Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Dallas Cowboys preview: Cowboys look to bounce back after second loss of the season
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Dallas Cowboys preview: Cowboys look to bounce back after second loss of the season

After only their second loss of the season, the Dallas Cowboys look to bounce back in primetime against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This matchup is Dallas’ second straight game in primetime on Sunday night after playing the New York Giants last week. Meanwhile for Tampa Bay, they look to make it six straight wins.

Dallas’ Last Games

After winning 11 straight, the Giants handed the Cowboys only their second loss of the season. The Giants also handed Dallas their first loss of the season in the opening week with a 20-19 win. The Giants used their defense to shut down rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and star wideout Dez Bryant while the Eli Manning hooked up with Odell Beckham Jr. for the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter. Despite the loss, Dallas still holds a two-game lead over the Giants within the division and have already clinched a playoff spot.

Prescott struggled with the Giants' pressure (Al Bello/Getty Images)
Prescott struggled with the Giants' pressure (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Tampa Bay’s Last Game

The Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints had a defensive slugfest last week. The teams combined for only one touchdown, and that came at the hands of Doug Martin. The improved Tampa defense held Drew Brees without a touchdown and picked him off three times. The 16-11 win for the Bucs improved them to 8-4 on the season, tied with division leader Atlanta Falcons on the same record and currently hold the second Wild Card spot.

Keith Tandy reacts after his interception on Drew Brees (Buccaneers.com)
Keith Tandy reacts after his interception on Drew Brees (Buccaneers.com)

Dallas’ Keys To Victory

For Dallas, they need to convert on third downs in order to pick up the win. In the last two weeks against the Minnesota Vikings and the Giants, the Cowboys only converted 2 third downs on 24 opportunities. Before these past two weeks, Dallas’ third-down conversion rate was close to 50 percent and was top in the league. Since then, their third down conversion rate has fallen to 42 percent and currently sit in 12th.

Next for them is to get Dez Bryant going early. Bryant was held without a catch until the final few minutes in the game in New York. That cannot happen this week with another stifling defense on the other side of the ball. Whether it be to try and find him for a few 5-10 yard passes or one big pass, the star wideout has to get on the board early to keep the Tampa defense in check.

Tampa Bay’s Keys To Victory

The Buccaneers’ first key to victory is their defense. Stifling defense is what limited Dallas’ offense in the last two games, and it also has limited quarterback Dak Prescott. Though Tampa can try and focus on trying to shut down Ezekiel Elliott, their main focus has to be blitzing Dak Prescott and forcing him into bad throws and trying to shut out Dez Bryant. The pressure is what forced the Mississippi State product into his interceptions, and lack of third down conversions so if Tampa can hold Dallas at bay, they have a great shot at winning.

Next for Tampa is to attack the Dallas secondary. Morris Claiborne has been ruled out with a sports hernia. Barry Church (forearm), JJ Wilcox (thigh) and Orlando Scandrick (foot) are listed as questionable. The Cowboys secondary is already depleted so potentially without four more of their corners and safeties, Winston has a chance to torch the Dallas defense like Kirk Cousins was able to do on Thanksgiving.

Dallas Injury Report


DeMarcus Lawrence (Back)


Tyron Smith (Back)

Sean Lee (Knee)

Ronald Leary (Back)

Jack Crawford (Foot)

Cedric Thornton (Ankle)

Dez Bryant (Back)

Tampa Bay Injury Report


Demar Dotson (Concussion)


Sealver Siliga (Calf)

Gerald McCoy (Foot)

Chris Conte (Chest)

Luke Stocker (Ankle)

Lavonte David (Hamstring)

Playoff Scenarios

Dallas can clinch the division with a:

Win and Giants loss OR

Tie and Giants loss

Dallas can clinch home-field throughout the playoffs with a:

Win and Giants + Detroit Lions loss