- Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
This week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will try and bounce back from a tough last-minute loss against the New York Giants, as they go against the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday. This is an important game for both the Buccaneers and the Cowboys, as they don’t want to fall back too far from the division lead, as the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles are both undefeated.
Tampa Bay had their Week 2 game well in hand, leading the Giants by two scores, before Eli Manning bounced back from three early interceptions to lead the Giants back to a 41-34 lead.
While it was a disappointing loss, I think there is something to be said that the Buccaneers stood toe to toe with the defending Super Bowl champions and played them hard until the last second, including the last snap of the game that has caused a ruckus across the league.
Still. you can see that Greg Schiano‘s Buccaneers are not the team that literally didn’t show up to the last half of the year in 2011.
The Cowboys will be looking to get back on the right track after a disappointing show against the Seattle Seahawks. They looked flat and uninspired, which has been a problem for the Cowboys over the last few years. They have the talent to play and beat anyone, evidenced by their Week 1 win in New York. They also have to be a bit worried coming into this game, because much of the media was writing off Tampa Bay before they played a snap this year.
Here is my positional breakdown on how I think the Cowboys and Buccaneers offenses match up:
This one is taken by the Cowboys. Tony Romo has torched the Buccaneers in the few games he’s played them, and after Eli setting a career record going for over 500 yards, I don’t see anything different. Romo continues to be one of the better quarterbacks in the league when the game isn’t on the line, but if it’s a close game it might favor Tampa Bay.
Josh Freeman has appeared to regain the form we saw in 2010, and looked good for a majority of the season so far. While his numbers haven’t been eye-popping, he’s had the Buccaneers in position to win both games. Still, this match up favors the Cowboys, as I give Romo the edge over Freeman.
This one is a little closer of a match up. The Cowboys have DeMarco Murray, who has played great when healthy. He’s a big back that does everything you need, and has a good spell back in Felix Jones. Jones has yet to become that player that the Cowboys have envisioned though when they selected him in the first round.
Tampa Bay appears to have a good one in Doug Martin. Through two games he’s shouldered the entire workload, scoring a touchdown last week. More importantly, though, he’s made the Bucs offense less predictable. He is spelled by big man LeGarrette Blount and former New York Giant D.J. Ware. Martin should be able to find some good holes, and I expect to see Blount get a few more touches this week to try and find his grind.
Very slight edge to the Cowboys
These are two very good receiving corps. Dallas has the better of the two though with play makers like Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten. If you add in slot receiver Kevin Ogletree who ripped up the Giants, Romo has a ton of weapons to spread the ball around.
Tampa Bay is no slouch at receiver anymore though, as last week they showed they have some pretty good weapons too. Vincent Jackson had a big game last week, and the former pro bowler appears to be in sync with Freeman. Mike Williams looks to have returned to 2010 form as well, with two early season touchdowns, and is showing better ability at getting open again.
Dallas Clark got involved a little more in the passing game, but there’s still a lot to be desired from Luke Stocker, who has been a disappointment after being compared to Jason Witten coming out of college.
This is another close battle, but I have to give the edge to the Cowboys. They have been together longer as a group and have one of the best tight ends in the game.
Dallas has tried to improve the offensive line in recent years, but they aren’t as good as Tampa Bay’s in my opinion. Both teams did fairly well against the Giants pass rush, but I still haven’t seen the Cowboys line dominate like I did Tampa’s against Carolina on the ground. Tyron Smith is a great prospect, but still experiencing a little bit of growing pains at the position.
Tampa Bay’s strength is the left side of their line with Donald Penn and Carl Nicks. Penn has always fared well against the premier pass rushers of the league, so I like the match up that brings to the table this week.
Coach Schiano also made a permanent change at the right tackle position as Demar Dotson was named the starter over Jeremy Trueblood. Trueblood’s days were numbered, and missing last game gave Dotson the chance to shine. Dotson was a former basketball player at Southern Mississippi, but has made the transition to right tackle after a few years in the system in Tampa. He has good athleticism, and handled the Giants pass rush extremely well for his first professional start.
