Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones keeps opening the door to a quarterback controversy on his team, but no one else seems to be biting. There is no controversy on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are closing in on a playoff spot behind Jameis Winston as they prepare to visit the NFC-leading Cowboys on Sunday.
Rookie Dak Prescott took the quarterback job when Tony Romo was hurt in the preseason and ran with it, guiding Dallas to 11 wins in the first 12 games before matching his interception total from those first 12 games with two in a 10-7 loss at the rival New York Giants last week. “This is the Dallas Cowboys. There has been noise ever since I have been drafted,” Prescott told reporters. “So nothing really changes. I don’t think they need to come in and reinstate their confidence in me. They know the person I am. I’m going to keep working and get better.” The Buccaneers are winners of five straight to pull into the No. 6 spot in the NFC, a half-game ahead of the Washington Redskins and one game clear of the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. Tampa Bay is tied with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South and is staring at a tough close to the regular season with a trip to New Orleans and a home game against the Carolina Panthers after the visit to Dallas.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Buccaneers (-0.5) – Cowboys (-5) + home field (-3) = Cowboys -1.5
LINE HISTORY: The Cowboys opened this game favoured by a touchdown at home and the line hasn’t moved all week. The total hit the betting board at 46, was quickly bumped up to 47 and then dropped to its current number 46.5 View the complete line history here.
WHAT SHARPS SAY: “Tampa Bay’s defense has played much better in their past five games during this current 5-0 SU run. The Bucs allowed 30 and 43 points in losses versus the Raiders and Falcons, but have since permitted just 12.8 points in their past five games. In their first eight games of the season, Tampa Bay allowed 29.0 points per game.” – Covers Expert Steve Merril
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “Right now we’ve got about 65 percent of the money on Tampa, but we’re hesitant to move off the key number because know we’ll see a lot of Dallas wagers come Sunday. Not a lot of sharps involved just yet, but if they come in backing the Bucs when limits are raised this weekend we might drop to -6 or -6.5.” – Scott Cooley of BookMaker.eu
Tampa Bay – WR Adam Humphries (probable, concussion), S Chris Conte (probable, chest), LB Lavonte David (questionable, hamstring), DT Sealver Siliga (questionable, calf), DT Gerald McCoy (questionable, foot), TE Luke Stocker (questionable, ankle), OT Demar Dotson (questionable, concussion)
Dallas – WR Lucky Whitehead (probable, disciplinary), OT Tyron Smith (probable, back), WR Des Bryant (probable, back), RB Darren McFadden (probable, elbow), G Ronald Leary (questionable, back), DL Cedric Thornton (questionable, ankle), DE Jack Crawford (questionable, foot), LB Sean Lee (questionable, knee), OL Chaz Green (questionable, foot), S J.J. Wilcox (questionable, thigh), LB Kyle Wilber (questionable, undisclosed), DE Demarcus Lawrence (out, back)
ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS (8-5 SU, 8-5 ATS, 6-6-1 OU): Winston is drawing raves for his leadership during Tampa Bay’s winning streak but could use more from top receiver Mike Evans, who was limited to 80 yards without a touchdown in the last two games. “I’m a little disappointed in my performances, but I’m always disappointed in my performances, even when I have good games to the naked eye,” Evans told reporters. “This is a good opportunity for me against a great team and to help my team win this game.” The Bucs could get some help on the other side of the ball from defensive back Chris Conte, who missed the last two games with a chest injury but returned to practice this week.
ABOUT THE COWBOYS (11-2 SU, 9-4 ATS, 5-8 OU): Jones clarified his comments on Thursday and backed Prescott while still expressing his admiration for Romo. “We completely support Dak as our starting quarterback unequivocally, so that’s that,” Jones told reporters. “And there’s no issue there at all. We’re very fortunate — and I’ve said that — that we have depth there. And you certainly have got depth in a big way when you got Tony Romo sitting there, and that’s not trying to be cute.” The quarterback on defense, linebacker Sean Lee, recorded a season-high 18 tackles in Sunday’s loss but is limited in practice this week due to a knee injury and is questionable for Sunday.
* Buccaneers are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
* Cowboys are 1-4-1 ATS in their last 6 games following a ATS loss.
* Under is 3-0-1 in Buccaneers last 4 games overall.
* Under is 12-3 in Cowboys last 15 games following a ATS loss.
* Under is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is supporting the road pup Buccaneers at a rate of 63 percent and the Over is picking up 54 percent of the totals action on Covers. View full consensus date here.