With just three weeks left to play in the regular season, the Dallas Cowboys find themselves tied for first in the NFC East, but on the outside looking in thanks to tiebreaking scenarios. Still, the Cowboys control their own playoff fate, and Jason Garrett's club must take the first step to turning the season around on Saturday as the Cowboys head to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers.
Two straight heartbreaking losses has jaded the guarded optimism that surrounded the Cowboys during their four game winning streak. Dan Bailey missed a game-winning field goal in Arizona after his own head coach iced him as time expired in regulation in Week 14. The Cowboys, of course, went on to lose in overtime. Bailey once again was iced in Week 15 (by Tom Coughlin, at least), this time with an opportunity to tie the game. Once again, Bailey missed the second attempt, and the Cowboys went onto lose the game.
Dallas lost more than the game in the Week 14 loss against the Giants. DeMarco Murray fractured his ankle in the first quarter, and is now out for the remainder of the season. Felix Jones will now be the primary running back for the Cowboys once again. The Cowboys will need to make at least one roster move to compensate for Murray's season ending injury, as Jones is the only tailback left on the active roster.
Luckily for Dallas, they will be facing off against one of the league's worst defenses on Saturday night. Tampa Bay is ranked No. 27 against the pass and No. 28 against the run. With Miles Austin back in the fold offensively, Tony Romo and the Dallas offense should still be able to move the ball with ease against a hapless Tampa Bay defensive unit.
The Bucs have dropped their last seven contests, dating back to October 23. Tampa Bay has surrendered more than 30 points in four of their last five losses, including 38 points to Carolina in Week 13 and 41 points to Jacksonville in Week 14.
While the Cowboys play the Buccaneers this weekend, the Giants will take on the Washington Redskins at home in New Jersey. Our own Robbie Griffin has taken a look at all the tiebreaker scenarios for the coming weeks.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. CT on Saturday night in Tampa Bay. Televised coverage can be found on the NFL Network.