Dallas Cowboys @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers DAL -2.5, O/U 45.5
These two teams kicked off their regular season with a matchup in Week 1 and one of them will have their season ended by the other in the first round of the playoffs. The Cowboys and Bucs have faced each other both this season and last season, with the Bucs coming away with the victory in both.
In Week 1, the Bucs won 19-3 and held Dak Prescott to only 134 yards passing on 29 attempts. A game in which Dak Prescott was injured and Cooper Rush took over, throwing for only 64 yards on 13 attempts. The Bucs defense back in Week 1 was a lot more stout than the one the Cowboys are facing this week. Since Week 10, the Bucs have given up the 18th most passing yards per game at 236 per game and the 13th most fantasy points to the position. Weeks 1-9 the Bucs ranked 28th, giving up only 208 passing yards per game and ranked 18th in fantasy points to the position. The Bucs have a hard time stopping the run like they’re used to so drives are sustained longer. Outside of their random Week 18 thrashing from the Washington Commanders, the Cowboys have been on fire offensively. Between Weeks 7-17, they have scored at least 24 points in every single game with topping 40 four times over that ten game span. They went 8-2 over the stretch and Dak Prescott played great ball. Over that span, Dak Prescott ranked 2nd in the NFL in Passing TDs (22), behind only Patrick Mahomes and 7th (2,598) in passing yards. He also led the NFL in completion percentage (71%). The downfall was the fact he threw 13 interceptions but shouldn’t be too much of an issue in a game against a team that had a hard time forcing turnovers during the regular season. On the receiving end, I’m focusing on Ceedee Lamb and Dalton Schultz in this matchup. CeeDee Lamb has all but finalized his breakout this season, finishing the season 4th in the NFL with 156 targets, catching 107 of them for 1,359 yards and nine scores. The Cowboys will focus on Lamb, who plays the majority of his snaps in the slot, in this game and funnel easier passes to Schultz over the middle, a spot the Bucs are vulnerable to. Since Week 10, the Bucs gave up the 6th most PPR points per game to the slot WR position and the 10th most to the TE spot.
On the ground, we will likely see almost a near split between Zeke and Pollard in the backfield in regards to snap share. Removing the Commanders game, Pollard saw 14 or more touches in every game since Week 6 and has topped four receptions in four of his last six games. He has also scored at least 12.9 PPR points in every game in that span except for one which was Week 12. Pollard is who I prefer in this backfield and I think the cowboys view him as a bigger weapon than Zeke, but Zeke as the more steady rock. With Pollard healthy and every game here on out being do or die, I think they utilize Pollard to his max when it comes to touches. I prefer to play Pollard’s props over Zeke with Pollard’s rushing line currently sitting at 45.5, rush attempts is 10.5, and receiving yards is 19.5, receptions 2.5, and anytime TD is +205. All of them present value.
Tom Brady has yet again thrown the ball the most times in the NFL, this time beating last year’s total of 719 with 733 this year. He is averaging 43 attempts per game and this should bode well for both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The success of this offense is going to hinder solely on if they can protect Brady or not. The pass rush for the Cowboys is one of the best in the NFL and if they disrupt Brady’s pocket, he will have a LONG day at the office. However, if they can’t get to Brady, he is going to pick them apart. On the outside, Mike Evans is going to eat Cowboys star Cornerback Trevon Diggs alive, it is just a matter of, like I just mentioned, if Brady will have the time to get him the ball. Should they connect, Evans is in line for some big plays down the field. Over the middle, I expect Chris Godwin to have a ton of open, low aDOT targets. I like Godwin for the volume and I think Evans for his yards in this one. I’m going to be playing the over on Brady’s pass attempts which is currently set at 42.5.
On the ground, technically, Rachaad White is technically the starter on paper and he also goes out for the first series. However, the snap counts for White over the last three games have been 29 (39.2%), 29 (35.8%), and 39 (50%). Whereas Fournette has seen 43 (58.1%), 49 (60.5%), and 36 (46.2%). It is worth noting that out of the three games, the one that White did out-snap Leonard Fournette was Week 17, where he saw three more snaps than Fournette. However, I think there is a HIGH chance that the Bucs rely on the experience of Leonard Fournette in this one. Fournette should see 8+ targets in this game, with all of those targets being high percentage throws which means he should knock his receptions line of 4.5 out of the park, as intimidating of a line as that is for a RB.
I think the Cowboys pull it off. They will have enough success on offense to finish drives while the Bucs are going to stall in the red zone, resulting in too many FGs to overcome. Don’t be surprised if this game ends on a play made by Micah Parsons late in the game on a hit on Tom Brady.