Every week, Steve Wyche examines a handful of the week's premier matchups on the field.
Cowboys should roll ... or should they?
Then again, these are the Cowboys we're talking about. Sure, they have playoff talent, and they're still in the hunt for a postseason berth, but losses the past two weeks by missed/blocked field goals in the waning seconds point to another December slip for Dallas.
So actually, there are reasons to think the Cowboys could lose their third straight to a team that's run amuck in the wrong direction.
The Saturday matchup between teams that last season were in opposite situations can't be gauged solely on film-study and personnel. The Buccaneers, whose coach, Raheem Morris, appears closer to coaching his final game with the franchise, seemingly have one last gasp. If they have success early, then things could get problematic for Dallas.
Quarterback Josh Freeman is having a really rough season, and he's not the type of player who will ever settle. Bucs tailback LeGarrette Blount also could go big if you look at how Brandon Jacobs powered through the Cowboys' defense, which has taken steps backward lately -- especially in the secondary.
Where the Cowboys could find some comfort is that Tampa Bay's defense is like the amusement park ride with no line you get to keep riding over and over. The Bucs can't cover at any level, seem to always get caught in a mismatch and can't stuff the run. Although Dallas won't have rookie tailback DeMarco Murray for the rest of the season because of a broken ankle, it could run the ball with ease.
If the Cowboys don't win this game, they probably won't -- and shouldn't -- go to the playoffs. Tampa Bay is headed nowhere anytime soon, which is why this is the type of opponent that could be set to ambush Dallas.
Do the 49ers have anything left?
There is some thought circulating through NFL circles that the 49ers might have hit their peak a little early in the season. They've leveled off a little the past few weeks after establishing themselves as one of the league's top teams. It's not hard to see that they're vulnerable. They've lost two of three, including last week to Arizona.
The 49ers are locked in a battle with New Orleans for the No. 2 playoff seed, although that seems to be more important to the Saints because they're a much better team in their dome while San Francisco is built to play in all climates and venues. More than seeding, this is a measuring stick game for the 49ers, who have already clinched the NFC West but don't have any more playoff-caliber teams on their schedule.