Football analyst Bucky Brooks, a former NFL player and scout who now works for NFL Network and serves as an analyst for DallasCowboys.com, gives his weekly keys to the game Sunday, providing specific points of emphasis for both the Cowboys and Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers will win if…
The Tom Brady-led Buccaneers might have limped into the playoffs, but the team continues to display a championship swagger that makes them a dangerous squad in a single-elimination tournament. Despite the offense's struggles, the big play potential of the Buccaneers' passing game with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans poses a challenge for any defense lacking high-end cornerbacks on the island. Given the Cowboys' recent struggles against the deep ball, the Buccaneers should attack early and often to see if they can overwhelm an inexperienced cornerback with one of their all-star pass catchers. If the Buccaneers can strike first with a "bombs away" approach, it could open up the box for "Playoff Lenny" (Leonard Fournette) to work his magic between the tackle to control the clock as part of a slow-down game plan.
Defensively, the Buccaneers need to control the Cowboys' running game and put pressure on Dak Prescott to play a clean game as a passer. The veteran has struggled with interceptions, and facing a ferocious blitz package from the Buccaneers could lead to a turnover-fest that results in an upset win in the Wild Card Round.
The Cowboys will win if…
The Cowboys must shake off a disappointing performance in the season finale to get back on track in the Wild Card Round. To knock off the Buccaneers, the offense needs to get back to basics relying on the running game to set the table behind the efforts of Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott. Although the Buccaneers' formidable defensive front will make it tough to grind out yards between the tackles, the Cowboys must avoid falling into a one-dimensional attack that puts the onus on Dak Prescott to carry the offense as a passer. With a diverse approach that forces the Buccaneers to defend the run and pass, the Cowboys should be able to exploit a secondary that has struggled in coverage. If CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup can find room to operate, the Cowboys' quick-rhythm attack should be able to move up and down the field with ease.
From a defensive standpoint, Dan Quinn must remind his patchwork secondary to keep the ball in front of the defense. If the Buccaneers cannot strike on a big play, they have a tough time stringing together enough positive plays to drive the ball the length of the field. In a game that is expected to come down to fourth-quarter performance and production, the Cowboys can chalk up a win if they avoid giving up cheap scores to Tom Brady and Co.