Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys Odds

Franchise quarterbacks or frauds?

These two teams last met nearly two years ago to the day, a matchup Dallas won 26-20 to improve to a league-best 12-2. Tampa, despite the loss, fell to 8-6 and seemed to be on the ascent in the NFL. At the time, both teams appeared to have franchise-altering quarterbacks in Dak Prescott and Jameis Winston.

Fast forward two calendar years and optimism in both signal callers has fallen off a cliff, especially for Winston. It’s not a stretch to say the former number-one overall pick is playing for his future come Sunday’s visit to “Jerry World.” The embattled Winston has lost his starting gig on two separate occasions this year and Tampa can cut their losses with him (and his $20 million salary in 2019) in the offseason if they choose so.  

Prescott is eligible for a contract extension at season’s end, but his pedestrian 2018 stat line — 3,337 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and eight interceptions — doesn’t exactly scream “max contract.” Then again, Jerry Jones isn’t exactly known for making logical decisions. 

Either way, Sunday’s meeting might make a bigger imprint on the two quarterback’s wallet than the NFC playoff race. Tampa’s playoff drought that began in 2008 will extend another season with a disappointing 5-9 mark. Meanwhile, Dallas is clinging to a comfortable one-game lead in the NFC South over Washington and Philadelphia, who are both playing backup quarterbacks at the moment. 

Bucs vs. Cowboys Head-to-Head Trends

  • 1

    Dallas is 6-4 straight up versus Tampa in the past 10 meetings

  • 2

    Each team has covered evenly in the last 10 head-to-head matchups

  • 3

    The under has hit in eight of the prior 10 games between each other

Game Preview

First and foremost, we really like the under here. Once the NFL regular season winds down, scoring tends to take a plunge. This occurs due to injury-depleted depth charts, higher-stake matchups which demand more running and defense, and cold weather (if the game is played outside). It’s not a coincidence why the Rams, Saints, and Chiefs have all come back down to Earth in recent weeks. This trend usually extends into the postseason, so be weary beyond this game. 

Furthermore, neither one of these offenses seems to be in sync. Dallas is fresh off its first shutout since 2003 against a very so-so Indianapolis defense no less, and Tampa hasn’t eclipsed 14 points in back-to-back games. Add in the shaky quarterback play we’ve already touched on and this has the makings of a sloppy slugfest.

The funny thing is Tampa actually excels through the air. They rank an NFL-best with 319 passing yards per game, but that doesn’t always translate into points — a category where they’re 12th. The Cowboys have been hot and cold at throwing the ball. While Amari Cooper has revitalized their pass game somewhat, on the season, they’re still ninth worst. Like we said, don’t expect the scorekeeper to be busy in this one.

A win on Sunday and Dallas will clinch the NFC East crown. That should be expected, but it won’t come easy. A desperate Winston will keep this one within a score to cover the spread for Tampa. Winston’s big bugaboo since entering the NFL has always been turnovers. However, for all the good things Dallas’ defense does, creating turnovers isn’t one of them. Expect a wire-to-wire game in Jerry World. 

Pick: Tampa (+7) and under 47.5 points