This is Wild Card Showdown: Cowboys vs Buccaneers! Fantasy football is over, but the NFL Playoffs bring us the best matchups of the 2022 NFL season. With DFS, Player Props, and more still going on, there is a reason to still follow the playoff matchups even if your team is eliminated from playoff contention. Can Dallas avenge their season opener loss to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, or will Brady prevent the Cowboys from getting their first-ever victory against him?
The Dallas Cowboys are above-average in Offensive Weighted DVOA according to Football Outsiders. They’re a balanced offense with a slight edge to their rushing offense. On defense, the Cowboys are No. 6 in Defense Weighted DVOA. The Cowboys look like a well-rounded team with multiple ways of matching up with opponents.
Dak Prescott has 16 turnovers this season despite only playing 12 games this season. Turnovers are unacceptable and will be exposed in the playoffs. Fortunately for Prescott, only five defenses have fewer interceptions than the Buccaneers’ defense. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has allowed the No. 2-most passing touchdowns in 2022.
Prescott’s erratic play is displayed by his 24 (No. 10) Money Throws to 28 (No. 6) Interceptable Passes. If Dallas can keep the pocket clean, then Prescott can shine with his 73.1-percent (No. 4) Clean Pocket Completion Percentage.
When Dallas gets to the red zone, Prescott shines. He leads the NFL with a 70.2-percent Red Zone Completion Percentage. Tampa Bay has allowed the No. 7-highest Red Zone Touchdown Scoring Rate (62.5-percent).
Cowboys Running Backs
The Cowboys are No. 5 in Team Run Plays Per Game, relying on their duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to carry their offense. The Buccaneers’ run defense is solid with only six defenses allowing fewer fantasy points to running backs. Most impressive is their 395 receiving yards to the position, the No. 3-fewest among defenses, and 5.98 yards per reception (the fewest in the NFL) per Pro Football Reference.
For DraftKings purposes, I’m avoiding Pollard in Showdown Captain Mode ($8000). He’s the No. 6-most expensive player in this mode, and I’d rather pivot to a better matchup play. I’m more comfortable playing Elliott ($7800), who is the red zone running back (No. 13 in Red Zone Touches) for the Dallas Cowboys.
Cowboys Pass Catchers
Tampa Bay’s pass defense has allowed 16 (No. 7) receiving touchdowns to wide receivers and nine (No. 5) receiving touchdowns to tight ends. It’s shaping up for a Dalton Schultz big game. Schultz is top-10 in Target Share, Air Yards, Receiving Yards, and Red Zone Targets. He’s a lock play in DFS lineups.
Since Week 8, CeeDee Lamb has finished as a top-15 WR seven times. He matches up well against a weak Buccaneers’ secondary. A sleeper play in this game is Michael Gallup. Gallup has nine red zone targets over his last six games. That’s two more than Lamb. To complete a Showdown Captain Mode lineup, strongly consider playing Gallup ($5000).
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are average in Offensive Weighted DVOA according to Football Outsiders. Their Rush DVOA is non-existent (No. 30), while their Pass DVOA is right outside the top-10. On defense, the Buccaneers are No. 25 in Defense Weighted DVOA. Tom Brady isn’t getting any help from his run game or his defense.
The GOAT will need an all-time performance because, as mentioned, he’s not getting much help in this game. Only six defenses picked off more passes than the Cowboys (16) and Dallas was No. 3 in Pressure Rate (25.2-percent) according to Pro Football Reference.
Since 2016, Brady has finished inside the top-15 in Pressured Completion Percentage twice (both times finishing as QB15). This season, Brady is No. 22 (36.6-percent). Brady led the NFL in pass attempts (733) and finished No. 3 in passing yards (4,694). Will Brady survive the onslaught of pressure from the Dallas’ defense?
Buccaneers Running Backs
As noted earlier, the Buccaneers’ rushing game is non-existent. No defense has fewer runs of over twenty yards (three), and the Cowboys allow the No. 4-fewest rushing yards to the position. Only the New England Patriots’ defense allowed fewer total touchdowns to running backs in 2022 than Dallas (six). Dallas’ defense will funnel targets to the other positions. Best to avoid Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White in this game.
Buccaneers Pass Catchers
No defense has allowed MORE receiving touchdowns to wide receivers than the Dallas Cowboys (22). This is amplified by the fact that the Cowboys have only allowed one receiving touchdown to tight ends. Obviously, Chris Godwin will be a favorite play in this game as he’s Brady’s favorite target with 104 (No. 6) receptions this season.
In DFS though, I believe there’s a better stacking opportunity in tournaments. Mike Evans is No. 3 in Deep Targets (31) and top-10 in Unrealized Air yards (774). Pairing him with Tom Brady and Russell Gage is an enticing, unique way to differentiate your tournament lineup. Gage led the Buccaneers with 18 (No. 10) Red Zone Targets and is No. 24 in Win Rate Vs Man Coverage (40.7-pecent).
Dalton Schultz – $6400
Russell Gage – $5200
Michael Gallup – $5000
Tony Pollard – $8000
Leonard Fournette – $7200
Rachaad White – $5400
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Cowboys 21
The stats, numbers, and analytics overall point to the Dallas Cowboys, but I can’t shake the feeling that their one glaring weakness (the secondary) creates enough of an opportunity for Tom Brady to sneak out a victory over the better team on paper.