By Zach Walker
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Dallas Cowboys
Sunday – December 23 – 12:00 p.m.
AT&T Stadium – Arlington, TX
Records Before Kickoff
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9, 1-6 Away)
Dallas Cowboys (8-6, 6-1 Home)
The Cowboys enjoyed quite the run of success, rolling off five straight victories with bookend wins over the Philadelphia Eagles until the dynamite popped in their hands against the hot Indianapolis Colts. The usual tricks didn’t work, the usual issues showed up, and the streak came to an end.
The Cowboys led with a HEAVY dose, an unsustainable amount, of Ezekiel Elliott and the Colts were smart enough to realize that the Cowboys would play themselves into a bad position, allowing them to tire out Elliott and leave Dak Prescott to beat them. In the first half, it was the plague of the season creeping up and sinking the offense. The offense moved the ball well, got the ball into the stall-zone… er… redzone, and did what the Cowboys do best, leave points off the board and come up short. The first drive, a blocked field goal attempt, doesn’t happen often, so just chalk that up to good ol’ football. The second drive, “Riverboat Red” Jason Garrett got “Go-for-it” carried away and on fourth and goal, the offense got stopped. I actually really like the new river-boating from Garrett, shows some confidence from the coach in his guys. The third drive took a long time, picked up some yardage, but ultimately dried out. The defense didn’t allow a whole lot, and surrendered only ten points by half time. The Cowboys were completely flat in the second half.
Tampa Bay… Where to start with these guys? Jameis Winston starts the season suspended three games for conduct, the same brand conduct that’ll get a Cowboys’ player six games, then the ultimate confusing cloud rolls over the league. A red hot, pissed-off, swagger-filled Ryan Fitzpatrick. It reinvigorates the league and brings all kinds of questions about the future of Jameis Winston to the top. I picked the Bucs to finish with the top pick in the draft, and Fitzpatrick messed that up, but this team has that sort of potential. The Bucs have some pieces in place, but if the head coaching job opens up, it might be at best, the fourth most desirable job in the league, behind Cleveland, Green Bay, and the Jets, and could slide if the Falcons, Panthers, or Jaguars do drastic things between now and the championship game.
The Cowboys need to regroup, reload, and seize the opportunity to have another home game this season, and that only happens with another victory, scenarios can get messy in week 17 for a playoff berth if the Cowboys decide to double-down on crapping the bed. The Cowboys really need to figure out a way to establish Zeke early and keep him fresh and available for deep into games.
I think the team wants this game, they want that feeling back, they want the playoffs.
Tampa Bay 13