The 2021 NFL season is set to kick off with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Cowboys on Thursday night at 8:20 PM Eastern Time. In the first season with Tom Brady under center, the Buccaneers not only posted their first winning season since 2010, but won the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. Dallas looks to get back on track follow 6-10 last season, regressing from 10-6 in 2018 and 8-8 in 2019. The Buccaneers are a heavy 8-point favorite with an over/under of 52.
Offensively for the Buccaneers, the show starts with the play of Tom Brady. The ageless wonder completed nearly 66 percent of his passes for 4633 yards and 40 touchdowns last year. Entering his 22nd season, there is no reason to believe he cannot play until he is 45 or beyond. Brady has a lot of help from a stellar offensive line and skill players around him. He continues to be the master at spreading the ball around, finding eight different targets 20 or more times and 10 players were on the receiving end of touchdown passes. Brady’s slew of weapons includes wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown, along with old reliable tight end Rob Gronkowski. It must be noted that Godwin is questionable with a hamstring injury and Brown’s status is also in question with a knee injury. The trio of receivers combined for 180 catches, of 2300 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. Gronkowski didn’t put up the all-world numbers as he did in his prime, but still found the end zone seven times on 45 catches. On the ground, the Buccaneers will be solid with the likes of Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II, and new addition Giovani Bernard. Jones and Fournette combined for over 1300 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, while Bernard caught 47 passes out of the backfield and rushed for over 400 yards last season with the Bengals.Defensively, the Buccaneers return a dominating pass rush that recorded 48 sacks last season. In addition, they were nearly impossible to run against, allowing a mere 80.6 yards per game. Overall, Tampa Bay was 8th in the league in fewest points allowed at 22.2 points per game.
The Dallas offense is led by Dak Prescott, who missed the last 11 games of 2020 after sustaining a gruesome leg injury. He was on pace for a career-season and his health and effectiveness will play a big factor in the Cowboys success or lack thereof this season. The Cowboys offensive line needs to give him time to find the likes of Amari Cooper, Cee Dee Lamb, and Michael Gallup, who combined for over 220 catches, 2800 yards, and 15 touchdowns last season. The Cowboys will try to take the heat off Prescott with a ground game that features Ezekiel Elliott, who had a mediocre season by his standards, rushing for 979 yards and only six touchdowns. Tony Pollard and Corey Clement are capable backups for Elliott, but clearly, he must return to the Elliott of old for the Dallas offense to be in full gear. Defensively, the Cowboys had a relatively pedestrian pass rush, taking down quarterbacks 31 times last season. In addition, they were second-to-last in the league in rushing yards allowed and near the bottoms in points allow, giving up nearly 30 points per game. For the Cowboys to remain competitive, they can’t get into a shootout against a team that frankly has very few weaknesses
What better way to kick off the 2021 season than with the defending Super Bowl champions at home against “America’s Team”?