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Big Picture: Cowboys Will Look To End Losing Streak Against The Improving Bucs

(Editor's Note: Each Tuesday, presents "The Big Picture" for the upcoming game, presenting an overall update for each team as they head into the upcoming contest. This week, the Cowboys visit Tampa Bay to square off with the Buccaneers in Week 10.)

WHAT: Dallas Cowboys (2-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5)
WHEN: Sunday, Noon (Central)
WHERE: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

Dallas Cowboys

When will the streak end? The Cowboys have lost six straight games for the first time since 1989, their 1-15 season 26 years ago.

There isn't much else in common between those two teams aside from that disappointing statistic. The '89 team wasn't competitive at all most weeks, with nine double-digit losses. The 2015 Cowboys have fought game after game -- four of their six losses have been by a combined 20 points -- and that's what makes the current slide so frustrating for this group.

At 2-6, the Cowboys mathematically can still catch the division-leading Giants (5-4) with half the season left. Quarterback Tony Romo (collarbone) is eligible to be activated from the injured reserve/designated to return list for next week's game at Miami, and in his place this past Sunday against the Eagles, Matt Cassel (299 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) had his best outing in three starts.

But a seventh straight loss this Sunday at Tampa Bay would considerably damage the Cowboys' fading playoff hopes, considering only one other NFC team (1-7 Detroit) currently has fewer wins.

The Cowboys have won their last five games against the Bucs, most recently a 16-10 victory in 2012.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs (3-5) have already exceeded last year's two-win total under second-year coach Lovie Smith, having clinched their third victory in a road upset at 6-3 Atlanta in Week 8.

Smith has clearly put his defensive stamp on Tampa's roster. The Bucs have jumped to 11th in total defense and, just as lack of takeaways have been a major emphasis in Dallas, Tampa is thriving off forced turnovers. Only six teams have more than their 15.

The Bucs have multiple defenders who played for the Cowboys last season: cornerback Sterling Moore, linebacker Bruce Carter and defensive tackle Henry Melton. Cornerback Mike Jenkins was a first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2008, and linebacker Orie Lemon played two seasons in Dallas (2012-13).

Offensively the Bucs are young but very talented. Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston appears to be settling in as the starter -- he posted passer ratings below 70 in three of his first four games and above 70 (74.9, 85.0, 128.1) in his last three. He's also avoided turnovers in his last four games.

The No. 1 overall pick has a big-time talent at receiver. Mike Evans caught eight passes for 152 yards in last Sunday's 32-18 loss to the Giants, though going forward he will look to eliminate the multiple drops he had in that game. The Bucs' offense scored a touchdown once in four trips inside New York's 20-yard line.


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