FRISCO (105.3 THE FAN) – The Dallas Cowboys still have the inside lane in the NFC Playoff race. But among the teams giving chase: The Sunday night visitor to AT&T Stadium, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Cowboys are 11-2 and hold a two-game lead over the Lions, who are currently in the second spot in the playoff seedings. The Cowboys would clinch the NFC East with a win and a Giants loss or tie, or a tie and a Giants loss. Dallas could also clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win and a tie between the Giants and Lions.
But most importantly, they’d better take care of business vs. 8-5 Tampa Bay, which finds itself in a tight race with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South.
Both of those teams are 8-5, but because of the tiebreakers the Falcons hold the fourth seed right now and the Bucs are in sixth. A win by the Bucs and loss by the Falcons would allow Tampa Bay to control its own destiny – so this game is as big for the visitors as it is for the home team.
The Cowboys lost only their second game of the season last week, 10-7 at New York, but while there is panic in the streets, there is none inside The Star, where Dak Prescott remains in charge at QB. Dallas can lean more heavily on rookie back Ezekiel Elliott, who already leads the league in rushing yards, by involving him on third down and in the two-minute offense. And more targets for Dez Bryant would be desirable, too.
The Bucs counter with a balanced offensive attack featuring QB Jameis Winston, who is averaging 274.8 yards and a 100.2 passer rating in his past four road games, the most targeted receiver in the NFL (146 of them) in Mike Evans, and a 101.7 average in scrimmage yards in his last 13 road games from running back Doug Martin.
Dallas’ defense has allowed just 25 points in its last two games. But the Bucs defense is even more stellar in at least one category: The Buccaneers defense is the absolute best in the NFL on third down with a 34.0 percent conversion rate allowed.
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