To the shock of absolutely no one, your Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to face off against the Dallas Cowboys in primetime when the NFL season kicks off on Thursday, September 9. The Cowboys, despite being a full generation removed from true football relevance, still have a massive fan base and draw huge TV numbers, so you had to figure the NFL isn’t going to miss a chance to get the highest viewership and advertising money possible.
There are plenty of subplots, storylines, and questions that will take place in this matchup, and here are five that came to mind….
1. How electric will Raymond James be? (Answer: extremely.)
This will be the first time that the Bucs have had full capacity since Jason Licht hit reset on the franchise by signing Tom Brady last year. That was exciting enough, but mix in the fact that the Buccaneers went on to win the whole flipping thing – not to mention the Cowboys pack opposing stadiums as much as anyone.
That leaves you with potentially the wildest atmosphere that Raymond James Stadium has ever seen for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers home game. Sure, the Super Bowl was obviously THE most incredible moment, but it was at a limited capacity. That won’t be the case come September. I cannot wait to see just how absolutely crazy and raucous the environment is going to be.
2. Dak’s back…
The additional interest generated by the return of QB Dak Prescott from an ankle injury played no small, we can be assured. Prescott suffered a gruesome injury while being tackled in an early season win over the New York Giants. Prescott and Jerry Jones had been in a long staring contest over a contract extension. Prescott’s absence and the Cowboys’ resulting offensive futility showed just how many chips he ultimately held. Jones acquiesced, and Prescott signed a 4-year, $160 million deal.
This will be the first game where he will trot out as the unquestioned franchise QB of the alleged “America’s Team”, or at least the first where they’d paid him like it. There will undoubtedly be a great deal of interest to see if he can earn his pay check right off the bat.
3. Can the Bucs’ fully-intact starting roster start 2021 as hot as they finished 2020?
There’s been no shortage of talk about the Bucs returning all 22 starters plus Antonio Brown this offseason. What’s unknown is what kind of continuity they can have. It would seem to be pretty darned clear they’re set up to have success early. Especially since they have literally everyone who’s anyone back.
However, that Super Bowl magic is something that isn’t bottled up and drunk. It’s extraordinary difficult to capture and maintain. Fortunately, the season starts off with a winnable game at home, and the coaches and schemes aren’t changing at all. The Cowboys’ defense isn’t exactly a world beater either. If Brady has time, the Bucs’ offense should be able to be productive and start 2021 off on the right foot.
4. What aspect of the Cowboys offense is the biggest concern for the Bucs?
Dallas’ offense poses more of a threat than its defense, at least on paper. Dallas has a trio of very talented WRs in Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup. They have a legitimate franchise quarterback in Prescott. They have a top-notch running back in Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas allowed 44 sacks in 2020. However, they played much of the year without tackles La’El Collins, Cameron Erving, and Tyron Smith and All-Pro guard Zach Martin.
For me, this game could come down to how well Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul generate pressure against the Cowboys tackles. As we saw in February, the Bucs defense is a matchup nightmare for anyone that can’t contain the aforementioned players. How the Bucs were able to generate pressure with just their front. How they kept everything in front of their secondary. That was a blueprint for how to beat a vertical passing offense. If the Buccaneers can repeat the formula against Dallas, it could be a long day for the Cowboys.
5. Vegas loves the Bucs’ chances…
As noted earlier today on Bucs Report, the early lines are emerging for Week 1 of NFL action. The Buccaneers reportedly are opening as a 6.5-point favorite over the Cowboys, one of the biggest lines for opening week. However, that shouldn’t be too surprising, given the money the Bucs made their bettors last season.
In the 2020 regular season the Bucs finished tied for the 5th-best mark against the spread at 9-7. They had a cover margin of 8.6 points, tied for 4th best, per ESPN. Oh, yeah, and they won the Super Bowl and looked dominant doing it. So, yeah, Vegas is likely is going to give the Buccaneers a lot of love over the Cowboys -and respect this year- so bet accordingly.
Which storylines will you be paying attention to when it comes to the Buccaneers-Cowboys game? Let us know in the comment section below!