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Buccaneers vs. Cowboys Pick: Week 16 Prediction

by | Last updated Dec 21, 2018 | nfl

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9 SU, 6-7-1 ATS) vs. Dallas Cowboys (8-6 SU, 8-6 ATS)
NFL Football Week 16
Date/Time: Sunday December 23rd, 2018. 1:00PM (EST)
Where: AT&T Stadium Dallas, T.X.
By: Jay Horne, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: TB +7.5/DAL -7.5
Over/Under Total: 46.5

The Dallas Cowboys had their 5 game winning streak snapped last week, in an embarrassing way, with a 23-0 loss on the road in Indianapolis. Before the loss, the Cowboys were among the hottest teams in the NFL and will have a chance to rebound this week in an important home stand against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys are 7.5 point favorites over the 5-9 SU Buccaneers who recently just dropped their 2nd straight game in a 20-12 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. If the Cowboys can pull out the victory on Sunday, they would clinch the NFC East and secure an all-important playoff berth.

Cowboys looking to rebound following first shutout loss since 2003

If the Cowboys are going to bounce back and possibly make a run in the playoffs, they will have to make some quick improvement on the offensive side of the football. By now, it’s no secret that the Cowboys offense has struggled this season. Quarterback Dak Prescott is not having a good year despite decent numbers (67.6%, 17 TDs, 8 INTs). Prescott’s inability to hit open receivers become obviously apparent last week when he was stymied by a Colts defense on 24 of 39 passing for 206 yards with 1 interception in the team’s first shutout loss in 15 years.

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The Dallas offense remains the biggest liability for the team moving forward. Defensively, the Cowboys have been great with the emerging presence of linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch combined with the relentless pass rush of DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. However the offense has to be better for the Cowboys to have a chance in the postseason, granted they can at least win 1 of the next 2 games. The offense has put running back Ezekiel Elliott at the center point of their attack which is the correct recipe for success. Still, Prescott has to be better and find ways to get receivers Amari Cooper and Cole Beasley involved throughout games to keep defenses honest.

Buccaneers offense also struggling

Perhaps the Cowboys biggest advantage for this Sunday is the fact their potent defense will lineup against another struggling offense in the Buccaneers. In the last two games, the Bucs have been held to 14 points or less with quarterback Jameis Winston hitting just 50% of his passes. For those that may not be as familiar with Tampa Bay, this offense has juggled quarterbacks this year between Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick. However, they have not been able to find consistency with either prospect. Last Sunday against one of the league’s top defenses, Winston hit just 13 of 25 passing for 157 yards with 1 interception. As a team, the Buccaneers mustered just 241 yards of total offense marking the 2nd straight game that they were held to less than 300 yards of offense.

Like Dallas, the play at the quarterback position has to be better for the Buccaneers to succeed. Unlike the Cowboys, the Bucs offense relies heavily on their passing attack. Therefore when the quarterback play underperforms, they usually lose and there is no other way around it. Despite WR DeSean Jackson’s unavailability in recent weeks, this offense still has plenty of weapons. Leading receiving Mike Evans is among the NFL’s best. Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries, and Cameron Brate are more than capable beneficiaries at Winston’s disposal. It’s simply about getting the protection around the quarterback and executing the passes down the field.

Buccaneers nightmare match-up against Cowboys defense

The Cowboys may be a publically perceived fade in this spot coming off last week’s embarrassing loss. However, the match-up paints a very different picture. This Cowboys’ defense matches up as well as anyone against Tampa Bay’s threats. CB Byron Jones will draw plenty of coverage towards Mike Evans. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have been great in the middle of the field where Winston likes to check down his throws. Not to mention, the Cowboys pass rush will take aim at a several glaring holes along the Tampa Bay front. Combined with the Buccaneers recent struggles, the match-up is about as bad as it gets.

Betting trends also favor Dallas

Along with the fact that this is a horrible match-up for Tampa Bay’s offense, I would also consider the fact the trends favor Dallas as well. The Bucs are just 4-7-1 ATS in their last 12 games and just 5-9-2 in their last 16 road games. The Bucs are also just 1-10 SU against the Cowboys in their last 11 meetings. Meanwhile, Dallas is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games and 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games.

Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Dallas -7.5

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