A Cowboys/Buccaneers Preview: These are not the 2011 Buccaneers, Just so You Know

Felix Jones ran for 108 yards against the Buccaneers defense in 2011.

The Cowboys rolled up the 2011 Buccaneers last year making them look more like mermaids than pirates. It was just too easy as they cruised to a 28-0 halftime lead and won 31-15. It was the last game Dallas won in 2011. RB Felix Jones ran for 108 yards with Murray out and this year it feels like Jones will not get 108 yards all season combined.

The Bucs lost their last 10 games in 2011 finishing at  4-12.  During that stretch, the Bucs had pretty much packed it in and quit playing. But in 2012 the Bucs brought in coach Greg Schiano from Rutgers, who has already been establishing a very physical and tough style of play.

In week 1, the Bucs punched Cam Newton and the Panthers in the mouth from the very start and won the game. In that game Rookie safety Mark Barron hit Panther WR Steve Smith so hard on the sideline that he actually quit talking smack….for a little bit at least.

Then last week the Bucs went to NY to play the bully on the block, Giants. These 2012 Bucs gave the Giants all they could handle and if not for some late  game heroics from Eli Manning (over 500 yards passing), they would have won it.

These 2012 Bucs have such bad attitudes that when Eli was trying to kneel down at the end of the game to run out the clock, their defense fired in and tried to create a fumble.

They weren’t able to get a fumble but they did manage to get Giants Coach Coughlin all bent out of shape and running on the field like a gym coach that had just been punked by some kids in the locker room. Bet you have already heard about all that mess.

Let’s have a look at the Cowboys next opponent that reminds me a little of the Seahawks that Dallas just played.

BUCS DEFENSE:

  • Against the Giants, the Bucs picked off Manning 3 times and held the Giants running game to under 100 yards. They also had 2 INTs against Cam Newton in week 1 and limited the Panthers running game to a dismal 11 yards rushing. Yeah that’s right only 11.
  • The Bucs managed 2 sacks on Newton but had no sacks on Manning last week.
  • Their strength on defense would appear to be stopping the run and while they have allowed a lot of yards passing in two games (over 800 yards), they have come up with 5 INTs.
  • Their ability to rush the passer looks decent but not over whelming. They do load up the box with 8 people often and blitz frequently.

Bottom line: It’s not going to be easy to get DeMarco Murray going in the running game against these guys. Don’t be surprised to see Romo throw a pick or 2 but also don’t be surprised if he has a big day in passing yards too like Manning did last week. The Dallas offense should be able to move the ball through the air as long as Romo has time to throw and he limits the picks. I think screen passes could be an effective way to get Murray involved early.

BUCS OFFENSE:

  • QB Josh Freeman has a 85.5 passer rating after 2 games which ranks him a respectable 20th among NFL QBs. Not exactly setting records but he has only thrown 2 INTs and appears fairly efficient passing the ball.
  • Rookie RB Doug Martin has been the work horse for the Bucs and they like to give him the ball about 20 times per game. He has 44 carries/161 yards in 2 games.  Martin is not a big threat to break a long run but he is effective at pounding the ball and wearing down a defense.
  • WR Vincent Jackson, who came over from the Chargers, has been the main guy that Freeman likes to throw the ball. He has 9 catches for 175 yards and a TD in two games. He is 6-5 and will need to be covered by defenders with some height to them especially near the goal line.

Bottom line: Bucs offense is old school as it pounds the football running Martin and then hits the play action pass to move the chains. First priority for Cowboys defense is to stuff the running of Martin and make the Bucs face a 3rd and long when they pass as opposed to a 3rd and short.  If they can run the ball, the Bucs can wear a defense down and make them weak in the 4th quarter.

Game Plan

Could be a good week to play Romo on your fantasy team. I think Romo will throw frequently (about 40) and have to go to “hot Read” with Bucs blitzes. Think pass on first down against the Bucs defense.

This game will be about pace. If Dallas makes it a shootout by scoring early and going with a no huddle offense early, then it will favor them for sure. When the Giants made it a shootout, the Bucs ran out of bullets.

However if it becomes a low scoring grind it out physical type of game, then it favors the Bucs who play that kind of football well. Cowboys need to take the ball away more than they give it away this week.  Must account for Jackson in passing game.

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