2022 Game Preview: Cowboys-Buccaneers, Wild Card Week

Tampa Bay BuccaneersThe Buccaneers and Cowboys meet for the third time in prime-time in the last two seasons, now with the season on the line as Dak Prescott and Micah Parsons bring a very talented squad to Raymond James Stadium Monday for a Wild Card Round showdownScott Smith

The first Sunday night game of the NFL’s 2022 season featured the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys. The last Monday night game of the campaign will also pit those two teams together, and for one of them it will also be the final game of the 2022 season, period.

For the first time in 40 years, the Buccaneers and Cowboys will meet in the postseason, as they wrap up the NFL’s “Super Wild Card Weekend” with a Monday Night Football showcase at Raymond James Stadium. The Cowboys previously sent the Bucs home early from the 1981 and 1982 playoffs, but this time the Buccaneers have home field advantage after winning the NFC South.

Tampa Bay won its season opener in Dallas, 19-3, in what would prove to be one of its most well-rounded performances of an up-and-down regular season. The Buccaneers gained 347 yards of offense and only allowed 244 to Dak Prescott and company, though troubles in and around the red zone kept the offense from pulling away until the second half. Prescott also suffered a thumb injury in that game that would keep him out for the Cowboys’ next five games. With Cooper Rush under center, the Cowboys were able to win four of those five contests and keep their postseason chase on track.

The Buccaneers drew the 12-5 Cowboys because they were the lowest-seeded of the four division winners, having taken the NFC South with an 8-9 record. Neither the Buccaneers nor the Cowboys ended up with much to play for in Week 18, as Tampa Bay was locked into that fourth spot and the Cowboys could only usurp the top spot in the NFC East if the Eagles fell to the underdog Giants in Philadelphia. Jalen Hurts returned for Philadelphia and the Eagles broke a two-game losing streak to claim the division crown and the number-one overall seed in the NFC. The Cowboys lost a somewhat desultory game to the Washington Commanders, 26-6, with Prescott completing just 14 of 37 passes for 128 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The Buccaneers will be preparing for a Cowboys performance that they expect to be much different from their Week 18 outcome. Dallas finished the regular season third in scoring (27.5 points per game) and sixth in scoring defense (20.1), with a per-game point differential that ranked fifth in the league behind only division winners San Francisco, Buffalo, Philadelphia and Kansas City. The Dallas offense ranked eighth in the league with 135.2 rushing yards per game and the Cowboys’ defense, led by second-year superstar Micah Parsons, produced the second best sacks-per-pass-play rate at 9.82%.

“They can beat you a lot of ways – run, pass, defense, special teams,” said Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles. “They can beat you a lot of ways so you can’t just focus on one thing.

“They have a swarming defense, we know that. They have ballhawks in the secondary, they can get to the passer as well; Micah is not the only one. Offensively, they’re healthier on the offensive line. They can run the ball very well. Obviously, they’ve got talent on the outside and in the backfield and they have a great quarterback. Everything concerns you when you play the Cowboys. You’ve got to play a complete game.”

Unapologetic about their 8-9 record, the Buccaneers have achieved their first primary goal for 2022, winning a second straight division title, and their larger ambitions still lay ahead of them. Tampa Bay won Super Bowl LV following the 2020 season, then tied for the best regular-season record in the NFL in 2021 and advanced to the divisional round before bowing out on a last-second Rams field goal. Now, they start at home for the second postseason in a row and will hope to peak at just the right time.

Those three playoff seasons coincide, obviously, with the presence of Tom Brady, who came to Tampa in 2020 for a new chapter in his career after two decades of dominance with New England. It has been a largely successful chapter, and Brady will now look to add one more Super Bowl championship ring to his record seven. As Brady would be the first to say, it’s a team game and everyone is chasing that next ring together. Still, as the G.O.A.T himself demonstrated repeatedly in 2022 with wild comeback wins, the Buccaneers have reason to be confident in any game with Brady at the helm, even when things are tight.

“We hang together, we stay in every game,” said Bowles. “Even though it might not be clean all the way, we find a way to be in it and we just have to make plays at the end the ballgame. We’re confident and we understand that, so we don’t feel like we’re out of any ballgame.”


Dallas Cowboys (12-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)

Monday, January 16, 8:15 p.m. ET

Raymond James Stadium (capacity: 69,000)

Tampa, Florida

Television: ESPN

TV Broadcast Team: Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst), Lisa Salters (reporter)

Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station

Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (reporter)


Coming to the game or enjoying pregame festivities? Check out our Buccaneers Gameday Page for everything you need to know about getting ready for the game, Tailgate Packages, Bucs Beach and more!


