The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will put their five-game winning streak on the line on Sunday night in Dallas, as they seek to hand the 11-2 Cowboys their first home loss since Week One. Here are a few individual matchups that could play a key role in determining the outcome of this prime-time Week 15 contest:
Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston vs. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott
The Cowboys are 11-2 and can credit controlling the football with a lot of that success. Their average time of possession this season is 32:23, second best in the league. The Buccaneers are right behind them at 31:57 per game, but have held the football for an impressive 34:12 per game in their five-game win streak, tops in the NFL in that timeframe. It will be on these two young quarterbacks to continue their 2016 efficiency when it comes to controlling the clock and avoiding turnovers. Winston has thrown just four interceptions in the last eight games, while Prescott has just four all season. The Bucs defense has 14 interceptions this season, tied for fifth most in the league while the Cowboys defense has hauled in just five interceptions.
Buccaneers RB Doug Martin vs. Cowboys LB Sean Lee**
Lee has the second-most tackles in the NFL this season and has been a key contributor to the Cowboys rush defense that ranks second in the league, allowing just 83.1 yards per game and five touchdowns on the ground. Martin has 294 rushing yards since returning in the first game of the Bucs' current five-game win streak. Some explosive plays from Martin in the run game will help open up the offense for Winston's passing attack.
Buccaneers WR Adam Humphries vs. Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick
Humphries cleared the concussion protocol this week and has been a full participant in practice, so he is expected to return for Sunday Night Football. With defenses paying special attention to stopping WR Mike Evans, Humphries could have a lot of one-on-one looks from the slot position. He has 42 receptions for 467 yards and a score this season. Scandrick could often serve as the Cowboys nickel corner; he has two forced fumbles, two sacks and 37 tackles this season.
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant vs. Buccaneers CB Brent Grimes
Bryant remains on the short list of elite NFL wide receivers, even as he continues to build a rapport with his new rookie quarterback. He has 38 receptions for 644 yards and six touchdowns this season, but is always a player for which defenses must game-plan. Grimes and the Bucs secondary have allowed fewer than 200 passing yards per game and just one 100+-yard receiver (Chiefs TE Travis Kelce) over the past five games. Grimes has three interceptions, a forced fumble and 17 passes defensed this year.
Cowboys C Travis Frederick vs. Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy **According to Pro Football Focus, their second-highest rated center, Frederick, has gone 38 straight games without allowing a sack. He has a tough road against Gerald McCoy, one of PFF's highest-graded defensive interior linemen. McCoy leads the Buccaneers in sacks, with seven on the season and 2.5 in the last three outings. Demanding a double-team up front against one of the best offensive lines in football could go a long way in pressuring the first-year quarterback and making the Cowboys offense more one-dimensional.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott vs. Buccaneers LB Kwon Alexander
Which brings us to the NFL's leading rusher, Elliott, another impressive Cowboys rookie. Elliott averages 107.1 rushing yards per game and has 12 rushing touchdowns this season. He has also been the most used back in the NFL with 287 carries, more than 30 carries more than the next highest mark on the list. Alexander leads the Buccaneers in total tackles with 104. Going into Week 15, he also led all NFL defenders in solo tackles with 86.