Dak Prescott vs. the Tampa Bay Defense will decide the Wildcard matchup on Monday Night. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are an absolutely terrible matchup for the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs. Tampa Bay controls the run defense better than anyone in the NFL and could very well repeat their Week 1 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night.
Performance of Dak Prescott Pivotal Against Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay Staunch Against the Run
The Buccaneers are one of the best teams in the NFL against the run this season and the last few seasons in the NFL. Tampa Bay has surrendered 2,052 rush yards for 4.5 yards per carry during the 2022 season. The Buccaneers have also been stingy with only 12 rushing touchdowns this season.
Tampa Bay has been staunch against the run for the past several seasons thanks to veteran leadership from Vita Vea and Lavonte David. This duo leads the Buccaneers in stopping the run dead in its tracks week in and week out. Success in the passing game is more important than ever in this Wildcard round.
Dallas Limping Into the Playoffs
The Cowboys have been limping into the playoffs since struggling to beat the Houston Texans in Week 14. Dallas has struggled on offense after routing both the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts. Both the run game and pass game have been subpar since struggling to defeat Houston.
The Dallas Cowboys offense is trending in the wrong direction heading into a tough Wildcard matchup against Tampa Bay. The Dallas offense plays off the run offense and the defense. Both units has been struggling over the last few weeks. If the Cowboys want to make it past the Buccaneers, they will have to get the ground game going against one of the top run defenses in the NFL.
Strength on Strength
The strength of this Tampa Bay defense is stopping the run. Dallas has relied on the run to determine the pace of place all season. This matchup is strength-on-strength as Ezekiel Elliott and Pollard face off against David and Vea and this vaunted Tampa Bay run defense. If the Buccaneers are able to stop the run, Dallas will have to look to Prescott and the pass offense to put up points to advance to the second round.
Dak Prescott’s Success Will Decide the Game
Prescott has struggled since returning from thumb surgery. Since that time he has thrown for 14 interceptions. The Dallas quarterback is tied for the league lead with 15 interceptions alongside Davis Mills. Prescott has struggled mightily since returning from surgery and has become very loose with the football. There is plenty of evidence defending the quarterback highlighting many of his interceptions are from drops and tipped passes. However, the number of turnovers is concerning entering a game where the quarterback will be leaned upon so heavily.
Dak Prescott is the first player in NFL history to lead (or share lead of) the NFL in interceptions despite missing 5+ games pic.twitter.com/ho0gCBuc1D
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 9, 2023
Dak Prescott has to have a big game in order to beat the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is likely to shut down the run offense altogether. Without explosive plays from Pollard and ground-and-pound from Elliott, Prescott is the Cowboys last hope to outscore Tampa Bay.
Dallas and Tampa Bay will be a showcase of strength on strength. The Tampa Bay run defense will have their hands full with Elliott and Pollard while a struggling Prescott attempts to find his rhythm against this porous Buccaneers secondary. If Dallas wants to advance past this round and avoid another first-round exit they will have to get the offense going after roughly a month of struggling. The defense will undoubtedly play a big role, but the most important factor is Dak Prescott’s success in the passing game on Monday Night.
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