NFL Kickoff 2021: Buccaneers Host Cowboys

Tom Brady and his seven Super Bowl rings battle Dak Prescott and the Cowboys in first NFL game of the 2021 season (Photo: @_4dak @tombrady/Instagram)

 

The NFL Kickoff Game for the 2021 season will begin in Raymond James Stadium, the same place the 2020 season ended. The defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football.

The Bucs became the first team to host and play in the penultimate game in their home stadium in February. The Cowboys missed the postseason following a season-ending injury to starting quarterback Dak Prescott in Week 5.

Return Of Dak Prescott 

Prescott was leading the league in passing at the time and on pace to throw for record yardage. Prescott’s season-sending ankle injury, combined with fielding one of the worst defenses in league history, didn’t amount to a recipe for success.

Dak is back with something to prove after a long contract negotiation and Brady returns with all of his starters on both sides of the ball. The anointed GOAT is 44-years-old, still giving the business to Father Time and seeking an eighth Super Bowl ring.

Fans couldn’t ask for much more than two of the league’s best QBs matching up to open the 2021 season in what is undoubtedly a tough draw for Dallas.

The Pro Bowl signal caller missed the entire preseason due to a shoulder injury, but will look to prove he is worth that massive 4-year, $160M contract extension. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones showered Dak with compliments at the contract signing presser, but also basically told Dak that he wasn’t worth the money

Dak’s hoping to lead the Cowboys to victory while making an early season statement against a loaded Bucs squad.

Key Matchups 

Survivival in the rtenches will determine how this one plays out in South Florida. Zach Martin being out with COVID-19 is a huge loss, especially against a team as stout on the D-Line as the Bucs.

Bucs WR Trio vs. Cowboys Young Secondary 

Other intriguing matchups will be take place on the outside. The Bucs’ talented trio of wide receivers — Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown — are all capable of being a top receiving option.

They will be facing a Cowboys secondary that was downright abysmal last season. Evans has had seven consecutive 1000-yard seasons to begin his career. Brown’s on-field resume speaks for itself and Godwin is in line to be be paid like the elite talent he is next offseason.

This matchup is the true definition of strength versus weakness. The Cowboys secondary is the defense’s Achilles heel. They don’t possess one elite starting cornerback, rendering them dog food on single-coverage against high-end receivers.

It’s going to take some young guys stepping up and playing the games of their young careers for Dallas and second-year coach Mike McCarthy to pull the upset.

 

Todd Bowles Dominating Defense vs. Cowboys Elite Offense 

Bucs, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is fresh off humbling Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy, Patrick Mahomes and the explosive Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

Bowles, a former NY Jets head coach, will now face Dallas Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore and his plethora of weaponry.

While the two squads are on opposite ends of the spectrum defensively, Dallas features Dak, Pro Bowl back Zeke Elliott and wide receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb in its high-powered offense.

Bowles is a leading candidate to become a head coach again in 2022, while Moore is just hoping to position himself for such an opportunity.

Many believe he’s next-in-line in Dallas, after all he did turn down a head coach job at his alma Mater (Boise State), after consulting with the Jones family about his future in Big D.

Tampa holds the edge in every category discussed and I’d be surprised to see them lose at home on banner raising night, but that’s why you play the game. Either way,we can be excited to watch NFL football for the next six months and with fan attendance.

“NFL Oh How We’ve Missed You.”