All-32: Russell Wilson's Offense, Packers OTs and More
This is the first installment of All-32, a game-by-game preview of every matchup on the NFL slate each week. The goal is to provide a look at the most critical part of each game with a marriage of data and film study. As the season rolls along, the focus will narrow in on the specifics, but for this week, many of the featured players and units are big-picture projections for the teams in question.
This article will be part of an FO+ subscription, but we're giving non-FO+ subscribers a taste with the preview for Sunday night's game between Tampa Bay and Dallas.
Let's get to it. All times listed as Eastern.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys—Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
Key Player/Unit: DAL RB Tony Pollard
Any number of Cowboys offensive players could have applied here. Offensive linemen Jason Peters and rookie Tyler Smith will have microscopes on them, leading receiver CeeDee Lamb needs to take the final step into true stardom, and Dak Prescott needs to show high-end decision-making and accuracy to overcome a secondary that outclasses his receiving corps. None of them are the pick here, though. Running back Tony Pollard, even as the team's No. 2 option at the position, has the best chance to hit Tampa Bay where they are weak.
In 2021, the Bucs were one of the worst defenses at defending running backs in the passing game. Not only did they finish 22nd in DVOA in defending those passes, but they allowed the fourth-most targets to running backs in the league despite having a secondary that was highly exploitable thanks to a ravenous run of injuries. Devin White is nothing close to the coverage piece he was billed to be after the team's Super Bowl win two seasons ago and Lavonte David, while sharp as ever, isn't quite as rangy as he was at his peak. Losing safety Jordan Whitehead, who regularly flew down to make tackles near the line of scrimmage, could hurt the Bucs even further in this area.
Pollard, by contrast, was fairly explosive when catching passes out of the backfield last season. He finished 17th in receiving DYAR while taking on an average volume of passes, and his volume should only increase with how depleted the receiver group is right now. If Pollard gets a handful of chances to make plays in space or out on the perimeter, one has to imagine he can break one or two of them off for a play that single-handedly turns a drive into points.