Tampa Bay Looks to Keep Playoff Hopes Alive in Prime-Time Matchup Against Dallas

Watch the showdown between the Bucs and Cowboys on Dec. 18 at 8:30 p.m. EST on NBC

For all the optimism and excitement generated during the Cowboys’ 11-game winning streak, Dallas still seems poised on the edge of a slow-motion disaster as it heads into a Sunday Night Football game against Tampa Bay.

Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has played poorly in two straight games, including Sunday night’s loss to the New York Giants. He was just 17 of 37 for 165 yards, and calls for Tony Romo to return to the starting job have gotten louder.

If Prescott struggles against Tampa Bay (8-5) and the Cowboys (11-2) whiff on another chance to clinch the NFC East, a change could come.

But the Cowboys could catch a break against Tampa Bay’s below-average run defense. Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott could thrive against the Bucs and take pressure off of Prescott and the passing game.

The Buccaneers won’t be a pushover, though.

They’ve won five in a row thanks to some steady work by second-year quarterback Jameis Winston and an offensive line that has protected him well.

Tampa Bay’s defense has limited teams to less than 13 points per game during that winning streak. If they can knock off Dallas, they’ll keep pace with Atlanta for the NFC South lead and stay in the thick of the wild card race, too.

Watch the showdown between the Bucs and Cowboys on Dec. 18 at 8:30 p.m. EST on NBC.

Players to Watch:


DE Robert Ayers has 4.5 sacks in his last five games, including one in each of his last three. Prescott struggled against pressure in the Giants loss.

TE Cameron Brate has 14 catches for nearly 200 yards and a score in the last three games and has become a favorite target for Winston behind Mike Evans.


RB Ezekiel Elliott has had a couple of sub par games recently and Sunday night’s game could show if the rookie is getting worn down or has just faced unfavorable matchups.

DE Benson Mayowa got his fourth sack of the season on Sunday, when he stripped Eli Manning of the ball, and contributed to a strong run defense by the Cowboys’ front.

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