Bucs, Cowboys look for fresh start in wild card matchup


TAMPA, Florida (UKTN/UKTN) — The Dallas Cowboys currently lead 18-0 at halftime in their first playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Both star quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Dak Prescott, hope their regular season adversity paves the way for a Super Bowl run.

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LANDOVER, MARYLAND – JANUARY 08: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys runs with the ball and is tackled by Daron Payne #94 of the Washington Commanders during the second half at FedExField on January 08, 2023 in Landover, Maryland.

Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images


DALLAS (12-5) v TAMPA BAY (8-9)


Monday, 8:15 p.m. EST, ESPN


AGAINST THE SPREAD: Cowboys 10-7, Buccaneers 4-12-1.

SERIES RECORD: Cowboys lead 15-6.

FINAL MEETING: Buccaneers beat Cowboys 19-3, September 11, 2022, in Dallas.

LAST WEEK: Cowboys lost to Commanders 26-6; Buccaneers lost to Falcons 30-17.





REVENUE DIFFERENCE: Cowboys plus-10; Buccaneers min-2

COWBOYS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Dak Prescott finished the regular season with a career worst seven-game interception streak. He threw a pick-6 in three of the last four games. Prescott’s 15 interceptions tied Houston’s Davis Mills for most in the NFL with three wins, despite missing the 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year five games with a broken thumb. The Dallas offense was much better with Prescott than without, but turnovers were an issue that could cost the Cowboys in the playoffs.

BUCCANEERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Tom Brady broke his own NFL record for completions in a season with 490 while throwing for 4,694 yards, third most in the league behind Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. But those impressive numbers didn’t translate into a winning record as the Bucs struggled to hold drives and ranked 25th in scoring offense as Brady threw for 25 touchdowns, compared to 43 last season. No one has been better in the postseason than the seven-time Super Bowl champion, who holds records for most playoff games (47), wins (35), passing yards (13,049), and TD passes (86).

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons, No. 11, celebrates after sacking New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, No. 8, during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Nov. 24 2022.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons, No. 11, celebrates after sacking New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, No. 8, during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Nov. 24 2022.

Jerome Miron-USA Today Sports

MAIN MATCHUP: Cowboys LB Micah Parsons vs. the Buccaneers offensive line charged with the responsibility of protecting Brady. One of the keys to the game numbers is whether the Parsons-led Dallas passing rush can make the Bucs star uncomfortable in the pocket. Parsons had two sacks in the Cowboys’ opening loss to Tampa Bay, finishing with 13½. The sophomore pro also led the league with 90 QB pressings. The Bucs offensive line has been an occasional problem this season, in part because injuries have pushed young, inexperienced backups into starting positions. LT Donovan Smith (foot) and RT Tristan Wirfs (ankle) did not play in the regular season finale last week. C Robert Hainsey left the final with a sore hamstring.

MAIN INJURIES: The story for Dallas is more about returning players than missing players. LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck), DT Johnathan Hankins (pectoral) and C Tyler Biadasz (ankle) are expected back. Vander Esch missed the last three games of the regular season, while Biadasz was sidelined for the final and Hankins the last four. … CB DaRon Bland did not play against Washington in the second half, but is expected to be available. The Cowboys have already suffered season-ending injuries to UKTN Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown. … In addition to Wirfs and Smith, Tampa Bay played its regular season finale without NT Vita Vea (calf), WR Julio Jones (knee), S Mike Edwards (hamstring/hip), CB Carlton Davis (shoulder), LB Carl Nassib (pectoral fins) . There is a chance that most, if not all, will return Monday night. The Bucs are also evaluating C Ryan Jensen, who has been designated to return from injured reserve after sitting out the entire season with a knee injury sustained on the second day of training camp.

SERIES NOTES: The Cowboys won both previous playoff meetings, both in the early 1980s. Dallas won seven of the previous eight encounters before Brady’s teams took the past two season openers. Brady is always 7-0 with 15 TD passes versus five interceptions against the Cowboys. He has averaged 277.9 yards per game in those matchups.

STATISTICS AND THINGS: The Cowboys have an eight-game losing streak in the playoffs. The most recent win was San Francisco’s 30-20 NFC championship game during the 1992 season. Dallas went on to win three of the next four Super Bowls. The Cowboys haven’t even reached an NFC title game since the last of those Super Bowl titles.

The Cowboys start on the road in the playoffs for the first time since the 2006 season, when Tony Romo infamously made the grab on a possible game-winning field goal in the last two minutes of a 21-20 wild card loss in Seattle.

Dallas led the NFL with 33 takeaways and is the first team since the 1972/74 Pittsburgh Steelers to lead the league in that category in consecutive seasons.

The Cowboys had 48 sacks in 12 games, but only five in the last five games. They finished tied for third in the NFL with 54 after leading the league in sacks for most of the season.

This marks the fourth playoff appearance in seven seasons for QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott, whose remarkable rookie year together in 2016 led to the top seed in the NFC before a division-round loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Prescott and Elliott have a postseason record of 1-3 after last season’s 23-17 wild card loss to the 49ers at home.

LANDOVER, MARYLAND – JANUARY 08: Quarterback Dak Prescott #4 hands the ball to Tony Pollard #20 of the Dallas Cowboys against the Washington Commanders at FedExField on January 8, 2023 in Landover, Maryland.

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

RB Tony Pollard only had a 19-yard rush against the Commanders, but it was enough for his first 1,000-yard (1,007) season. Dallas was held to under 100 yards rushing in back-to-back games to close out the regular season, a first in 2022.

Ezekiel Elliott’s career-best streak of nine consecutive games with at least one rushing TD ended against Washington. It was the longest active streak in the NFL.

WR CeeDee Lamb finished the regular season with nine touchdown catches, the club’s most since Dez Bryant’s franchise-record 16 in 2014.

Parsons had half a sack more than last season’s 13 when he was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. But Parsons was limited to 1 1/2 in the last six games.

Bland finished second among NFL rookies with five interceptions. It’s the most for a Dallas rookie since Derek Ross and Roy Williams each had five in 2002.

The Bucs won the NFC South for the second straight season, the first back-to-back division titles in franchise history. Last year, they beat Philadelphia in an NFC wild card game before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in the division round.

Since Brady’s arrival in 2020, the Bucs have won 37 games (including postseason) – third in the NFL behind the Kansas City Chiefs (44) and Buffalo Bills (40).

The Bucs defense has forced 16 top division turnovers over the past two postseasons. Those takeaways led to 72 points.

WR Mike Evans (1,124) is the first player in NFL history to begin a career with nine consecutive seasons receiving at least 1,000 yards. Chris Godwin (1,023) returned earlier than expected from a serious knee injury to lead the team with 104 receptions and his third season in the 1,000 meters.

RB Leonard Fournette has 555 yards of scrimmage in five playoff games with the Bucs. Going back to 2017, when Fournette was with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he has scored a touchdown in seven consecutive postseason games.


The Cowboys are holding an official waiting party at the Miller Lite House at AT&T Stadium for the fans unable to travel to the game in Tampa Bay, Florida.

The all-ages event will feature the game on video boards and outdoor televisions, a performance by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and appearances by some of the former Dallas Cowboys and its official mascot, Rowdy.

The event and parking are free, and if you’re looking for something to eat during the game, food trucks are available. Gates open at 5:30 PM and the match broadcast begins at 7:15 PM

Click here for more details.



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