowboys an extremely beatable team right now. Let’s take a look at what it will take.
Offensive Outlook: Make It Count
The Tampa Bay offense has proved it has the ability to score, and do so more often than not. Jameis Winston has played consistent football, and hasn’t been a liability for the last several games. Doug Martin has constantly proven himself in the run game, and Mike Evans is putting up numbers that are finally harkening back to his monstrous rookie season. Unfortunately, it isn’t coming together. There are a few reasons, but the simplest one is that the Buccaneers offense isn’t making it count when they are given an opportunity.
Their efficiency in the redzone has been pitiful, proven by the amount of times Connor Barth gets to line up for a field goal during games. Last week a ball security issue magically appeared and affected all of Tampa Bay’s rushing attack at the worst possible moment. Meanwhile, amidst his good numbers, Mike Evans dropped too many catchable balls at inopportune times. Even without Tony Romo at the helm, the Cowboys have the playmakers to score. If Tampa Bay lets too many of their chances slip through their fingers, it’ll be all ogre.
Defensive Outlook: Gimme That Ball, Darren
There two factors that will come into play on defense. While weapons like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are not to be overlooked, they aren’t near the threats they would be if Tony Romo was at the helm. If the Tampa Bay secondary can remain even relatively mediocre, they may be able to manage. Unfortunately, Dallas quietly boasts one of the best offensive lines in the league.
Amidst Romo’s absence, and despite a poor record, Darren McFadden has emerged as a reliable workhorse in the backfield. Lesser backs have torn up Tampa this year, but the front seven has become stiffer on the run in recent weeks. The Bucs will have to contain McFadden, and also create enough pressure to force Matt Cassel into making critical mistakes.
Dealin’ With Tha’ X-Factor (Oh, I know you hate the X-Factor, but you ain’t gotta look at me like that)
This week’s x-factor could turn out to be Lavonte David. While there will be lots of eyes on Mike Evans not dropping so many passes and Jameis Winston staying consistent, a lights out game from David can completely change the landscape of the matchup. David had arguably his worst game ever last week against the Giants, and he hasn’t been a playmaking threat on the defense in too long. Whatever the reason, it just isn’t clicking. David has vowed to move on from last week’s performance, and an impressive outing against Dallas would do the trick. Pressure, not biting on runs too much, and an interception could allow David to bring the defense to another level.
Predictive MVPs: Mike Evans, Kwon Alexander
Score Prediction: Buccaneers win, 30-23