Week 15 Staff Predictions: Dallas Cowboys host Tampa Bay Buccaneers

While the Cowboys have begun to show signs of struggle the past two weeks, the Buccaneers are riding in on a five-game win streak. Cowboys Blitz writers share their predictions for this Sunday night matchup below.Dallas Cowboys (11-2) host Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5)

Sunday, December 18, 7:30 p.m. CST

AT&T Stadium, Arlington Texas

TV: NBC

Bobby: Tampa Bay is no slouch. The Bucs have some impressive victories at home against Seattle and on the road against Atlanta and Kansas City. During the Bucs’ five-game win streak they’ve only allowed 12.8 points per game, which is not good news for a Cowboys team that has averaged 12 points per game the last few weeks. The Bucs will give up a little bit in the run game, which should be advantageous for Ezekiel Elliott. The Buccaneers have allowed seven of their last nine opponents to reach at least 119 yards on the ground, and teams on the year are averaging 4.3 yards per carry. I think you’ll see a lot of stacked boxes on Sunday night in an attempt to minimize Elliott’s damage. That means Dak Prescott will likely have to rebound from two sub-par efforts in a big way; I’m just not sure how feasible that is against Tampa. I think Dak plays better than his last two games, but still has some struggles and can’t quite put Dallas over the top. Panic will ensue in DFW, but then you’ll all forget about it when Dallas wins the last two. Tampa Bay 20, Dallas 14

Jonah: I have a feeling Dallas is about to go on a losing slide here after their dreadful performance against the New York Giants. The controversy surrounding the quarterback situation has engulfed social media this week, but I think Dak Prescott will be the starter regardless of the outcome on Sunday night. Unless Prescott is unavailable because of injury, Tony Romo will not play another snap for the Cowboys. The Tampa Bay defense is awful against the run, and all signs point to this game being a big Ezekiel Elliott day. However, the Buccaneers are going to throw everything but the kitchen sink and Raheem Morris at Elliott and this run game, forcing Prescott to have a bounce back game throwing the football. With the way Prescott has been playing lately, failing to reach 200 passing yards in three consecutive games, this game is going to be another stinker for Cowboys fans to watch. Give me the Bucs in an ugly, turnover-heavy game. Tampa Bay 14, Dallas 13

Cami: If we’re being realistic, Dallas could lose their last three games just as much as they could win them. It’s not time to sit back and coast now that you’ve already clinched a playoff spot, because there’s still a lot to play for in terms of seeding. The quarterback controversy will continue throughout this stretch, but in my opinion the front office needs to sleep in the bed they’ve already made, whether that bed is freezing cold or burning hot. Where Tampa Bay has been excelling has been their ability to create turnovers on defense. The Bucs have recorded 14 interceptions so far this season with 11 fumbles, sitting atop the league with 25 total takeaways. However, Tampa Bay doesn’t scare me too much in terms of weapons on the offensive side of the ball other than Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. Prescott’s struggle with pocket awareness will likely continue his streak of throwing for under 200 yards, but Ezekiel Elliott carries this team out of the slump. The Dallas red zone defense does just enough to squeak by. Dallas 17, Tampa Bay 16

Laurie: With Tampa Bay ranked 21st in run defense efficiency, Sunday screams a big shift for Ezekiel Elliott. Facing a heavy dose of stacked boxes from the Buccaneers will be grueling, and with the ability of Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander to cover, Prescott’s security blanket Cole Beasley and Jason Witten may find less room to break into as well. There is no shortage of talent in the Bucs cornerback room, but there’s also no shortage of shortage. Giving away an average of four inches and 35 pounds to #88, this must be a game where Dez Bryant takes over physically off the snap, maintains crisp focus on routes and dominates with ferocity at the catch point. For the defense, Sean Lee and the front have a load to handle with the return of Charles Sims along with shifty Doug Martin, so clinical tackling will be the tipping point in getting off the field. Brandon Carr’s boundary work has been superb of late, but the 6’5″ Mike Evans is fearless over the middle and improvises supremely well with Winston, so a little extra safety attention would be much obliged. Tampa Bay’s young QB will give you a chance, and Byron Jones will finally grasp one in what’s been an impressive sophomore campaign, but will it be enough? Tampa Bay 22, Cowboys 19

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