Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Dallas Cowboys: Preview & Prediction

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistSeptember 21, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 05:  wide receiver Miles Austin #19 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter with teammate wide receiver Dez Bryant #88 against the New York Giants during the 2012 NFL season opener at MetLife Stadium on September 5, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys don't have a lot of room for error. Not in this division and with this schedule. That's why the Cowboys were so frustrated that they failed to show up in Seattle. Dallas can't afford to lose to weaker teams, which makes its home opener with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers extra important.

A final look, along with my unreliable prediction.


What Dallas Must Do to WinOffensive Edition

Utilize your quality group of receivers and cover up a so-so offensive line by attacking the weak Tampa secondary early and often. 


What Dallas Must Do to WinDefensive Edition

Stop Vincent Jackson. Josh Freeman will likely lock on to his favorite target, but the Cowboys have the personnel to completely shut down Jackson and force someone else to beat them. Considering Tampa's offense, that would be ideal.


How Dallas Can Lose

By overlooking the Bucs' defensive front seven and again getting bullied by a very solid unit. The Cowboys have to man up this week.


5 Most Important Non-Quarterbacks

Doug Free, Brandon Carr, Sean Lee, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin.

Free will have to protect Tony Romo from Michael Bennett, who's had a great start to the year. Carr will likely be responsible for Jackson, while Lee is relied upon to control Doug Martin and anything underneath. Bryant and Austin have to do the exploiting, a la Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz last week.


Injury AnalysisCowboys Edition

What happened to Dallas in Seattle had nothing to do with injuries to Jay Ratliff and Phil Costa, so the absence of those two shouldn't be a factor on Sunday. The Cowboys might, however, be adversely affected by the potential absence of safety Gerald Sensabaugh. With Barry Church also banged up, there will be extra pressure on Lee and Bruce Carter in run defense and Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick in the secondary.


Injury AnalysisBucs Edition

Tampa's actually pretty healthy. Although with Quincy Black less than 100 percent, the Cowboys could have something else to target on the ground.


B/R NFC East Blog Prediction

The Cowboys are much better than what we saw in Week 2. They'll bounce back at home, especially when there's such a clear blueprint for how to attack the Buccaneers on defense. I think Tampa Bay's better than many realize, but Dallas should control this game.

Cowboys 30, Buccaneers 13