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NFL Super Wild Card weekend concludes Monday when the NFC South champion and 4-seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9) host the 5-seed Dallas Cowboys (12-5) at Raymond James Stadium for a 8:15 p.m. ET kickoff.
The Buccaneers manhandled the Cowboys 19-3 on Sunday Night Football in Week 1. Tampa gained six more first downs (18-12) 1.8 more yards per play (5.6-3.8) and Dallas didn’t have one trip in the red zone.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott left that game early with an injury. Prescott didn’t return until Week 7 vs. the Detroit Lions. It’s been an up-and-down year for Dak who threw an NFL-high 15 INTs and an INT in seven straight games.
Speaking of “up-and-down,” Tampa eked its way into the playoffs thanks to the NFC South’s terribleness. The Bucs’ final six wins were all in one-score games and the last three wins required late-game luck.
From a betting perspective, Dallas made backers money with a 9-7-1 against the spread (ATS) record. While Tampa was an NFL-worst 4-12-1 ATS this season.
This isn’t a sharp angle by no means but I cannot pass on Tom Brady at home getting points in this spot based on how the Cowboys have played down the stretch.
Betting Details (DraftKings)
- Moneyline: Cowboys (-140), BUCCANEERS (+120)
- ATS: Cowboys -2.5 (-115), BUCCANEERS +2.5 (-105)
- Total — 45.5 — Over: -110, Under: -110
First of all, Dallas’s end of the year performance is misleading. The Cowboys won four of their last six games and were 2-3-1 ATS. But, when you look under the hood, those victories are a lot less impressive.
Dallas got smoked in Week 18 by the Commanders 26-6 despite inexplicably playing its starters for most of the game vs. Washington’s rookie QB making his first-career start.
The Cowboys pushed as 14-point favorites in a 27-13 win over the Titans in a Week 17 game that was much closer than it needed to be. They got a lucky frontdoor cover vs. the Eagles in Week 16 vs. Philly’s backup.
Dallas squandered a double-digit second-half lead in a 40-34 overtime loss the week prior at the Jaguars. The Cowboys needed a TD in the final minute to beat a lowly Texans team at home.
Even Dallas’s 54-19 Sunday Night Football win at home vs. the Colts is misleading. The Cowboys were up 21-19 entering the second half before Indianapolis puked all over itself.
Also, former Cowboys coach, and current NBC football analyst, Jason Garrett said something useful during a recent Sunday Night Football telecast.
He remarked that Dallas’s defense is slower and less potent on grass compared to turf. That’s backed up by the numbers; the Cowboys are 0-4-1 ATS vs. the closing line in games on grass.
If Dallas’s pass rush is a little less effective on grass then Brady can expose the Cowboys’ weak secondary. Tampa’s offensive line has the best pressure rate allowed as well.
When the Bucs’ had their backs against the wall vs. the Panthers with the division up for grabs, Brady connected with Pro Bowl WR Mike Evans for three TD passes.
Per Steve Fezzik of Pregame Sports, teams that are 10 spots ahead of their opponent in strength of schedule rankings are 30-9-1 ATS in the wild-card round. Football Outsiders ranks the Bucs ninth in strength of schedule and the Cowboys, 27th.
At the end of the day, I can live with myself losing with Tom Brady at home in the playoffs as an underdog. Especially vs. a Cowboys team that’s perennially overrated and limping into the postseason.
BET: Buccaneers +2.5 & ‘sprinkle’ on Tampa Bay’s ML (+120) at DraftKings Sportsbook
PS Player Prop: Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette
Aka Playoff Lenny got the final week of the regular season off to rest up for Tampa’s postseason run. Fournette had a down-year but still gained 41.8 rushing yards per game.
His best game was in Week 1 vs. the Cowboys when Fournette gained 127 rushing yards on 21 carries. Fournette has rushed for at least 51 yards in all five of his playoff games as a Buccaneer with five rushing TDs.
Tampa has the highest pass rate in the NFL and Brady led the league in pass attempts. However, we could see the Buccaneers changing it up early in this game and doing what worked in Week 1 vs. the Cowboys.
The weaker part of Dallas’s defense is stopping the run as well. The Cowboys are 24th in run-stop win rate, according to ESPN. Since I like Tampa to win, I could see Fournette getting a lot of carries late to salt the game away.
That said, I’m only sprinkling a quarter-unit on both LEONARD FOURNETTE‘s OVER 35.5 RUSHING YARDS (-120) and ANYTIME TOUCHDOWN (+125) at DraftKings Sportsbook.
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