Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images
TAMPA, Fla. (CBSDFW/AP) — Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady and Dallas’ Dak Prescott meet Monday night in an NFC wild-card game, and the star quarterbacks are hoping their regular-season adversity will pave the way to a Super Bowl run.
DALLAS (12-5) vs TAMPA BAY (8-9)
WHAT TIME DO THE COWBOYS PLAY?
Monday, 8:15 p.m. EST, ESPN
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK NFL LINE: Cowboys by 2½.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Cowboys 10-7, Buccaneers 4-12-1.
SERIES RECORD: Cowboys lead 15-6.
LAST MEETING: Buccaneers beat Cowboys 19-3, Sept. 11, 2022, at Dallas.
LAST WEEK: Cowboys lost to Commanders 26-6; Buccaneers lost to Falcons 30-17.
COWBOYS OFFENSE: OVERALL (11), RUSH (9), PASS (14), SCORING (4).
COWBOYS DEFENSE: OVERALL (12), RUSH (22), PASS 8), SCORING (5).
BUCCANEERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (15), RUSH (32), PASS (2), SCORING (25).
BUCCANEERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (T9), RUSH (15), PASS (9), SCORING (13).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Cowboys plus-10; Buccaneers minus-2
COWBOYS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Dak Prescott finished the regular season on a career-worst, seven-game interception streak. He threw a pick-6 in three of the last four games. Prescott’s 15 interceptions tied Davis Mills of three-win Houston for the most in the NFL despite the 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year missing five games with a broken thumb. The Dallas offense was much better with Prescott than without, but turnovers have been 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 sustain drives and ranked 25th in scoring offense as Brady threw for 25 touchdowns, compared to 43 last season. Nobody 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).
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KEY MATCHUP: Cowboys LB Micah Parsons vs. the Buccaneers offensive line charged with the responsibility for protecting Brady. One of the keys to the game figures to be whether the Parsons-led Dallas pass rush can make the Bucs star uncomfortable in the pocket. Parsons had two sacks in the Cowboys’ season-opening loss to Tampa Bay and finished with 13½. The second-year pro also led the league with 90 QB pressures. The Bucs offensive line has been a liability at times this season, in part because injuries have thrust young, inexperienced backups into starting roles. LT Donovan Smith (foot) and RT Tristan Wirfs (ankle) did not play in last week’s regular-season finale. C Robert Hainsey left the finale with a sore hamstring.
KEY INJURIES: The story for Dallas is more about players returning than players missing. LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck), DT Johnathan Hankins (pectoral muscle) 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 finale and Hankins the last four. … CB DaRon Bland didn’t play in the second half against Washington, but is expected to be available. The Cowboys have already had season-ending injuries to CBs 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). There’s a chance most —if not all — of them could return Monday night. The Bucs are also evaluating C Ryan Jensen, who’s been designated to return from injured reserve after sitting out the entire season with a knee injury suffered on the second day of training camp.
SERIES NOTES: The Cowboys won both previous playoff meetings, each in the early 1980s. Dallas won seven of the previous eight meetings before Brady’s teams took the past two season openers. Brady is 7-0 all time with 15 TD passes vs. five interceptions against the Cowboys. He’s averaged 277.9 yards per game passing in those matchups.
STATS AND STUFF: The Cowboys have an eight-game road losing streak in the playoffs. The most recent victory was 30-20 at San Francisco in the 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 are opening on the road in the playoffs for the first time since the 2006 season, when Tony Romo infamously flubbed the hold on a potential winning field goal in the final two minutes of a 21-20 wild-card loss at 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 through 12 games but just five in the last five games. They finished tied for third in the NFL with 54 after leading the league in sacks most of the season.
This is 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 divisional-round loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Prescott and Elliott have a 1-3 postseason record after last season’s 23-17 wild-card loss to the 49ers at home.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
The Cowboys are holding an official watch party at the Miller Lite House at AT&T Stadium for those fans who are 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 former Dallas Cowboys as well as the official mascot, Rowdy.
The event as well as parking is free, and if you’re looking for something to eat during the game, food trucks will be available. Gates open at 5:30 p.m., and the game broadcast will begin at 7:15 p.m.