TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Let’s rewind to four months ago. A healthy Buccaneers team traveled to Dallas for their 2023 season opener on Sunday Night Football where they began the season with a 19-3 victory over the Cowboys.
Now, fast forward to Monday, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9) and Dallas Cowboys (12-5) will face off on the primetime stage once again, but this time one team will go home for good.
For both teams, this was a trying season. For the Buccaneers, it seemed like the team struggled to connect, stay healthy, and produce wins down the line. For the Cowboys, their season had a different outcome.
After falling to the Bucs, and losing quarterback Dak Prescott, Dallas turned to backup quarterback Cooper Rush, who led the team to four consecutive wins. However, it seemed like all progress halted towards the end of the season when Prescott continued to make offensive mistakes leading teams to capitalize on them.
So what will fans at Raymond James Stadium see Monday night with the Bucs being the “healthiest” they’ve been all season?
Bucs Insider Karen Loftus said that Monday night could show similarities to what fans saw in Week 1.
“Yeah, I think this is the healthiest they’ve been, and this is what the team has been talking about. They feel very good about where they are health-wise,” Loftus said. “Everybody was talking about the success that they had early and that’s when everybody was healthy.”
Bucs Insider Dan Lucas agreed adding that confidence and success go hand in hand.
“I agree and that opening night I hated to see Dak Prescott go down because you know, you want to see the stars and that was game one of the season,” Lucas told co-host JB Biunno. “From the Cowboys’ perspective, it was a doom and gloom after that night for sure, but if you go to the opening night game two seasons ago, Prescott was pretty good and the cowboys passing game was good, however, I think Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard are the targets. That’s the target for the Bucs.”
Not only do the Bucs have to worry about the Cowboys’ offense, but their defense as well. Dallas finished their regular season third in scoring and sixth in scoring defense. The Cowboys’ defense, led by star Micah Parsons produced the second-best sacks-per-pass play rate.
If the Bucs can jump out early and keep the fast-paced momentum going throughout the whole game, nothing stands in the way of Tampa Bay reaching the Divisional Round.