The 2022 season is underway and there are a limited number of Single Game Tickets on sale now! Visit Buccaneers.com to purchase tickets.


The Buccaneers and Cowboys will meet in the postseason for the third time this Wild Card weekend, but for the first time in four decades. Early in its franchise history, Tampa Bay won back-to-back playoff berths in 1981 and 1982, but both postseason runs began and ended in Dallas. The 1981 Buccaneers captured the NFC Central title but were seeded third out of the three division winners and thus had to go to Texas in the Divisional Round. There they absorbed a 38-0 beating sparked a powerful Dallas rushing attack (four different backs scored touchdowns) and a defense that sacked quarterback Doug Williams four times and picked off four of his passes.

The following season was shortened to nine games by a players’ strike and the playoffs were refashioned into a “Super Bowl Tournament” in which the Buccaneers drew the seventh of eight seeds. They were sent back to Dallas for what proved to be a more competitive game before the Cowboys pulled away for a 30-17 win. The Bucs had a 7-6 lead in the second quarter after a 60-yard touchdown return by Hugh Green of a Danny White fumble, and a 17-16 edge in the third quarter thanks to Williams’ 49-yard touchdown pass to Gordon Jones. But a 19-yard pick-six by rookie defensive back Monty Hunter in the fourth quarter turned the tide for the home team.

In the regular season, the Cowboys lead the all-time series with Tampa Bay 13-6, and for the better part of 45 years it has been a one-sided affair. However, the Buccaneers have (or are having) two stretches of competitiveness in this shared history, both revolving around their Super Bowl-winning seasons.

Basically, there was no Bucs-Cowboys rivalry during the first decade-and-a-half of the former club’s existence. From 1966-85, Dallas made the playoffs 18 times in 20 seasons and played in five Super Bowls. Midway through that run, the Buccaneers were born as a 1976 expansion team and they got their first crack at the Cowboys in 1977. The quarterback matchup was Roger Staubach against Gary Huff, and Dallas won easily, 23-7. The two teams would meet only seven more times over the next two-plus decades, with the Cowboys taking each contest. It didn’t help that seven of those eight games were played in Texas; the Bucs are 1-10 on the road against the Cowboys all-time but are actually above .500 at home, as of a year ago.

The expansion Buccaneers did make a rather impressive rise to playoff contention in just four years, even advancing to the NFC Championship Game in 1979. That John McKay-Lee Roy Selmon-Doug Williams squad also qualified for the playoffs in 1981 and 1982; the results of those games in Dallas are noted above.

The series turned around, at least for a short stretch when the Buccaneers turned things around as a franchise in the latter half of the ’90s. The Bucs and Cowboys didn’t meet for nearly that entire decade then finally got together again in 2000. The Bucs, coming off a season in which they advanced to the NFC Championship Game for the first time in 22 years, won that meeting handily, 27-7, sparked by Warrick Dunn’s 70-yard touchdown run less than five minutes into the game.

The Bucs beat the Cowboys twice more during their first Super Bowl era, 10-6 in Dallas to kick off the 2001 season and 16-0 in Tampa in 2003. The latter of those two games came with the defending Super Bowl XXXVII champions in the middle of an up-and-down title defense season. The defense took over, allowing just nine first downs and 178 yards of offense and getting key interceptions from Jermaine Phillips and Ronde Barber.

After that run, Dallas reestablished control of the head-to-head series, winning five straight including two in Tampa during the Raheem Morris years (2009 and 2011). The Bucs broke that run with an offensively-challenged 10-6 win at Raymond James Stadium in 2015, with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston breaking up an all-field goal battle with a game-winning touchdown run in the last minute. That bootleg one-yarder came right after Winston had a goal-line fumble erased by a penalty. The next year, the Buccaneers were on the edge of playoff contention in December but Dallas dealt the Bucs’ hopes a serious blow with a 26-20 win most famous for running back Ezekiel Elliott’s leap into a giant Salvation Army bucket behind the end zone.

