Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick & Prediction JANUARY 16th 2023

Stadium: Raymond James Stadium Tampa
Logo Dallas Cowboys
Logo Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Advancing to the NFC divisional playoffs next weekend would require the Dallas Cowboys to deliver on a franchise first.

Dallas is 0-7 against Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who already defeated the Cowboys this season.

The Cowboys (12-5) travel to Tampa Bay (8-9) for the unique wild-card matchup on 'Monday Night Football' expecting a much different game. The Buccaneers are home for the opening round due to their division title, claiming the NFC South while the Cowboys were second in the NFC East to the Philadelphia Eagles.

"It's 2023. He ain't beat us this year. That's all we're worried about," Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse said of the franchise's winless record against Brady, which includes the season-openers in 2021 and 2022.

Brady is doing more than ever without the benefit of a leading ground game, causing the Buccaneers to pass 78 percent of the time. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich attributes the imbalance to injuries, but Tampa Bay did rush for 152 yards in the 19-17 win to open this season.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Predictions

"He's been in a lot of these games. He understands how these games have to be played," Leftwich said, downplaying the result of the most recent game against Dallas 20 weeks ago. "The last of my worries, really, is Tom. When you get in these moments, it's making sure we're good around him, making sure we're all on the same page."

Big plays are next to nil from the Buccaneers' ground game, which generated only three gains of 20-plus yards this season. And in addition to being last in the NFL in rushing yards per game, Tampa was 32nd in yards per carry (3.4) in the regular season.

The passing attack with Brady and tandem 1,000-yard receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans is a different type of threat.

"We're going to be close to full strength, they're going to be close to full strength," said Evans, who had 10 receptions for 207 yards and three TDs in the division-clinching win over Carolina on Jan. 1. "When we're healthy, it doesn't matter who the DBs are. Hopefully we get a lot of Cover-1 -- you know I love that."

Getting defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (pectoral) and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) back from injuries would be a boost to a Dallas defense that has been average in recent weeks, including a 26-6 loss at Washington to end the regular season.

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, who is 0-2 against Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles, said the return of center Tyler Biadasz (ankle) brings Dallas close to complete, health-wise.

To get quarterback Dak Prescott ready for the prime time playoff spot, McCarthy said he used a video reel of his recent turnovers as a learning tool. The goal is to pinpoint where breakdowns take place, not to belabor a point about protecting the ball.

"You're much better prepared through your failures than your successes," McCarthy said of his tact.

Prescott had 15 interceptions in 12 games and was picked at least once in each of the final seven games of the regular season. He has one crutch Brady doesn't: a productive running game.

The Buccaneers allowed 4.5 yards per carry in the regular season. Ezekiel Elliott (876 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs) and Tony Pollard (1,007, 9) became a dynamic combination while Prescott mended his broken right thumb injured in the September loss to the Buccaneers.

Bowles said nose tackle Vita Vea (calf) and cornerback Carlton Davis III (shoulder) will be back after missing time, but Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen (knee) might not be cleared to make his season debut. Jensen was injured in training camp.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Odds

"He's practicing hard, so we'll see where he is. He's got some tests to pass," Bowles said.

Jensen's replacement, starter Robert Hainsey, was limited in Thursday's practice with a hamstring injury that forced him out of last week's game at Atlanta.

Not since 1991 have the Cowboys gone on the road to win a wild card playoff game. Brady is the NFL's all-time leader in playoff wins with 35, a total that includes seven Super Bowl victories. Dallas, which also owns 35 all-time playoff wins, has four postseason victories since the franchise last won a Super Bowl to end the 1995 season.

"I think we'll pay most attention to the fact that we've had the opportunity to compete twice against them," McCarthy said. "We have zero responsibility or time to worry about what's happened in the past."

--Field Level Media

Dallas Cowboys
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Recap JAN 16TH 2023

Dak Prescott passed for four touchdowns and rushed for another to lead the Dallas Cowboys to a dominating 31-14 victory over the host Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night in the NFC wild-card round.

Prescott passed for 305 yards while guiding the fifth-seeded Cowboys to their first playoff road victory since prevailing 30-20 over the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 17, 1993 at Candlestick Park. Dallas broke an eight-game skid in that situation.

Ironically, the Cowboys will visit the second-seeded 49ers on Sunday in the divisional round.

Dalton Schultz caught seven passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns while Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb also had scoring receptions for the Cowboys. Tony Pollard rushed for 77 yards on 15 carries.

Tom Brady was 35-of-66 passing for 351 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the fourth-seeded Buccaneers. Brady hasn't yet committed to returning to Tampa Bay, playing for another team next season or retiring.

Julio Jones and Cameron Brate caught touchdown passes and Chris Godwin had 10 receptions for 85 yards for the Buccaneers.

Cowboys kicker Brett Maher set an NFL postseason record by missing four extra-point attempts. Maher missed three to the right and one to the left.

Dallas didn't record a first down on either of its first two possessions but traveled 80 yards on seven plays during its third time with the ball. The Cowboys capped it when Prescott threw a 22-yard scoring pass to Schultz with 6:28 left in the opening quarter.

Tampa Bay had a chance to tie the score but Brady was intercepted in the end zone by Jayron Kearse on the second play of the second quarter.

Dallas responded with a 15-play, 80-yard drive that chewed 8:38 off the clock. Prescott scored the touchdown while cruising to the left on a 1-yard run.

The Cowboys delivered an 11-play, 91-yard excursion later in the quarter. This time, Prescott hit Schultz on an 11-yard throw to make it 18-0 with 27 seconds left in the half.

Dallas continued its domination with another long drive in the third quarter. The Cowboys meandered 86 yards on eight plays with Prescott hitting Gallup on a 2-yard score. Maher's fourth miss left the Dallas lead at 24.

Tampa Bay got on the board when Brady hit Jones with a 30-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the third quarter. The two-point conversion failed.

Due to Maher's kicking problems, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy waved the kicking unit off on fourth-and-4 in the fourth quarter. Instead, Dallas went for it and Prescott hit a wide-open Lamb for an 18-yard score with 10:13 remaining.

Maher entered and kicked an extra point right down the middle.

--Field Level Media