Let’s try this again. Exactly seven days ago the Dallas Cowboys sat in a position to clinch the NFC East crown on the road against the Indianapolis Colts. The hats and shirts to celebrate a second playoff birth for Dak Prescott seemed to be prematurely already made. And the team played as such. This week, the boys are back at home against an inconsistent Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9) with the same goal they had last Sunday. Win the division.
The Buccaneers are 2-1 against the NFC East this year with the previous loss coming against the Washington Redskins, 16-3. The Buccaneers have had turmoil at quarterback all season, but it will be Jamies Winston leading the third-ranked offense on the field Sunday afternoon (416.6 yards/game). Winston is equipped with dynamic receiving threats Mike Evans, Desean Jackson and Tight End O.J. Howard.
Surely enough, moving the ball has been the least of their concerns this season. Though their 42 offensive touchdowns are tied for 9th in the league, their -16 turnover to takeaway ratio ranks 31st this year. Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown an interception in 11 of 14 games this season. From week 3 until week 11 they had at least 1 interception. The duo combined for 22 picks during that span.
The team has seemingly lived by the mantra “go big or go home.” Despite the abundance of turnovers they ranked third of teams with plays of 20 yards or more. They are also tied for first among teams with plays of 40 yards or more.
On the other side, the Buccaneers send out the fifth-worst defense in the league giving up 385 yards per game. Their defense is dead last in the red zone defense and has given up the third most rushing touchdowns this season (17). That daunting statistic bolds well for a Cowboy offense who is near the bottom of the league in red zone offense. Ezekiel Elliot, who leads the league by far in touches, ranks near the bottom of the league in red zone touches.
Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan has been on record discussing the difficulties of running when the field is that condensed and the defense expects you to run. However, whether Tampa Bay expects it or not they haven’t found a way to prevent it. Hopefully, the 23-0 debacle last week was the final wake up call for this offense to find another gear down inside the 20.
Taking care of business at home has been a trend this season. Dallas could risk becoming the only NFC division leader to have 2 losses at home this season. They also risk the having to travel to New Jersey to clinch the division against the New York Giants barring an Eagles win over the Texans. If you’ve been a fan of this team long enough, you’ll understand how that scenario looks heavily unfavorable for the Cowboys. The Cowboys are 0-3 under Head Coach Jason Garrett in week 17 win-or-go-home scenarios. As frightening as that sounds, none of it matters if Dallas handles their business this week.
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