The Cowboys also prevailed by a 27-20 margin in 2018 in Dallas but Tampa Bay has the most recent decision in the series. As defending Super Bowl champs, the Buccaneers got the Thursday night Kickoff Game spotlight in 2021 and welcomed Dallas to town for what would prove to be a wild shootout. Basically abandoning the rushing attack, the Cowboys had Dak Prescott throw 58 times and the visitors rang up 451 yards to Tampa Bay’s 431. Dallas had the lead late, too, after Greg Zuerlein’s 48-yard field goal made it 29-28 with 1:24 to play, but that proved to be too much time to leave Tom Brady. Completions of 20 yards to Rob Gronkowski and 24 to Chris Godwin put Ryan Succop in range to make a 36-yard game-winner. The NFL chose to match up the Bucs and Cowboys in Week One of this season, too, this time in Dallas on Sunday Night Football. Tampa Bay mostly dominated this one, winning 19-3 and only allowing the home team to record 244 yards, 12 first downs and three third-down conversions in 15 tries. Ryan Succop kicked four field goals to stake the Bucs to a 12-3 lead and Tom Brady put it away in the second half with a five-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans, who made a dazzling one-handed catch in the end zone.


* Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles was the Cowboys’ defensive backs coach from 2005-07.

* Cowboys Defensive Backs Coach Al Harris, who played cornerback for 14 years in the NFL, first entered the league as a sixth-round draft pick by the Buccaneers in 1997. He spent his rookie campaign on Tampa Bay’s practice squad and was then waived by the Buccaneers the following preseason.

* Dallas punter Bryan Anger served in the same role for the Buccaneers for three seasons, from 2016-18. He holds the Buccaneers’ single-season records for gross punting average (45.9), net punting average (42.7) and punts inside the 20 (37), all set in 2016.

* Buccaneers safety Keanu Neal played one season in Dallas between his first five NFL years in Atlanta and his move to Tampa this year. Reuniting with former Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn, now the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, Neal agreed to a position switch to linebacker. He has moved back to his original position with the Buccaneers.

* Tampa Bay Specialists Coach Chris Boniol was a kicker for the Cowboys for three seasons (1994-96) and also began his coaching career in Dallas as an assistant special teams coach from 2010-13. Boniol helped Dallas win Super Bowl XXX, connecting on 27 of his 28 field goal tries during that 1995 season.

* Buccaneers Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers first moved from the college coaching ranks into the NFL in 2003 with the Cowboys, starting out as the team’s defensive tackles coach. After two seasons in that role he spent three more as the Cowboys’ defensive line coach.

* Cowboys linebacker Devante Bond (on injured reserve) originally joined the league as a sixth-round draft pick by the Buccaneers in 2016. He played in 29 games with six starts over two-plus seasons in Tampa after spending his rookie season on injured reserve.


Tampa Bay:

* Head Coach Todd Bowles

* Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin

* Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich

* Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers

* Pass Game Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote

* Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong


* Head Coach Mike McCarthy

* Assistant Head Coach Rob Davis

* Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore

* Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn

* Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel



* P Jake Camarda (fourth-round draft pick)

* WR Russell Gage (UFA)

* G Luke Goedeke (second-round draft pick)

* DL Logan Hall (second-round draft pick)

* T Fred Johnson (FA)

* WR Julio Jones (FA)

* TE Ko Kieft (sixth-round draft pick)

* G Shaq Mason (trade-NE)

* CB Zyon McCollum (fifth-round draft pick)

* OLB Carl Nassib (FA)

* S Keanu Neal (UFA)

* TE Cade Otton (fourth-round draft pick)

* TE Kyle Rudolph (FA)

* S Logan Ryan (FA)

* RB Rachaad White (third-round draft pick)


* CB Mackensie Alexander (FA)

* LB Anthony Barr (FA)

* DE Dante Fowler (FA)

* TE Jake Ferguson (fourth-round draft pick)

* DT Johnathan Hankins (Trade-LV…currently on injured reserve)

* WR T.Y. Hilton (FA)

* OLB Takk McKinley (FA…currently on practice squad)

* CB Trayvon Mullen (Waivers-HOU)

* RB Qadree Ollison (FA…currently on practice squad)

* CB Xavier Rhodes (FA…currently on practice squad)

* DL John Ridgeway (fifth-round draft pick)

* T Tyler Smith (first-round draft pick)

* WR Jalen Tolbert (third-round draft pick)

* WR/KR KaVontae Turpin (UDFA)

* DE Sam Williams (second-round draft pick)



* While the Bucs continue to maintain enviable continuity on their coaching staff, there is a new person in the corner office. In March, Bruce Arians stepped down after three years as the head coach and took on a new role as a senior advisor to the general manager. Todd Bowles was promoted from defensive coordinator to take his place. Bowles previously served as the New York Jets’ head coach from 2015-18 before rejoining Arians when the latter came on as the Buccaneers’ head coach in 2019.