With all the money and skill across the lines, I give the advantage to Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers have invested heavily in the defensive line over the past years, and it finally showed that first game against the Panthers. They disrupted running lanes and put pressure on Cam Newton dominating the game inside the trenches. They couldn’t find the same intensity against the Giants, but should be able to find it again against the Cowboys.
Gerald McCoy will be the key to this game. Romo has shown that he doesn’t like pressure in his face, and McCoy should be able to get after it all game.
The Cowboys line is solid, and even former pro bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff, isn’t this team’s strong point. Look for a good battle between second years Adrian Clayborn and Tyron Smith. Clayborn has yet to get a sack after recording 8.5 his rookie year. With the youth and talent across the board, I give the advantage to the Buccaneers, as I consider DeMarcus Ware a linebacker.
The biggest star in this game is DeMarcus Ware, who recently joined to 100 plus sack club over the win against the Giants. While Donald Penn has had a good deal of success against Ware, he has still been able to sack the Bucs twice in the last three games.
After Ware the Cowboys have some great athleticism on the inside as Bruce Carter has shown he’s fully healthy paired up with Sean Lee. The two are very good at recognizing plays and will be keys in keeping the Buccaneers running game in check.
Anthony Spencer has never developed into the pass rusher the Cowboys have imagined on the opposite side of Ware, but still needs to be accounted for.
For the Buccaneers rookie weak side linebacker Lavonte David continues to be the man in charge of calling the defense. He has looked outstanding so far, but still has room to improve.
Mason Foster looks healthy this year and has looked improved in coverage but still has room to improve on. Look to see some more splits with Dekoda Watson getting on the field to use his speed to get after Romo this week. The Cowboys have the edge here with the experience and production across the board
This is a good matchup for both teams. The Cowboys invested a lot this off season in the cornerback position. They gave Brandon Carr a 50 million dollar contract, and his early play this year has paid off. He has been the guy they thought they had who excels in man to man coverage.
Morris Claiborne should be a man to watch, as he was pegged to be a buccaneer throughout the entire draft process. He’ll likely draw Vincent Jackson and that should be a fun matchup to watch. The Cowboys safeties are both on the injury report this week, so we won’t know who the starters are until game day.
On the flip side the Buccaneers have been torched through the air early, already allowing over 800 yards. Aqib Talib needs to bounce back big, as he is supposed to be our lockdown corner.
Mark Barron has looked good so far as a rookie, but the important thing to me is keeping coverage over the top and not blitzing the safeties as much this week. Our defensive line should be able to create havoc with just the front four, so having our safeties up top should help minimize the big plays that killed us against the Giants.
Until the Buccaneers can show that they can even slow down the pass this edge goes to the Cowboys.
The Buccaneers have one of the better kicker and punter duos in the league. Michael Koenen has been a weapon for the offense, pinning defenses since signing his big contract, and handles kickoff duties as well.
Connor Barth isn’t a slouch either as he enters the game not missing a kick in over twenty attempts. He is pretty much automatic from fifty-five yards and closer.
Dan Bailey is the latest kicker for Dallas, he has only attempted one this year. If the game were to go down to special teams I like what the Buccaneers brings to the game.
Every game in the NFL is a must win, so there is no need to emphasize that. This would be a big victory for Schiano and the Buccaneers as they are still trying to discover who they are. We know that Schiano likes to pound the football, but if they have the double digit lead in the second half this game I would like to see them go for the kill.
Last week they tried to go vanilla again on offense, and Manning made them pay. I’d like to see them give Freeman the offense and try and stretch the field like he did last week against the Giants. I see a close game that both offenses have a pretty good day. I think Freeman gets an opportunity to lead the Bucs to a game winning drive and does just that.
Buccaneers win 31-27.