Dallas Cowboys Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Key Matchups

Tom EdringtonSenior Writer ISeptember 11, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 8:  Running back Cadillac Williams #24 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs the ball against Roman Harper #41 of the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on October 8, 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

When the Dallas Cowboys meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Sunday, there are some very important match ups that will determine the success or failure of these teams in the 2009 NFL season opener.

DALLAS OFFENSIVE LINE vs. BUCCANEER DEFENSIVE LINE

This is a very important matchup to watch. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to play like an NFC East team, they want to run first, then pass. NFC East offensive lines are typically, well, HUGE. Dallas  is  no exception. Just look at left tackle Flozell Adams (6'7", 338), right guard Leonard Davis (6'6", 353), who are the biggest of the Cowboys front. If Tampa's smallish defense can't elude the blocks, it could be a long afternoon. Tampa rookie Roy Williams, 330 pounds of explosive muscle, has won a starting spot on the defensive line and hopefully he can help neutralize the size advantage of Dallas.

ADVANTAGE:  Dallas.

QUARTERBACKS:

Tony Romo, Dallas; Byron Leftwich, Tampa Bay. Romo is more mobile but hopes to benefit from a good running game, same game plan as Leftwich. Romo's mobility is a huge advantage for the Cowboys, Leftwich is a sitting duck in the pocket.

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ADVANTAGE: Dallas.

RUNNING BACKS: 

Dallas is overjoyed at the return of Felix Jones, who was injured most of last season. Marion Barber has shown his prowess and runs well behind the huge offensive line. Cadillac Williams has earned the starting job for Tampa. He's back from blowing out both patella tendons in back-to-back seasons. The Bucs need him to regain the form he showed as a rookie. He will rotate with Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham. These three have to perform. If they don't, it's over.

ADVANTAGE: Toss up.

WIDE RECEIVERS:

Terrell Owens is gone which puts the heat on Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton. Tampa counters with franchise-tag player Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton. Clayton HAS to be a factor for the Bucs to have a chance as Bryant will draw double-teams.

ADVANTAGE: Tampa Bay, slightly.

TIGHT ENDS: 

Kellen Winslow Jr. is a known commodity when healthy, but he's rarely been healthy. Jason Witten is Romo's favorite target and a perennial All-Pro.

ADVANTAGE:  Dallas.

TOTAL DEFENSE:

Tampa's first team defense looked great in the preseason but play was limited. To be effective, the offense has to help out and control the ball a bit. Dallas' strength is in its linebacking corps led by DeMarcus Ware, who could spell bad news for Leftwich. The Bucs defensive coordinator has always produced outstanding units.

ADVANTAGE:  Tampa Bay, slightly.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

The Buccaneer special teams were boosted last year by All-Pro Clifton Smith and there's no reason to doubt he can't do it again.

ADVANTAGE:  Tampa  Bay.

KICKING:

Michael Nugent replaced Matt Bryant, who was very consistent last year. The loss of  punter Josh Bidwell now makes everything questionable for the Buccaneers. This part of the game is a total question mark for the Bucs.

ADVANTAGE:  Dallas.

There you have it, Dallas has an edge in four categories, Tampa Bay three and one even.

It all adds up to what could be a very, very close football game, decided perhaps by a field goal.