* With Bowles stepping up the Bucs needed a new defensive coordinator and they essentially named two of them. Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers added the title of Run Game Coordinator while Outside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote switched to inside linebackers and added the title of Pass Game Coordinator. They are in effect co-defensive coordinators. Bob Sanders joined the staff to take over for Foote in the outside linebackers room. Foote made his switch after Inside Linebackers Coach Mike Caldwell landed the defensive coordinator position in Jacksonville under new Head Coach Doug Pederson.

* The Buccaneers had two key players retire after the 2021 season, but only one of them stayed retired. While quarterback Tom Brady eventually elected to return 40 days after announcing he was stepping away from the game, his long-time buddy Rob Gronkowski walked away for good, leading to big changes in the Bucs’ tight end room. While veteran Cam Brate returned, O.J. Howard left in free agency and the Buccaneers subsequently drafted Cade Otton and Ko Kieft and signed veteran Kyle Rudolph.

* Tampa Bay’s defense also saw the departure of two front-seven stalwarts from the extremely successful 2020-21 seasons, as neither DL Ndamukong Suh nor OLB Jason Pierre-Paul was re-signed. The team signed veteran standout Akiem Hicks and drafted Houston’s Logan Hall 33rd overall to address depth up front and are relying on 2021 first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka to step up on the edge.


* Long known for fielding a dominant offensive line, the Cowboys have a new look up front in 2022, particularly after star left tackle Tyron Smith suffered a torn hamstring that sidelined him for a good portion of the season. Dallas also released right tackle La’el Collins in a cap-related move (he landed in Cincinnati) and saw left guard Connor Williams head to Miami in free agency. Dallas drafted Tulsa’s Tyler Smith in the first round in April and initially had him battling Connor McGovern for the left guard spot before he was forced to step in for the other T. Smith at left tackle. At right tackle, holdover Terence Steele got the chance to take over before he landed on injured reserve on December 14. Tyron Smith came off I.R. just a few days later and has stepped in at right tackle, with the rookie remaining on the left side.

* Dallas also saw a shakeup in its receiving corps, beginning when Amari Cooper was also released for cap purposes (he went to Cleveland). With Michael Gallup still not all the way back from last season’s ACL tear at the beginning of the season and Cedrick Wilson joining Connor Williams in the move to Miami, CeeDee Lamb became the unquestioned number one receiver, followed by a group of unproven players like Noah Brown, Simi Fehoko and rookie third-rounder Jalen Tolbert. Gallup has since returned to action and the Cowboys also added wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in Week 15.

* Mike McCarthy is back for his third season as the Cowboys’ head coach and he also kept coordinators Kellen Moore (offense), Dan Quinn (defense) and John Fassel (special teams) intact, but there was one change to the coaching staff. Robert Prince takes over for Adam Henry as the wide receivers coach; Prince previously worked with Moore at Boise State.


Roster Reckoning – On his “Let’s Go” podcast on Monday night, Tom Brady sounded an optimistic note about a long list of his injured teammate, saying, “I believe we’re going to be as healthy as we’ve been all year.” If Brady’s medical prognoses prove sound, that’s very good news for Tampa Bay, which played last week without Vita Vea, Donovan Smith, Tristan Wirfs, Carlton Davis, Mike Edwards, Logan Ryan, Carl Nassib, Julio Jones and Mike Evans. (Evans was ill, not injured.) Facing a defense that ranked second in the NFL in sacks and features superstar pass rusher Micah Parsons, a healthy offensive line bookended by tackles Smith and Wirfs would be encouraging. Of course, now the Bucs have a new concern in the middle of that line, as center Robert Hainsey left last Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. If he can’t play, the Bucs could move Nick Leverett to center and use the versatile Brandon Walton at left guard. And then there’s the ultimate wild card: Ryan Jensen. The Pro Bowl center hasn’t played this season after suffering a knee injury in training camp, but he is currently practicing with the team. There is at least a theoretical possibility he could solve that potential issue on the pivot. For the Bucs’ defense, getting to field the same secondary that held the Cowboys to 198 passing yards in Week One would be extremely helpful.

