The Cowboys' 11-game winning streak ended last week with a 10-7 loss to the New York Giants – their lowest point total all season. Sunday's opponent at AT&T Stadium, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5), are on a five-game winning streak in which they've allowed 12.8 points per game.
Can the Cowboys (11-2) rebound on Sunday Night Football, still looking to clinch the NFC East with a playoff spot already secured? The DallasCowboys.com staff gives their gut feelings for the Week 15 matchup:
Bryan Broaddus: Look for Dallas to come out trying to hammer the ball on this smaller Buccaneers front seven. How they handle Gerald McCoy will be key as well as getting blockers up on Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David. As a unit, the Buccaneers like to step up and attack the offensive front. Look for plenty of collisions at the point of attack. Dallas gets back to what they do best and that's run the ball to get the offense back on track. Ezekiel Elliott gets his most carries all season, 35, and the Cowboys come away with a division clinching 20-13 victory on Sunday night in front of the home crowd.
Rob Phillips: For me, this game comes down to two key factors. First, can the Cowboys' secondary contain Mike Evans, the Bucs' talented 6-foot-5 receiver who ranks third in the league with 80 catches? Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston looks for Evans early and often; he has the league's most receiving targets (147). Second, can Dak Prescott and the Cowboys get out of these third-and-long situations? They're 2-of-24 on third down in the last two games, and 14 of those 24 third downs were at least third-and-7. My gut feeling is the Cowboys improve to 12-2 because the offense will benefit from playing in front of their home crowd after two really tough road environments in Minnesota and New York. If they can consistently establish the run with Ezekiel Elliott, the rest of the offense will benefit.
Nick Eatman: I think the Cowboys get back to their winning ways and bring the Bucs down to earth a little bit. When I look at what Tampa Bay has done, it's remarkable this team has won five straight games. Then again, the Cowboys winning 11 is pretty mind-blowing as well. But nothing the Bucs do is really that extraordinary aside from getting turnovers. So that's the key. I think the Cowboys hang onto the ball this week with no turnovers and impose their will in the running game. I know there's been some talk about Dak and Romo but I get the feeling the rookie bounces back with two touchdown passes and no picks. I see Lucky Whitehead making up for missing last week with some big plays. On defense, it's time Byron Jones got a pick so I see him getting one and I think Benson Mayowa keeps up his stellar play with two more sacks this week. The Cowboys are a better team and the better team wins it 28-13.
David Helman: I'm not going to lie to you – that offensive performance in New York was awfully concerning. I'm sure you agree. But over the course of an 11-game win streak, I saw enough from the Cowboys to believe they can right the ship at home this weekend. The Buccaneers are hot, having won five straight games, but they're 21st in the league against the run. That bodes well for this ground game to get things going. And if Tampa is unable to slow down Ezekiel Elliott, then I have to imagine Dak Prescott will have an easier time finding open receivers than he did last week. By that same token, the Buccaneers are a mediocre running team, and I like the Cowboys' chances to slow them down on the ground. Mike Evans is probably going to get his yards against a secondary that doesn't have Morris Claiborne. I see him going for 120 and perhaps a touchdown. But the Bucs don't have enough other weapons to balance things out. Playing indoors and at home, the offense will have a better showing against this defense. It won't always be pretty, as I see Dan Bailey as the MVP of this game with four field goals. But couple that with a great day from Elliott, and it'll be enough. Cowboys get back on track with a 26-20 win.