News: Cowboys, Bucs centers of attention; McCarthy hot seat?

The Cowboys are exactly where they figured to be on the playoff bracket, but Cowboys Nation suddenly isn’t feeling too good about it after the 26-6 embarrassment in the Beltway. The team looks to move on quickly, and they got encouraging news about several injured players that should help. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has their own infirmary to worry about.

Previews of Monday night’s matchup start now, with things to like (and dislike) about both squads. We’ll get a peek at what Bucs coach Todd Bowles is telling his guys, and what he’s saying about facing Dallas. Mike McCarthy, meanwhile, may be back on the hot seat after turning in a 12-win season, as strange as that sounds. Dan Quinn is already fielding phone calls, we’ve got updated Super Bowl odds, and we share a finalized list of who the Cowboys will play in 2023. But the team continues to “suck on that” season-ending loss, according to Jerry Jones, hoping to wash out the sour taste with a postseason win in Tampa. News and Notes to kick off a busy week, coming right up.

Key players on track to return for 'Boys vs. Brady :: The Mothership

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Leighton Vander Esch, Johnathan Hankins, and Tyler Biadasz are all trending toward suiting up in the team’s first-round postseason game. Mike McCarthy told reporters he was “very optimistic” about the playing availability of all three. “They looked very positive today, so we’ll see where they are on Wednesday, but their arrow is pointing up.” Offensive lineman Matt Farniok may also be ready to go by the time Monday rolls around.

Cowboys star rookie DB Bland appears OK for playoffs :: Cowboys Wire

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The team’s interception leader exited the game in the third quarter with a chest injury, but there is reportedly “no concern about his status moving forward.” Tyler Coyle stepped in for Bland and played well versus Washington.

'We get to suck on that all week': Cowboys look for quick answers after Week 18 wipeout :: Cowboys Wire

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Mike McCarthy ran out of adjectives to describe how bad the Cowboys were in their season finale. “I don’t know how to keep saying it: very disappointing, poor,” he told reporters. “You guys have got big vocabularies; go for it.” Dak Prescott had a career-worst completion percentage, but he didn’t expect to spend much time re-watching the game film; it’s on to Tampa Bay.

Add not-so-special teams to growing list of Cowboys concerns :: Cowboys Wire

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John Fassel’s unit has given up more big-time plays than they’ve produced. They’re actually turning in a -2.71 EPA on special teams plays, meaning they’ve literally done more harm than good. Although they’ve registered a negative EPA in 11 of 17 games, they certainly seem to have the potential to actually be special.

Coordinators: Plan for Xavier Rhodes; Brady prep :: The Mothership

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Dan Quinn hinted that he has already settled on a plan at cornerback opposite Trevon Diggs, but he told media members: “I feel very comfortable with where we’re at; certainly not going to disclose that today.” Kellen Moore spotlighted the Buccaneers’ linebackers as an area of concern, noting they can impact both the run game and passing attack. John Fassel couldn’t recall a game where his special teams unit had so many miscues.

Will the Bucs get Ryan Jensen back for playoff game vs. Cowboys? :: Bucs Wire

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Tampa Bay has been without their Pro Bowl center all season, but Jensen returned to practice recently in hopes of making a postseason comeback. “He’s working hard and we like to see him out there, but we’ll see,” said Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles. Jensen’s 21-day practice window is expiring soon, so the team will need to make a decision one way or the other.

Will Bucs C Hainsey be available for the playoffs? :: Pewter Report

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The man who subbed in for Jensen this season suffered a hamstring injury in Week 18, leaving Tampa Bay’s loss early and causing a shuffle along the battered offensive line. Robert Hainsey’s issue is not considered serious, though; the team is hopeful he’ll be ready to start Monday night.

Bucs’ Todd Bowles makes telling statement about Cowboys :: Heavy.com

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Bowles is already warning his troops that they’ll need to play a complete game when they face Dallas for the second time this season. “Everything concerns you when you play the Cowboys,” Bowles said. “They got talent all over the field. They have a swarming defense. We know that. They have ballhawks in the secondary that can get to the passer as well. Micah [Parsons] is not the only one.”

Do the Cowboys have to beat the Buccaneers for Mike McCarthy to keep his job? :: Yahoo Sports

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Jerry Jones said he wanted the Cowboys to be “a viable team in the playoffs.” What if they now- after a very lukewarm December- can’t get past a Tampa Bay team that had a losing regular-season record, just as Sean Payton begins his interviews with teams like Denver? Who’s to say Jones doesn’t decide his old friend is worth giving up a first-round pick for? It might sound crazy after McCarthy notched back-to-back 12-win seasons, but it’s definitely in play.

Todd Bowles: Resiliency carried Bucs to playoffs :: Buccaneers.com

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Describing the team’s turnaround after starting 3-5, Todd Bowles sounded a lot like the Cowboys coaching staff. “Those guys are resilient. They didn’t blink. We didn’t blink,” the head coach said of his players. “It’s resiliency, toughness. We hang together, we stay in every game. Even though it might not be clean all the way, we find a way to be in it and we just have to make plays at the end the ballgame.”

NFL playoffs first look: What to like, dislike about 12 teams playing on Super Wild Card Weekend :: NFL.com

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Tom Brady’s game hasn’t shown substantial slippage, but the Buccaneers have been racked by injuries, inconsistency, and ineptitude. They’re the least impressive team in the playoffs. The Cowboys can be devastating when they play their “A” game, but they can be equally maddening when they’re off.  Still, if Prescott takes care of the football, Dallas should advance to the Divisional Round.

NFL playoffs bracket: Preview, schedule, Super Bowl odds, more :: ESPN

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There is no dominant team in the NFC. That’s the best silver lining there is for Dallas. Their past three road playoff wins have come in 1992, 1991, and 1980; now they might have to equal that total in three straight weeks to make the Super Bowl. That seems a tall task: four of the Cowboys’ five losses this season have come on the road. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives them a 19.8% chance of getting to Glendale.

NFL Playoffs Predictions, Opening Odds: Cowboys-Buccaneers play Monday night :: Cowboys Wire

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The Cowboys open as three-point underdogs to the Buccaneers despite having a better regular-season mark. Dallas has never beaten Tom Brady, and they lost to Tampa Bay 19-3 in the season opener. Our predictions, though, have the Cowboys getting it done Monday night and then moving on to beat Philadelphia the following week, setting up an NFC title game versus the 49ers.

Report: Broncos ask permission to speak with Cowboys DC Dan Quinn about HC job :: Cowboys Wire

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Quinn is expected to speak with Denver about the same job he was a finalist for last year. Other candidates will likely include Sean Payton, Jim Harbaugh, Raheem Morris, DeMeco Ryans, and current Broncos DC Ejiro Evero. Quinn’s interview cannot happen until after the Cowboys’ wild-card game.

2023 Cowboys schedule: List of opponents set :: Cowboys Wire

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As soon as the regular season went final, so did next year’s list of opponents. The Cowboys will host the Rams, Seahawks, Patriots, Jets, and Lions. They’ve travel to face the Cardinals, 49ers, Dolphins, Bills, Panthers, and Chargers. They’ll also split the traditional division games with the Commanders, Giants, and Eagles.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire