2023 Wildcard Weekend Bets: Dallas and Dak Prescott travel to Tampa Bay in an attempt to defeat the GOAT
As Super Wildcard Weekend comes to a close, the stage is set for an epic showdown on Monday Night. Before we get into the preview and player props, we have to do some housekeeping.
Over Wildcard Weekend, I hold a pedestrian, average joe 12-13 record. However, we learned some things from the first five games. I went 3-0 on game picks (Dolphins +13.5, Giants ML, Ravens +8.5) and 3-5 on anytime touchdown scorers. Even with a losing record, I’ve profited just over one unit so far and set up a Google Sheet to track my picks if you think I am lying.
One disclaimer about these articles: they are not meant to be used blindly to make all your selections. Read through my logic and see if you disagree before making a final determination. One pivotal matchup remains, and I’m beginning to find my stride on what I’m decent at betting on as we finish off a crazy Super Wildcard Weekend.
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Cowboys (-2.5) at Buccaneers | O/U 45.5
Dallas Pass Rush = Brady’s Kryptonite
Dan Quinn’s defense led the league in quarterback pressure rate (39%) and ranked 2nd in the NFL in pass rush win rate (52.1%) and sack rate (8.6%). The Bucs finished 24th in the NFL in pass block win rate (55.2%). The best strategy for defeating Tom Brady is getting consistent pressure with a four-man rush, and, on paper, Dallas appears capable of doing so.
Some good news for the Buccaneers is that veteran center Ryan Jensen returned to the team last Monday after being activated from injured reserve. He missed the entire regular season with a knee injury suffered on the second day of training camp.
Robert Hainsey, the 2021 third-round draft pick, filled in tremendously for the Pro Bowler, allowing zero sacks on 800 pass block snaps (2nd most on the team). Hainsey played right tackle coming out of Notre Dame and could occupy the left guard but is dealing with a hamstring issue.
Both these defenses stink against the run
On the other side of the trenches, starting nose tackle, Vita Vea is officially questionable with a nagging calf injury sustained in Week 14. Vea is one of, if not the premier, gap-clogging defensive linemen in the NFL and anchors a Tampa defense that ranks in the middle of the pack against the run at 120.7 yards per game.
Despite the eye-popping pass rush rates, the Cowboys’ defense has the 27th-ranked run defense giving up 129.3 yards per game. Keeping Tom Brady upright is priority number one, so Todd Bowles should utilize Playoff Lenny to set up deep play-action routes. However, the Bucs’ offense ran play-action sets at a league-low rate of 15.1% of Brady’s dropbacks.
It’s no secret that Cowboys’ cornerback Trevon Diggs lives and dies by gambling for interceptions. Leonard Fournette’s physicality, combined with Rachaad White’s elusiveness, should wear down a below-average Dallas defensive line. If the Bucs can manage four to five yards per touch, it will set up play-action for Tom Brady to hit Chris Godwin or Mike Evans on second-level routes.
Mike Evans & Chris Godwin should eat vs. Dallas secondary
In the Cowboys and Buccaneers’ first matchup back in Week One, Mike Evans finished with five catches for 71 yards. Trevon Diggs gave up two receptions on two targets for 24 yards and a score, while Anthony Brown allowed three receptions on four targets for 47 yards. Brown tore his Achilles in early December, so second-year pro Nahshon Wright filled in his absence. The 2021 third-round pick out of Oregon State allows 13.8 yards per reception and a 65.2% catch rate.
Fifth-round rookie nickel cornerback, DaRon Bland, overachieved as the starter in his first season but struggled at times. He’s given up only three touchdowns to five interceptions, but a staggering 73.8 catch percentage and the second-most YAC yards (231) with seven missed tackles. Todd Bowles threw four different defensive backs to cover CeeDee Lamb, who combined to hold Dak’s security blanket to two catches on ten targets for 29 yards.
This game reminds me of another Wildcard Weekend matchup where the away team with the better record was favored by 2.5 points traveling to a more experienced group’s home-field. Oh yes, the Chargers lost epically to Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars on Saturday night.
With over 160,000 bets counted, it’s an even 50-50 split on Cowboys and Tampa Bay tickets, but the Bucs are receiving nearly 70% of the money. We had one last night with the Ravens and Bengals, but here is another Pro versus Joe split. Definitely not as staggering Ravens and Bengals game, but let’s side with the sharps on this one.
DAL/TB Wildcard Weekend Bets:
- Buccaneers Moneyline (+130)
- Chris Godwin Anytime TD (+180)
- Leonard Fournette OVER 36.5 rush yds (-115)
- Tony Pollard OVER 76.5 rush/rec yds (-115)
- Dalton Schultz OVER 39.5 rec yds (-115)
- CeeDee Lamb UNDER 73.5 rec yds (-105)
Featured Image Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports