TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (1-1)
at DALLAS COWBOYS (1-1)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Dallas -8, Total: 46½
The Cowboys look to get back on track Sunday when they host a Buccaneers team they have dominated over the years.
Dallas is 12-3 SU all-time against Tampa Bay, including four straight victories by an average margin of 15.3 PPG. The Cowboys offense looked excellent against the Giants in their opener (433 yards) before getting shut down in Seattle in Week 2 (296 yards). But QB Tony Romo could take advantage against a Tampa defense that allowed Eli Manning to throw for 510 yards in last week’s 41-34 loss. The Bucs strongly prefer a clock-killing, run-first attack. It didn’t work against the Giants in Week 2 (79 yards on 22 rushes), but the Cowboys struggled to stop the Seahawks’ ground game last week (182 yards on 41 carries) and also allowed 82 rushing yards to a very weak Giants running game in the opener.
Can the Cowboys bounce back from a dreadful performance in Seattle? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every NFL game throughout the 2012 season and playoffs.
Bucs QB Josh Freeman didn’t do much in last year’s 31-16 home loss to Dallas, completing 17-of-27 passes for 148 yards (5.5 YPA), 1 TD and 0 INT. His touchdown came in the third quarter when his team was trailing 31-7. Freeman was actually the leading rusher in last year’s meeting with 37 carries, as LeGarrette Blount was the only other ball carrier, gaining a mere 21 yards on nine carries. However, this year’s ground game has been paced by workhorse rookie Doug Martin, who has 44 of his team’s 58 rushing attempts, gaining 161 yards (3.7 YPC) and one touchdown. The passing game has relied heavily on Vincent Jackson, who has received 20 of the 52 pass attempts this season. Mike Williams ranks second on the team in targets -- with eight -- scoring twice on those limited throws his way. Defensively, the Bucs were torched last week for 604 total yards, but they allowed only 301 yards in their season-opening win over Carolina. The rushing defense has been stout in 2012 though, holding two opponents to a combined 104 rushing yards on 38 carries (2.7 YPC). The Bucs have also forced five turnovers already during the young season.
Romo’s career numbers against the Buccaneers are nothing short of amazing. In three games, he has completed 61-of-86 passes (71%) for 908 yards, 11 TD and zero interceptions. Romo has done a wonderful job of keeping all his receivers happy, as four players have between 12 and 15 targets this year. RB DeMarco Murray has caught all six of his targets, and has been strong rushing the football with 175 yards on 5.5 YPC. Although he’s been bothered by a wrist injury, he will start on Sunday. Defensively, the Cowboys depth could be a bit on the thin side. S Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) is out, DT Kenyon Coleman (knee) is doubtful, and four others are questionable -- NT Jay Ratliff (ankle), S Matt Johnson (hamstring), DE Marcus Spears (ankle) and S Barry Church (thigh). During Dallas’ four-game series win streak, the defense has held the Bucs to 13.8 PPG and 278 total YPG. Last year, Tampa Bay gained 190 total yards and held the football for just 22:01.