Aerial Momentum – If you only watched the games of Week 18, you might expect Monday night’s game to be bereft of any passing game excitement. The Buccaneers threw for just 136 yards against Atlanta after pulling Tom Brady in the second quarter. The Cowboys had a power outage in a 26-6 loss at Washington, with star quarterback Dak Prescott having one of his worst outings as a pro. Prescott completed just 37.8% of his passes (14 of 37), the worst-single game mark of his career, while throwing for 128 yards, one touchdown and one interception. In reality, both passing attacks are capable of putting up big passing numbers on any given game day (or night). In Week 16, Brady threw for a season-high 432 yards and hit Mike Evans on three long touchdowns down the sideline. Prescott threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns in Week 16 against Tennessee and has presided over the league’s highest-scoring offense over the last eight weeks. Brady threw for 4,694 yards, third most in the league, while Prescott had the league’s fourth-best touchdown percentage (5.8%). The question is, did either passing attack lose its momentum with its 18th-week showing, or will both be able to get right back into a groove?

Give Us the Run Down – In their season-opening 19-3 win at Dallas, the Buccaneers ran for 152 yards and held Dallas to 71 rushing yards. That most definitely did not prove to be a harbinger of things to come in 2022; the Bucs would go on to rank 32nd with 76.9 rushing yards per game while the Cowboys would rise to eighth in that same ranking at 135.2 per outing. Leonard Fournette started the season on a strong note, rushing for 127 yards and 6.0 yards per carry; the Bucs couldn’t replicate that type of ground production most of the year but perhaps could rediscover that element of the offense in the rematch with Dallas’ 15th-ranked run defense. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay’s run defense dropped off from its league-leading numbers of the past three seasons, allowing 129.3 yards per game to rank 22nd in the league. Some of that was the result of non-overlapping injuries to massive defensive tackles Vita Vea and Akiem Hicks. The last time those two were on the field together the Bucs held a very potent Carolina rushing attack to 67 yards and 2.7 yards per carry. Todd Bowles stated again this week that “balance” isn’t the primary goal on offense and that he’s more than happy to follow whatever formula will lead victory. Still, good returns early from the run game for either team would help create shorter third downs and some bite to the play-action passing game.

Prime Time Spotlight – When asked on Friday why the NFL has seen fit to put each of the three Bucs-Cowboys games of the past two seasons in prime time, linebacker Lavonte David had a concise answer: “Tom Brady and the star.” Indeed, for both fans of Brady and/or “America’s Team” and those who love to see them lose, those two entities are NFL attention magnets. The Bucs and Cowboys opened the entire NFL schedule in 2021 with the annual Kickoff Game because Tampa Bay was the defending Super Bowl champion and Dallas was…well, Dallas. The league went right back to that well for the first Sunday Night Football showcase of this year’s season, with the Bucs going to Texas. Tampa Bay won both of those contests and hopes to finish off the three game sweep this coming Monday at Raymond James Stadium. This will be the sixth prime-time game of 2022 for the Buccaneers, who had three Sunday night appearances (one on Christmas), one Monday-nighter and one Thursday night assignment. The Bucs went 3-2 in those five games, winning their last two in Arizona on Christmas and against New Orleans in Week 13. The upcoming game will be the final one of a packed schedule on “Super Wild Card Weekend” and by the time it is contested the Bucs and Cowboys will know what a win will get them…either a trip to Philadelphia, San Francisco or Minnesota or a home game against the Giants.

Special Considerations – If Monday’s game is a tight one, as was the case when the Bucs pulled out a last-second 31-29 victory at Raymond James Stadium in Week One of the 2021 season, it could be a special teams play or two that makes the difference. And if that’s the case, that looks on paper like an advantage for the Cowboys, who ranked 10th in special teams DVOA according to Football Outsiders. The Buccaneers ranked 31st. Dallas got a very strong season from placekicker Brett Maher, who made 29 of 32 field goals – including nine of 11 from 50 yards and beyond – and 50 of 53 extra point attempts. Cowboys punter Bryan Anger tied for 10th in the league in gross punting average (48.4) and was eight in net average (42.8). Undrafted rookie KaVontae Turpin is the NFC’s Pro Bowl return man after averaging 10.4 yards per punt return and 24.2 per kickoff return, with longs of 52 and 63, respectively. The Cowboys’ punt return unit also put pressure on 14 punts this season, almost exactly one-fifth of the number they faced, and the Buccaneers allowed 10 punt pressures, third-worst in the league. Tampa Bay’s rookie punter Jake Camarda had a fantastic debut season, veteran kicker Ryan Succop is a proven playoff performer (16 of 17 on postseason field goal attempts) and rookie Deven Thompkins has recently added a spark to the return game. Still, the Bucs’ special teams units will have to be on the top of their game on Monday to keep this phase of the game from tilting in the Cowboys’ favor.


