Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys: Young Guns

Cowboys fans want to see QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott get the offense back on track on Sunday night. Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison
Cowboys fans want to see QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott get the offense back on track on Sunday night against the Buccaneers. Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison
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By Zach Walker

Game Info
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Dallas Cowboys
Sunday – December 18 – 7:30 pm
AT&T Stadium – Arlington – Texas

Records Before the Game
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5, 5-1 Away)
Dallas Cowboys (11-2, 5-1 Home)

Who do the Cowboys need to shut down?
QB Jameis Winston – I hate putting quarterbacks in this section of my previews, but for Winston, he’s a special case. Winston doesn’t just play the position with his head, and this is completely visual based on me watching him closely for almost two seasons. Winston plays with his heart. Winston on occasion will join in on the blocking of a running play, or he’ll chase behind the play, and I’m sure that must scare most Bucs’ fans. But, Winston is a different animal. He keys on Mike Evans and WILL complete passes to him, because no matter the defense and what they do to him during a game, he’s going to go with his instincts. He makes his lesser known receivers bigger and better than they likely are. He’s got a great connection with his tight end Cameron Brate, and the Buccaneers have themselves a ‘Cole Beasley Type’ in Adam Humphries. Winston is an undiscourage-able player, on par with some of the more veteran quarterbacks in the league, and he’s big like Ben Roethlisberger so getting him to the ground is a task for the big men upfront for Dallas. Winston is a joy to watch, he flows with the game, and gets visually amped and it sparks his team.

Who on the Cowboys, needs to step up?
QB Dak Prescott – On one hand, Prescott was bound to hit a skid and play like a rookie, and over the past three games (three is a trend) Prescott has looked easily shaken. On the other hand, he does not get to escape the blame for having lost that Giants’ game. He lost the game. The defense missed one tackle on a single play, and that was the game. The running game for the Cowboys was excellent against the Giants, with Ezekiel Elliott gaining 107 yards off of 24 carries, a very good game. It was all on Dak, don’t kid yourself in thinking otherwise. You, me, we all were doing what would eventually happen post-loss, we were looking at the sideline thinking that number nine could have perhaps have changed that outcome. What Prescott needs to do now is silence the chatter. A good game, and those whispers go back into the trees. I believe that Prescott, with the crowd of AT&T Stadium behind him, can hit his stride again.

Which group will give the Cowboys trouble?
The Bucs’ entire defense – Another easy choice, but the Buccaneers have play makers on each level of the defense. Along the defensive line, there’s always been Gerald McCoy. He’s going to be a handful, but he’s far from alone these days. The Bucs have a deep bench of rushers to get Dak off his spot. They have Robert Ayers, William Gholston, Clinton McDonald, Akeem Spence, and former Cowboy Ryan Russell. Then they have rookie Noah Spence, who’s truly emerging. The linebackers are damn good. Daryl Smith is the normal just good backer, Kwon Alexander is the better guy in the middle who can really disrupt, then Lavonte David, who if not for Luke Kuechly, would be the best linebacker in NFC South. The secondary has been completely overhauled. Bringing in pros like Alterraun Verner, Chris Conte, and the timeless Brent Grimes. Then they drafted Vernon Hargreaves in the first round this season and they’ve grown into a strong unit to cap off their defense. It’s going to be a battle.

Which group will give the Buccaneers trouble?
The Cowboys’ linebackers – Sean Lee. That guy was the most let down by that loss against the Giants. Lee was all over the field, to the point where he seemed to disappear and reappear where the play was. Anthony Hitchens has really kicked it into another gear over the past few weeks, and has gotten his mitts on a couple of passes in the passing game, and is really rounding his game well. Justin Durant is becoming a guy that isn’t a liability in coverage these days either. The Bucs have a solid tight end in Cameron Brate, who has the trust of his quarterback, but the Cowboys have the linebackers to stride for stride against the Bucs. And with the way that Sean Lee was hitting the holes, I wouldn’t want to be an opposing running back anytime soon.

What will it take for the Cowboys to win?
Move Dak around. Roll the pocket. The Cowboys’ wide receivers need to win on the outside, and they need to get back to taking advantage of the routes by Cole Beasley. This is going to be a battle of two of the league’s premier young guns, and Dak Prescott can regain his shine.

Dallas 20 – Tampa Bay 17