FRISCO, Texas – One more opportunity to put this thing away.
We all know how the Cowboys handled their last chance to grab a hat and a t-shirt. Locking up the NFC East didn't go so well on the road.
Perhaps they'll fare better in the friendly confines of AT&T Stadium. The Buccaneers won their season opener, 48-40, on the road in New Orleans. That was their last road win, as they are 1-6 away from home this season.
We'll know in short order how the Cowboys will respond from last week's setback. Here's a look at what I want to watch for as we settle in for Week 16.
· I know there was some concern around this club about the guard situation and whether Zack Martin and Xavier Su'a-Filo will be able to play. In visiting with some folks the last couple of days, it appears that both were able to practice well on Thursday and Friday. They should be good to go. Both Connor Williams and Adam Redmond received snaps as backups, but Martin and Su'a-Filo were able to handle the majority of the snaps.
· We need to keep an eye on Anthony Brown's availability this week. Wednesday night, Brown's back started tightening up, which forced him to miss practice on Thursday and Friday. Brown will be a game time decision, but if he's unable to go it'll put Jourdan Lewis into the mix at nickel corner. One of the matchups that I featured this week was Brown working against Adam Humphries. When you study Humphries' game, he is the Buccaneers' version of Cole Beasley. Like Brown, Lewis should be good in this matchup. He has the savvy and quickness necessary to work against Humphries to limit his opportunities.
· As much as I like the matchup with DeMarcus Lawrence against Demar Dotson, I've got to imagine the Buccaneers are going to give their tackle help. Look for the Buccaneers to put tight ends to Lawrence's side in order to try and help Dotson. Just studying the tape, Dotson would have trouble with Lawrence if he has to face him in too many one-on-one situations. To counter this and free up Lawrence, they can move him around in order to work to disrupt their blocking scheme. We have seen Lawrence flip sides in the past in order to try and get the best matchup possible. Lawrence has shown that he is more than comfortable rushing from either side.
· These Cowboys tight ends have had some success these previous two games catching the ball. Tampa's rookie safety, Jordan Whitehead, presents a different challenge for them. Not only is Whitehead comfortable in coverage when it comes to movement skills, but he is physical in the way he plays. This is where he excelled while at Pittsburgh. Whitehead makes things tough on tight ends by the way he plays, so if you don't see much production from that group during the game you'll now understand why.
· I don't believe the Cowboys' defense has played an opponent that takes as many shots down the field as the Buccaneers do. One of my biggest concerns in this game is Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson just running by Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie. As you watch Jameis Winston throw the ball, there are a couple of things you notice. Winston clearly has the arm talent to put it out there for his guys to go get it -- but he also doesn't care one bit if it's intercepted. It's this type of mentality that makes the Buccaneers dangerous. Jones and Awuzie have good speed, but not the type of speed that Evans and Jackson process. The Cowboys have been outstanding all season limiting the chunk plays, but this will be a whole different challenge.
· I'm hearing that there are no changes to the Cowboys' field goal protection, personnel-wise. The field goal attempt that was blocked against the Colts was low and came over the left side of the Cowboys' line. Look for the Buccaneers to load up in that area to test Su'a-Filo and La'el Collins to see if they've made the necessary adjustments to not allow that to happen again.
· On Talkin' Cowboys we went through some ideas about some potential roster moves that might be coming in the last two weeks of the season. Guys like Darius Jackson or Donovan Olumba could come up off the practice squad. The Cowboys might even look at adding C.J. Goodwin, who just began practicing after spending time on the injured reserve list. There comes a point at this time of the season where they can't afford to carry injured players when healthy players could help them in these games.
· My weekly guess at the Cowboys Inactives: QB Mike White, WR Tavon Austin, RB Darius Jackson, CB Anthony Brown, LB Chris Covington, DE Dorance Armstrong, DT David Irving.