1. Buccaneers T Tristan Wirfs vs. Cowboys OLB Micah Parsons

Right tackle Tristan Wirfs, the Bucs’ lone Pro Bowl selection, probably would have played in Week 18 if the outcome of the game had meant something to the standings or playoff seeding, but the extra week off should get him closer to 100% as he recovers from a Week 12 ankle injury. Wirfs’ presence against the Dallas defense is essential because the Cowboys have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL and outside linebacker Micah Parsons is a scary challenge for any offensive tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, Wirfs has played 931 offensive snaps this season and allowed two just sacks, while drawing four penalties. Parsons lines up all over the front – in fact, that’s what makes him such a unique defender – but certainly will have some one-on-one moments with the Bucs’ third-year tackle, who has the nimble feet and hand-to-hand skills to match up with one of the league’s best edge rushers. Through his first two seasons, Parsons has racked up 26.5 sacks in just 33 games, and this year he was third in the NFL with 70 quarterback pressures, or about four per game. Parsons plays with relentless intensity and often wins his one-on-one matchups in a split second. When that happens, his closing speed on the quarterback can be lethal.

2. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott vs. Buccaneers S Antoine Winfield Jr.

Dak Prescott has directed the NFL’s highest-scoring offense over the last eight weeks and is adept at making throws on schedule and while moving out of the pocket. Last year, ESPN put together a “QB Council” of analysts and that group ranked Prescott in the top 10 in 11 of their 12 considered categories, including accuracy, touch, vision and decision-making. Despite missing five games, Prescott racked up 2,860 passing yards and 23 touchdown passes, ranking fourth in the NFL in touchdown percentage. The one blemish on Prescott’s stat line this season is his 15 interceptions, which tied for the NFL lead. Prescott has been picked off at least once in each of his last seven outings, and the Buccaneers got him once in the season opener. The culprit: safety Antoine Winfield Jr. That proved to be Winfield’s only pick of the season, but he remains one of the defenders most likely to make a big play when the Buccaneers need it the most. In addition to trying to redirect some of Prescott’s passes, Winfield may also take on the Cowboys quarterback more directly. A gifted blitzer out of the slot, Winfield has 4.0 sacks in 13 games this season and 9.0 in his three-year career. Prescott versus Winfield could turn into a chess match between two very cerebral players.

3. Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin vs. Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs

A second-round pick in 2020, Diggs took the league by storm in his second season when he intercepted an NFL-high 11 passes, at one point intercepting at least one pass in six straight games. Diggs has a bit of a gambling style, which obviously creates big plays on defense but can also open the door to explosive plays on offense. That said, he was very much a net positive for a wildly-improved Dallas defense, recording an excellent target EPA of -23.3 for the season and allowing a completing rate of 53.5% that was 7.2% worse than expected. Opposing quarterbacks had a 50.9 passer rating when throwing to a player with him as the nearest defender. Diggs’ numbers haven’t been quite as good this year – he’s got a +13.4 target EPA and a passer rating allowed of 87.5 – but the Buccaneers still have to worry about him reading a route and coming up with a game-changing play. Chris Godwin led the Bucs with 104 catches, and his average of 9.8 yards per catch is an indication of how often he has been working underneath zones and turning very short passes into useful gains. Godwin is a very polished route runner who can and does utilize every option in the route tree, and could potentially get an aggressive defender like Diggs to bite on what looks like some kind of quick-hitter but is actually a more complicated route.

4. Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb vs. Buccaneers CB Jamel Dean

With Amari Cooper in Cleveland and Michael Gallup hurt for a portion of the season, CeeDee Lamb emerged as the unquestioned top option in the Cowboys’ passing attack and the fifth most prolific pass-catcher in the NFL with 107 grabs for 1,359 yards and nine touchdowns. Lamb has done a lot of damage out of the slot this season but still plays roughly half of his snaps on the outside, split evenly between the left and right sides. When he’s split out wide to the left he will encounter cornerback Jamel Dean, who recently returned from a toe injury to continue what has been an outstanding season. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Dean allowed the fourth fewest yards as the nearest defender among all cornerbacks in the NFL in 2022 (minimum of 50 targets). He has quietly allowed the fewest yards per target among defensive backs since entering the NFL in 2019. Dean has blazing speed and the size to match up against the NFL’s biggest receivers. CeeDee Lamb stands 6-2 and 200 pounds and can work the short, intermediate and deep zones equally well. He’s extremely smooth in his routes and mixes up his speed to fool defenders, and he can gain separation very quickly. Dean will have a challenge on his hands when Lamb lines up wide, but he has shown he is up for it in 2022.



