By Conor Perrett

It’s Monday Night Football and we close out the Wild-Card round with a historic player facing up against a historic team. 

Despite finishing below .500 for the first time in his career, Tom Brady gets the chance to host a playoff game, against a hot and cold Cowboys team, in what might be his last game in a Buccaneers uniform.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)

Power Rankings – 13th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 16th, Defence – 13th, ST – 31st: Overall – 17th 

Making the playoffs without having a winning record is not a regular occurrence, as the Buccaneers are the latest team to do so. In a weak division, Tampa Bay now has the privilege of hosting the Dallas Cowboys, who will be favourites.

The Bucs look like a shadow of the team that won the Super Bowl two years ago, with a new head coach in place. By the sounds of things Todd Bowles will remain as head-coach no matter the result of tonight’s game, but it goes without saying the decline the Buccaneers has been on. 

Specialising on the defensive side, with a banged up secondary, things have been very inconsistent on that side of the ball.

While on the offence, the big issue has been the loss of former head-coach Bruce Arians. On a whole, the offence has been poor considering they have a seven-time Super Bowl winner at QB. The offensive line hasn’t played well because of injuries, the running game is non-existent at times and the tight ends and receivers seem to have lost a step.

Matchup to keep an eye on – Explosive plays on offence

One of the main issues for the Bucs has been moving the ball downfield. Moving the chains has been difficult by their standards, as it comes much easier when they can pick up big yards on the ground or through the air. The Cowboys’ defence has been susceptible recently to deep vertical routes, so keep an eye out for Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to use their speed to get over the top. 

Dallas Cowboys (12-5)

Power Rankings – 6th

DVOA Rankings: Offence – 15th, Defence – 2nd, ST – 10th: Overall – 6th 

A lot has changed since Dallas’ Week 1 loss to the Buccaneers, but the Cowboys are still too inconsistent to be considered a major contender. They looked great when they took down the Eagles on Christmas Eve to keep the race for the top spot in the NFC East, but sloppy losses to the Jaguars and Commanders added doubt to their credentials. 

The defence has been solid throughout the season, despite picking up injuries in the secondary on the back end. Micah Parsons has earned his first All-Pro honours at the EDGE position, but has started to be schemed out of games. In the bright lights though, expect him to step up to the challenge.

Success has depended on the play of quarterback Prescott. Dak led the league in interceptions despite missing four games of play.  It’s been unlike himself to make this many mistakes, as the Cowboys need him to connect with CeeDee Lamb to be the explosive offence they know they can be.

Matchup to keep an eye on – Dallas’s run game

Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard may be one of the best one-two punch running-back combos in the league. They both work incredibly well when in rhythm and can be a nuisance to stop when running rampant. Things have slowed down a little since offensive tackle Terence Steele got sidelined with an injury, but it’s difficult to see Dallas winning this game without a big performances from either of the backs.

Previous Matchups

2022 Season:

Week 1 – Buccaneers @ Cowboys 19-3, Buccaneers win

We saw this Wild-Card matchup back in the first week of this season and to the surprise of everyone Tampa Bay blew away the Cowboys. Dallas QB Dak Prescott suffered an injury in this game that would hold him out for a month, and the Cowboys offence has significantly grown since then.

It should also be known in a personal statistic, the Dallas Cowboys have never beaten Tom Brady before.  In Brady’s 20+ year career he’s faced the Cowboys seven times, winning every one of those games.


If you asked who would win this matchup a few weeks ago, I would have leaned heavily with the Cowboys. But since then, Dallas has looked shaky at times with both their offence and defence showing weaknesses .

It’s also hard to doubt the post-season experience Tom Brady brings to the table. There’s a reason why he has won more Super Bowls than every other franchise, as he shows up in the big games when he’s needed.

The Bucs have many reasons why they could win. They game-plan well, are at home and Dallas struggle in the outdoors. The result may matter on how they attack though. If they come out pass heavy, I think Dallas will be able to slow that down. On the other hand if they commit to the run I can see them winning the game in that style.

The problem is their run game has disappeared at times, so that is what I have to go off of. I’ll side with the Cowboys because of this. 

Cowboys 20-17 Buccaneers

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