A disastrous finish to the regular season for quarterback Dak Prescott and the Cowboys could cause most bettors to look the other way in a wild-card game at Tampa Bay. Prescott’s worst performance of the season was the main reason for Dallas’ 26-6 loss at Washington. He completed 14 of 37 passes for 128 yards and had an interception returned for a touchdown before being replaced late in the game. The offense totaled only 182 yards and 2.8 yards per play. It was not just one bad day, either. Prescott, who missed five games with an injury, tied for the league lead in interceptions with 15.
The Dallas defense, in decline since early December, allowed Commanders rookie Sam Howell to pass and run for a touchdown in his first NFL start. The Cowboys, 2-2 in their last four games, started to trend in the wrong direction when they needed a few lucky breaks to beat the Texans on Dec. 11. It’s important to peak in late December and January, but Dallas is doing the opposite and coach Mike McCarthy can't be counted on to find the answers.
It’s not as if the Buccaneers (8-9) are red hot heading into the postseason. Tampa Bay has not won a game by more than six points since Week 2, and its offense topped 23 points in only two games all season. The Buccaneers rank 25th in scoring offense (18.4 PPG), with the Cowboys ranking No. 4 (27.5 PPG), and that’s the biggest statistical difference between the two teams.
Tom Brady’s magic touch in the postseason is another major difference. The betting public has a belief in Brady that no longer exists in Prescott and the Cowboys. Brady also led the league in completions (490) and pass attempts (733) this season, so the outcome of this game will likely ride on his right arm and the Tampa Bay offensive line’s ability to allow him time to throw against a relentless Dallas pass rush led by Micah Parsons.
The Cowboys were a surprisingly positive story this season, rallying for a 12-5 record after Prescott went down to injury during a 19-3 loss to the Buccaneers in Dallas in Week 1. Still, the first three months of the season don’t mean much at this point. On Saturday night, Circa Sports opened the Cowboys as 3.5-point favorites at Tampa Bay, but Dallas’ disaster on Sunday led to an adjustment of the line, which is now 2.5 or 3. Brady and the Buccaneers figure to be wildly popular home ’dogs, and that’s not always a good thing in the bizarre NFL betting world.