The opening weekend of the NFL playoffs will conclude with an NFC showdown Monday night as the Dallas Cowboys (12-5) take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9). The Buccaneers will host this one at Raymond James Stadium, with kickoff scheduled for 8:15 pm ET.
The Cowboys have won six of their last games to conclude the season, but they did drop their finale 26-6 to the Washington Commanders. Dak Prescott struggled in the loss, completing just 14 of 37 passes for 128 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
The Buccaneers struggled with consistency this year and lost three of their last five games. In Week 18, they lost on the road to the Atlanta Falcons 30-17. It is worth noting that the starters did not play the whole game as Tom Brady only threw for 84 yards and a touchdown.
The Cowboys come in as the favorite despite playing on the road. They are -142 to win, while the Buccaneers’ moneyline sits at +120. The spread features the Buccaneers as 2.5-point underdogs (-105), and the over/under for total points is 45.5.
Dallas Needs Improved Road Play To Have Postseason Success
At 12-5, the Dallas Cowboys had the fourth-best record in the NFC, but they lagged behind the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. With a string of road games ahead of them, they are going to have to improve as they played much better at home (8-1) than they did on the road (4-4) this season.
Offensively, the Cowboys rank fourth in the NFL this season, averaging 27.5 points per game (24.6 on the road). The offense is led under center by veteran Dak Prescott, who threw for 2,860 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions in 12 games.
Prescott’s favorite target is 23-year-old wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. In 17 games, he had 107 receptions for 1,359 yards and nine touchdowns.
On the ground, they have a two-headed monster in Tony Pollard (1,007 yards rushing, 371 yards receiving, 12 combined touchdowns) and Ezekiel Elliott (876 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns).
Defensively, the Cowboys rank fifth in the league, allowing opponents an average of 20.1 points per game.
Tampa Bay Reaped Benefits Of Weak Division
Despite having a losing record, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the playoffs as they beat the NFC South over the likes of the Panthers, Saints, and Falcons, all of which finished the year at 7-10. Despite their rough year, the Buccaneers will look to win as home underdogs as the playoffs begin for them Monday.
Offensively, Tampa Bay struggled this year as they ranked just 25th overall, averaging 18.4 points per game (21.5 at home). 45-year-old Tom Brady still leads the team on offense as he threw for 4,694 yards, 25 touchdowns, and nine interceptions on the year.
Brady has a pair of go-to receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Evans finished the year with 77 receptions, 1,124 yards, and six touchdowns. Godwin had 104 receptions, 1,023 yards, and three scores.
On the ground, Leonard Fournette led the team in rushing with 688 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He also aided in the passing game, hauling in 73 receptions for 523 yards and another three scores.
The Buccaneers rank 12th in scoring defense, allowing opponents 21.1 points per game (23 at home).
Take Tampa Bay And The Points
Looking at the trends, the Cowboys are 14-6 in their last 20 games against the Buccaneers, but they are just 1-4-1 against the spread in their last six games against Tampa Bay. In their last 17 road games, they are 12-5 against the spread.
For Tampa Bay, they are just 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games overall, but they are 4-1 straight up in their last five home games. In six of their last seven games against Dallas, the UNDER has hit.
These two teams squared off in Week 1 as the Buccaneers were able to take down the Cowboys on the road 19-3. The defense absolutely dominated the Cowboys in that game and are hoping for a repeat performance Monday.
This one really could boil down to home-field advantage. The Cowboys have been inconsistent at best when on the road this year, while the Buccaneers have been playing much better at home as of late.
Especially with the veteran Tom Brady under center, this seems like a game that will likely stay close throughout. For that reason, take Tampa Bay and the 2.5 points (-105) on the spread.