TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened the season with a 19-3 win against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 11. Monday's wild-card game at Raymond James Stadium takes place 128 days after the week one clash in Arlington.
For the Bucs, too much time has passed to rely on what happened in the season opener. They believe they, as well as the Cowboys, have considerably evolved since then.
"We thought we were hot stuff back then, but they’ve got the better record [now]. From what it seems like, they’ve got the better football team, but we’re definitely a confident group, it feels like," linebacker Lavonte David said on Wednesday.
Despite an 8-9 record at the end of the regular season, Tampa Bay is the NFC South champion for the second consecutive season.
The Cowboys won six of their final eight games to finish the regular season with a 12-5 record. However, that was only good enough for second place in the NFC East.
The Philadelphia Eagles won the division—and the NFC's top seed—with a 14-3 record. Albeit, Tampa Bay believes Dallas is a good team with enough firepower to make the Super Bowl.
"They’ve got weapons and their line is getting healthy, so it’s going to be a big test for us," pass game coordinator Larry Foote said.
Backup running back Tony Pollard is one of those weapons for the Cowboys. He only carried the ball six times in the first meeting with the Bucs. Heading into the playoffs, he averages 12 carries per game and has 12 total touchdowns.
Similarly, Bucs rookie running back Rachaad White had just six rushes in week one but started the last eight games. The 2022 third-round draft pick is averaging four yards per carry in those contests.
"[The] more reps that you get, you just kind of grow as a player. Your confidence [grows] and then just understanding the game," White said.
The Bucs and Cowboys kick off at 8:15 p.m. on Monday night at Raymond James Stadium.