It’s been quite the roller coaster ride for fans of America’s Team in the early going of this 2012 campaign. After the Cowboys began their season with a thrilling victory in New York against the defending Super Bowl champions, they followed that up with an atrocious showing against a mediocre Seattle side. On Sunday, the Cowboys will look to play to their potential as they host the equally puzzling Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their home-opener.
The Bucs also began their season in emphatic fashion, dismantling the Panthers at home. Week 2 was a slightly different story however. Despite starting out the game impressively against the Giants, the Bucs squandered a 14-point lead, en route to a crushing defeat in a contest they really should’ve won. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman has looked solid so far this season, and has built quite the lethal rapport with star wide-out Vincent Jackson. Expect that duo to be a handful for Dallas’ revamped secondary in what promises to be an intriguing NFC clash.
Buccaneers vs. Cowboys Spread & Betting Odds:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +8 (-110)
@ Dallas Cowboys -8 (-110)
Over 46 (-110)
Under 46 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Buccaneers vs. Cowboys Pick:
Expect this to be a tone-setting match-up for the remainder of the season for both these sides. While the Cowboys entered 2012 definitely expecting the playoffs, nobody really knew what to expect from Tampa Bay under first-year coach Greg Schiano. The Bucs have looked the better of the two teams thus far in 2012, but last week’s dismal second half is tough to forget about. Teams that typically play long games tend to struggle the week after, and it will be interesting to see if that’s the case on Sunday.
Picking a side in this contest is an area I want no part of. Both teams tend to be wildly inconsistent, and the best option would likely be teasing the Cowboys down to -1 or a pick’em. One interesting fact pertaining to Dallas is that in their last 24 games, the underdogs have covered a total of 20 times. That’s a staggering figure and one that certainly lends validity to playing the Bucs here. But after last week’s collapse at MetLife stadium, it will be tough to side with Tampa Bay.
Where the value lies in this contest is on the Over 46 points. The Cowboys have as explosive of an attack as any team in the league when they’re on. It’s simply a matter of going out there and performing, and after last weekend’s embarrassing outing in Seattle, look for Tony Romo to give a much more inspired showing for the hometown fans. Romo has historically shredded the Bucs’ defense in his career, posting a 144.8 quarterback rating through three starts.
Additionally, Dallas has a propensity for the big play on offense. Romo’s got a connon for an arm, and with the likes of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin at his disposal, Dallas will use the deep ball against this Tampa Bay squad. So far in 2012, the Bucs have been severely vulnerable to the passing game. They’ve allowed a league-high 801 yards through the air thus far, including 510 last week to Eli Manning and the Giants. Moreover, on bigger plays Tampa Bay is fairing no better. The Bucs have allowed 7 pass plays of at least 30 yards in their first two games, also ranking them dead last in the NFL. Look for Dallas to face minimal resistance in moving the chains. Romo will be able to have time in the pocket, and hit his weapons for easy points.
For Tampa Bay, Josh Freeman is a much-improved quarterback this season. Vincent Jackson has likely played a huge role in Freeman’s success, and the two have built quite the connection in the opening weeks. Freeman is currently at a 57% rate on passes of at least 15-yards downfield, compared to 2011 when he was just 37%. Expect a lot of the aerial attack from both sides on Sunday. Despite the fact that Dallas’ secondary looked stellar against the G-Men in Week 1, they looked like a college side last week against Seattle. Though the likes of Carr and Claiborne should step up for Rob Ryan’s defense on Sunday, stopping Viiincent Jackson is no easy task.
Look for an up-and-down affair on Sunday, with both teams being able to move the football. Dallas is such a loaded offensive team, and will be fired up to put on a show in front of their home fans. Conversely, expect the Bucs to continue their fighting ways. Greg Schiano’s team has battled every second this season, and though they’re coming off a crushing Week 2 defeat, look for an inspired showing from the Bucs at Cowboys Stadium. Freeman has the potential to move the football in a variety of ways, and will challenge the Dallas defense. Look for the Cowboys to emerge victorious in a tight, high-scoring affair.
PICK = Over 46 (-110)