DNP: Did not participate in practice

LP: Limited participation in practice

FP: Full participation in practice

NL: Not listed


* CB Carlton Davis (shoulder) – THURS: FP

* S Mike Edwards (hip) – THURS: FP

* WR Mike Evans (illness) – THURS: FP

* C Robert Hainsey (hamstring) – THURS: LP

* WR Julio Jones (knee) – THURS: FP

* G Nick Leverett (knee/shoulder) – THURS: LP

* G John Molchon (ankle) – THURS: LP

* CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (shoulder) – THURS: FP

* OLB Carl Nassib (pectoral) – THURS: FP

* S Keanu Neal (hip) – THURS: FP

* TE Kyle Rudolph (knee) – THURS: DNP

* S Logan Ryan (knee) – THURS: LP

* T Donovan Smith (foot) – THURS: FP

* DL Vita Vea (calf) – THURS: LP


* C Tyler Biadasz (ankle) – THURS: FP

* DE DeMarcus Lawrence (foot) – THURS: LP

* T Tyron Smith (knee) – THURS: LP

* LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck) – THURS: FP


Evening weather: Partly cloudy, high of 64, low of 44, 5% chance of rain, 67% humidity, winds out of the ENE at 3 mph.


Head referee: Craig Wrolstad (20th season, ninth as referee)


* Favorite: Buccaneers (-3.0)

* Over/Under: 44.5

INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS (2022 regular season)

Buccaneers- Points Scored: K Ryan Succop, 117

Touchdowns: WR Mike Evans/RB Leonard Fournette, 6

Passing Yards: QB Tom Brady, 4,694

Passer Rating: QB Tom Brady, 90.7

Rushing Yards: RB Leonard Fournette, 668

Receptions: WR Chris Godwin, 104

Receiving Yards: WR Mike Evans, 1,124

Interceptions: CB Jamel Dean/Mike Edwards/Sean Murphy-Bunting, 2

Sacks: DL Vita Vea, 6.5

Tackles: ILB Devin White, 124

Cowboys – Points Scored: K Brett Maher, 137

Touchdowns: RB Ezekiel Elliott/RB Tony Pollard, 12

Passing Yards: QB Dak Prescott, 2,860

Passer Rating: QB Dak Prescott, 91.1

Rushing Yards: RB Tony Pollard, 1,007

Receptions: WR CeeDee Lamb, 107

Receiving Yards: WR CeeDee Lamb, 1,359

Interceptions: CB DaRon Bland, 5

Sacks: LB Micah Parsons, 13.5

Tackles: S Donovan Wilson, 99

TEAM STAT RANKINGS (2022 regular season)

Buccaneers- Scoring Offense: 26th (18.4 ppg)

Total Offense: 14th (346.7 ypg)

Passing Offense: 2nd (269.8 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 32nd (76.9 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-13th (20.4)

Third-Down Pct.: 21st (37.4%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 1st (2.93%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 22nd (52.0%)

Scoring Defense: 13th (21.1 ppg)

Total Defense: t-10th (324.3 ypg)

Passing Defense: 10th (203.6 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 15th (120.7 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-6th (18.5)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 6th (36.9%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 12th (7.89%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 26th (62.5%)

Turnover Margin: t-20th (-2)

Cowboys- Scoring Offense: 3rd (27.5 ppg)

Total Offense: 10th (354.9 ypg)

Passing Offense: 14th (219.8 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 8th (135.2 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-11th (20.4)

Third-Down Pct.: 5th (45.5%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 5th (4.86%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 1st (71.4%)

Scoring Defense: 6th (20.1 ppg)

Total Defense: 13th (330.2 ypg)

Passing Defense: 8th (200.9 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 22nd (129.3 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: 15th (19.2)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 9th (37.7%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 2nd (9.82%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-9th (52.0%)

Turnover Margin: 2nd (+10)


* Because he left the game before halftime in Week 18, wide receiver Chris Godwin fell just short of setting the Buccaneers’ single-season record for receptions. Despite playing only 26 of a possible 55 snaps, Godwin still caught six passes to regular season at 104, the second-highest total in team history behind Keyshawn Johnson’s 106 in 2001. However, Godwin will now get a chance to top Johnson’s team record for most catches in a season, playoffs included. Johnson finished at 109 in that 2001 campaign, so Godwin would top that with six more on Monday against the Cowboys.

