The stage is set. The writing is on the wall. Its crunch time for Dallas. The Cowboys lost a heartbreaker to the New York Giants last weekend 37-34 and now they face virtually a must-win situation every week to make the playoffs. Their mission starts tonight with a visit to Tampa to face the Buccaneers.
QB Tony Romo has been enigmatic all year long. He has historically been bad down the stretch run of the last few seasons. In this game, he must make smart decisions with the football and not try to do too much. His weapons also have to be effective. Expect RB Felix Jones to get plenty of touches due to the Tampa Bay defense's inability to stop the run. He must show up in place of Demarco Murray, who is out for the season due to a fractured ankle. It also wouldn't hurt if Dez Bryant gets involved in the game early and often. Bryant's match up with Tampa Bay CB Aqib Talib should be interesting to watch.
Josh Freeman has struggled this year to stay away from the turnovers. He has been trying to force passes into places where no one should attempt to complete a pass. But the burden of keeping him out of situations where he has to force things doesn't just fall on him. His running game, led by RB LeGarrette Blount, will be key in allowing Freeman to relax and just play the game. Also, WR Mike Williams has to help his quarterback more. Williams has been targeted a lot by Freeman, but doesn't have a high percentage of catches in relation to those targets. He will have plenty of chances again tonight, so it should be interesting to see what he does. If the Tampa WRs and TEs are able to take advantage of Dallas and their secondary, then Dallas could have some trouble.
In this game, I expect both teams will come out emotional for different reasons. The Cowboys will be fighting for a playoff birth and the Bucs will be fighting for their coach. Unfortunately, the Bucs can't stop the run or run consistently. Dallas can.
Prediction: Dallas 30, Tampa Bay 13