Bucs vs. Cowboys: Top storylines heading into Monday night’s playoff game

In a rematch of Week 1 from each of the past two regular seasons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play host to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night for the right to move on to the second round of the NFL playoffs.

Here are the top storylines heading into Monday night’s wild-card game:

Prime-Time Rematch

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As soon as this matchup was locked in, it was destined for a prime-time slot and a national audience. These teams have faced off in Week 1 of the regular season each of the past two years, as “America’s Team” and Tom Brady continue to draw truckloads of attention when they’re on the same field.

The Bucs won both of those regular-season matchups, a 31-29 shootout on a last-second field goal in Tampa in 2021, and a 19-3 victory in Arlington in 2022. None of that will matter this time around, but you get bet the Cowboys will be out for revenge it this third tilt that carries the highest stakes.

GOAT Perfection

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Tom Brady has faced the Cowboys seven times during his legendary 23-year NFL career, and he’s never come out on the losing side. As mentioned above, two of those victories have come since he departed New England for Tampa Bay, and he’ll be looking to keep that perfect record in tact after this playoff installment.

Brady’s been in the league so long, the first time he beat the Cowboys in 2003, Quincy Carter tossed three interceptions as the Dallas quarterback. Brady will certainly be hoping for that kind of performance from Dak Prescott on Monday night.

Brady's Last Ride?

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Speaking of the GOAT, if the Bucs can’t pull off the win (they’re home underdogs) in this one, it could be the last game of Brady’s career. Though he’s obviously remained focused on the task at hand, that hasn’t stopped rumors and reports from swirling all season long regarding his football future.

He’s got a hefty contract waiting for him at Fox Sports whenever he’s ready to hang up his cleats, but after setting more NFL records this season and finishing third in the league in passing yards, would it really be all that shocking to see him return next season?

If he does play in 2023, despite speculation to the contrary, staying in Tampa Bay for another year seems like the most likely scenario.

Injury Updates

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The Bucs are as healthy as they’ve been all season, with nobody on the active roster being ruled out for Monday’s game as of the final injury reports on Saturday. The biggest question mark will be offensive lineman Nick Leverett, who is listed as doubtful with knee and shoulder injuries. If he can’t play, the Bucs will be down their starting left guard, and backup center, which isn’t ideal considering the state of Tampa Bay’s depth in the offensive trenches.

There will likely be key starters on both sides of the ball playing through injuries at less than 100 percent, and there’s still an outside chance that Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen could be activated from injured reserve in time for the game, after missing the entire regular season with a knee injury.

Story originally appeared on Buccaneers Wire