* Running back Leonard Fournette has scored six touchdowns in just five playoff games with the Buccaneers. That puts him just one behind the franchise’s career mark for postseason touchdown, as Ring of Honor member Mike Alstott finished with seven. So one more gets Fournette into a tie with Alstott and two would give him the record.

* Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting is one of four players who share the Buccaneers’ record for most postseason interceptions, with three. One more would snap that tie with Donnie Abraham, Dexter Jackson and Dwight Smith and give him sole possession of first place.

* Safety Antoine Winfield has two career forced fumbles in the postseason. That’s one shy of Simeon Rice’s team record of three.

* Wide receiver Mike Evans and Fournette rank first and second in Bucs history in postseason receptions, with 28 and 27 respectively. Obviously, that means either one could be in the lead by the end of Monday’s game.

* Rob Gronkowski owns the Buccaneers’ record for most postseason receiving yards by a tight end, with 226. However, Cameron Brate is at 213 in his career and would only need 14 more to assume first place on the list.


* Head Coach Todd Bowles on Dallas CB Trevon Diggs: “He’s long, he’s very fast, he’s got excellent ball skills – he’s a very instinctive player. Not many corners can see the ball like he can see it and still see the receiver at the same time. He has a very good knack of seeing when the quarterback is setting up and breaking before the receiver breaks. I think that takes a skillset to do – that takes a long time. He’s got it. He gets a lot of picks that way and he’s a very talented player. It’s going to be a good matchup.”

* Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich on the Cowboys’ defense: “It’s the same thing you saw in the beginning, right? You knew they would have guys getting after the quarterback. You just cut the tape on and ’11’ (Micah Parsons) shows up everywhere – he’s a hell of a football player. The motor that he has – he’s a great football player, really one of the great football players in this league. We’ll have that challenge. But it’s not just him – they have a lot of guys with their hand in the ground that know what they’re doing and [are] very capable and really good at what they do. We’ve got to prepare for that, that’s what we’re doing, that’s what we’ll do this week to get ourselves ready for this good football team. People can say what they want but this is a 12-win football team. We’ve only got eight of them so we look at anybody above us as a great football team, so we’ll prepare that way.”

* Pass Game Coordinator Larry Foote on how playoff games are different from the regular season: “t’s special. You hear in this league how different it is from college – the speed. You get in the playoffs and it gets even faster. First downs feel like points and everybody’s standing up. All our dreams are right there, and you only get 60 minutes. But it’s a special time and I’m happy for the young guys that get to experience it, but you can’t explain it, you’ve just got to go through it and understand how special it is.”

* Inside linebacker Lavonte David on if there is a noticeable difference when most of the defense is healthy: “Yeah, obviously. Guys who you’ve been through the grind with, guys who you know, guys who you’ve been communicating with throughout the season – stuff like that. It’s tough because injuries are a part of the game, but just having a revolving door of different guys you’re working with and trying to understand who you’re working with and how they play the game – stuff like that. I believe this is probably the first time since the first couple of weeks where we’ve all been on the field with each other. And you saw what was happening when everybody was together – we were playing at a high level. Now we have a chance to get everybody back so hopefully we can pick up where we left off. It’s definitely good to have those guys back and we’re definitely excited.”

* Wide receiver Mike Evans on how the Bucs and Cowboys are different since Week One: “We’re going to be at close to full strength and they’re going to be close to full strength. They’ve had a better season than us, so far, but that’s the regular season – it’s over. Now we start off 0-0. It’s going to be similar. I hope it’s the same outcome, but anything can happen in the playoffs.”

* Foote on the team working through injuries during the season: “Well, it starts up top in the organization. When get those rings, everybody played a role in it. You’ve got to have depth, you’ve got to find free agents, you’ve got to get guys in college in late rounds because you’re going to need everybody. Until you go through it, you understand it’s not just ‘coach-talk.’ We need everybody in the building and they’re going to play a role at some time in the season and the more depth [you have], the chances of winning goes up.”

https://www.bignewsnetwork.com/news/273360863/2022-game-preview-cowboys-buccaneers-wild-card-week?utm_source=feeds.bignewsnetwork.com&utm_medium=referral 2022 Game Preview: Cowboys-Buccaneers, Wild Card Week

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