Tom Brady is undefeated against the Cowboys in his career (7-0). And Dallas, while favored, hasn’t won on the road in the playoffs since 1993.
So what is worth looking at from a betting perspective? And what are the best plays to help you make smart wagering decisions?
Betting analysts Doug Kezirian, Tyler Fulghum, Joe Fortenbaugh, Anita Marks and Erin Dolan, fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings, ESPN Stats & Information’s Seth Walder and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz offer their insights into the games with tips and picks.
Note: Lines are from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
In the ESPN/ABC/ESPN+ ‘Monday Night Football’ wild-card matchup, the Dallas Cowboys (-2.5, 45.5) are the favorite on the road against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs dominated and won 19-3 in Week 1, but these are different teams now. Are you taking Brady and the points or laying with the Cowboys?
Kezirian: I am taking under 45.5. While the Cowboys defense has regressed a bit over the past few weeks, it still ranks in the top eight in efficiency, and the Bucs rank even higher. Tampa is also still fighting injuries on the offensive line, which will limit Brady’s effectiveness. In addition, I like using the Bucs +8.5 as a teaser leg. I do not anticipate Dallas blowing out Tampa, and the Bucs can also win outright.
Schatz: I will take the Cowboys -2.5 in this one, given all the problems the Buccaneers have had in the second half of the season. The Cowboys finished the year sixth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, while Tampa Bay finished 17th. We know the Dallas pass defense has not been as good in recent weeks, but the Tampa Bay pass defense has declined even more than the Cowboys. In the first half of the season, Dallas ranked third in pass defense DVOA and Tampa Bay was sixth. In the second half of the season, Dallas ranked just 18th, but Tampa Bay is all the way down to 28th. Also, in that Week 1 game, the Buccaneers ran all over the Cowboys, and then their running game completely shut down for the rest of the year. I would not expect Tampa to have much success on the ground in this contest.
Walder: I’ll take the under at 45.5. I’m worried about both offensive lines in this game, particularly the extreme Micah Parsons vs. Donovan Smith mismatch. The Bucs have been a below-average offense all year, anyway. And while I think Dak Prescott‘s extremely poor Week 18 game was a one-off — if it’s not, I’ll get the benefit of that here too.
Snellings: I’ll also give the points and take the Cowboys. The narrative of Brady as the postseason hero is a powerful one, but we’ve seen the Bucs play extremely mediocre for months now. If not for Brady heroics, they would be a well-below .500 team. The Cowboys, even factoring in recent struggles, are a very strong team. And the leadership is veteran and playoff-tested. They should take care of business.
Marks: I like the Bucs at home. The Cowboys have looked horrible of late. They were able to muster only 182 total yards and six points against the Commanders last week, and Dak keeps throwing the ball to his opponents (15 interceptions in 12 games). The Cowboys defense has given up 27-plus points per game to Gardner Minshew, Joshua Dobbs and Sam Howell. What do you think Brady has in store? The Bucs defense is healthier, and Dallas should have a difficult time rushing the ball.
Moody: Even though Tampa Bay has underachieved all season, I’m taking the Buccaneers and the points at home. Brady has a great deal of postseason experience and knows what it takes to win. Since the Cowboys’ secondary has really struggled toward the end of the season, Tampa Bay needs to get Mike Evans and Chris Godwin involved early. Even though the Buccaneers defeated Dallas in Week 1, they are only 2-7-1 against the spread in their past 10 home games. With Prescott’s recent struggles and the Buccaneers’ defense improving now that it is healthy, it would be surprising to see his performance change on the road. The Buccaneers are in a position to win this game outright.
Tom Brady is playing in his 48th career playoff game and has averaged 276.1 passing yards per game in the regular season. He has also thrown at least one touchdown pass in 16 of his past 17 games and thrown multiple TD passes six times. His passing props for Monday night are 273.5 yards and 1.5 TDs. Do you see him going over or under these totals?
Schatz: I’m comfortable going with the over on Brady’s passing yardage in this game because neither pass defense has been strong in the past few weeks. Dallas has still been the stronger offense, though, which means Brady is more likely to be passing a lot in the second half to try to make up a deficit.
Walder: I’ll go under (but shop around, because there are higher lines than this) here as well for the same reason I stated above: the Dallas pass rush against the Bucs offensive line. I think that’s going to force Brady to get the ball out of his hands quickly for short passes and also encourage OC Byron Leftwich to run the ball. Both work in the unders’ favor.
Snellings: I’ll take a side door and take Brady over 42.5 pass attempts. Before his shortened appearance in the season finale, Brady had at least 43 pass attempts in six straight games with an average of 48.2 attempts per game during that stretch.
Moody: I’m very optimistic about Brady surpassing 273.5 passing yards. He has surpassed 273.5 passing yards in 77.8% of his games this season. Brady leads the league with 490 completions and 733 attempts. In addition, he has a strong record against the Cowboys in his career. Brady is 7-0 against them and averages 277.8 passing yards per game.
Dak Prescott’s passing prop is 246.5 yards, eight yards more than his season average of 238.3 yards per game. He has thrown over his passing prop in eight of 11 games this season. Do you see him going over again on Monday night?
Moody: There is a strong chance Prescott surpasses 246.5 passing yards. Prescott has surpassed that number in four consecutive games prior to the Cowboys’ game against the Commanders in Week 18. Prescott has averaged 257.1 passing yards per game in his career. On the wild-card slate, this prop is a nice value.
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What is your favorite player prop for Cowboys vs. Buccaneers?
Schatz: Tampa Bay ranks 24th in DVOA against tight ends, so let’s take Dalton Schultz over 39.5 receiving yards (-117). Schultz had 62 yards in the first meeting between these teams back in Week 1.
Marks: Dak has 15 INTs in 12 games, so what’s one more? Give me Prescott tossing a pick at -175.
Moody: My favorite prop in this game is Mike Evans over 63.5 receiving yards. The Buccaneers would be wise to move him around to get the best matchups. Evans expects to face All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs, who tends to line up on the right side of the defense a high percentage of the time. This season, Evans has averaged 8.8 targets and 93.8 receiving yards at home. He’ll be busy against the Cowboys.
What is your favorite best bet for Monday night?
Fortenbaugh: Under 45.5 points. Tampa ranks 25th in scoring and has recorded 30 or more points in just two of 17 games this season. That’s a relatively low offensive ceiling, especially when you consider the Dallas pass rush taking on this depleted Buccaneers offensive line. On the other side, I don’t trust turnover machine Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense to move the ball with consistency against a solid Tampa defense. This game should be a grind.
Marks: Tony Pollard over 47.5 rushing yards (-115). Teams find success rushing the football around the outside of the Bucs defensive line (103 outside carries have averaged 5.4 yards per carry against Tampa). That is Pollard’s wheelhouse, more so than Ezekiel Elliott. If the Cowboys are going to find success in their rushing game, it will be with Pollard over Zeke.