Bucs-Cowboys: Predictions for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game at Dallas

The Bucs could be watching an opponent celebrate a division championship for the second time in three weeks.
Mike Evans and the Buccaneers will be back in Arlington, Texas on Sunday to play the Cowboys in a 1 p.m. game. [Associated Press (file)]
Mike Evans and the Buccaneers will be back in Arlington, Texas on Sunday to play the Cowboys in a 1 p.m. game. [Associated Press (file)]
Published Dec. 22, 2018

Here's the Times' Bucs coverage team's predictions for Tampa Bay's 1 p.m. game Sunday at the Dallas Cowboys:

Oh ’Boys

Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer: The Bucs unfortunately know their way home from here. Only the allure of playing in AT&T Stadium against a marquee team will give Tampa Bay a reason to perform well. The Bucs defense can't handle Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. We will find out which players on the Bucs are making business decisions instead of selling out on every play. Jameis Winston's road losing streak continues where it started. Prediction: Dallas 27-17.

At least they’ll be warm and dry

Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer: The Bucs struggled on the road last week against one of the league's best defenses on a sloppy track in Baltimore, and now they face another solid defense away from home. Tampa Bay's offense hasn't been the same the past two weeks, and Jameis Winston has lost 13 straight starts on the road. So that should tell you the Bucs will be in for a long afternoon at Jerry's World. Prediction: Dallas 28-14.

Watching them celebrate

Martin Fennelly, columnist:  Dallas bounces back at home as defense, led by yet another rookie standout passed on by Tampa Bay — linebacker Leighton Vander Esch – gets multiple sacks and turnovers. Once in the lead, Zeke Elliott closes out win and NFC East crown for Cowboys. Bucs fly home. Prediction: Dallas 27-13.

An endurance test

Ernest Hooper, metro columnist: The Cowboys have all the tools to replicate the winning formula the Ravens used last week. Dallas can run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott, get added rushing yards from Dak Prescott and match Baltimore's defensive production, albeit a different scheme. Look for the Bucs defense to wither late while Winston and the once potent Tampa Bay offense continues its late-season search for success. Hint: They won't find it in Texas. Prediction: Dallas 23-13.

Hat and T-shirt game

Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter: Led by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys offense is loaded with talent, but the play-calling has limited its explosive potential. One way to overcome the play-calling? Ignore it. That's what Amari Cooper, who came to Dallas via a midseason trade, did to score a late 75-yard touchdown against the Eagles a couple of weeks ago. Guess here is that the Cowboys become the second team in three weeks to clinch a division title by beating the Bucs. Prediction: Dallas 27-21.

Full-throttle offense?

Mike Sherman, sports editor: Want to make Sunday more interesting: Take the Bucs offense off "safety" and turn Winson and Co. loose. There is nothing to lose. In fact, the best and maybe only case for keeping this quarterback-coach-GM combo in tact would be a full-throttle offensive performance sans careless turnovers the last two weeks. Call it a Christmas wish. Prediction: Dallas 28-24.