A year ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened their season in an empty Louisiana Superdome, eager to see what an offseason makeover that included the addition of quarterback legend Tom Brady would do to the NFC South’s balance of power. The New Orleans Saints defended their turf that afternoon and then defended their division title, but that wasn’t the end of the story for Brady and the Buccaneers.
The final chapter in this story is reflected in this year’s season opener, which takes place Thursday night against the Dallas Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium. The Buccaneers play at home in the annual NFL Kickoff Game, which means one thing: they’re the reigning Super Bowl champions.
The Saints won the South, but the Buccaneers crossed the Superdome in January to claim the victory over Kansas City in Super Bowl LV. One of the rewards is this Kickoff Game for next season, which will face a Dallas team that looks like a contender despite a 6-10 in 2020. It will be the Cowboys who have the first chance to overthrow the champions. , in what is sure to be a season-long experience of each opponent giving the Buccaneers their best shot.
NFL schedule officials sent the Cowboys to Tampa for the NFL Week 1 showcase, not only because Dallas is a big-name franchise, but also because it has the offensive firepower to match. Buccaneers in what could be an explosive start to the season. With Dak Prescott back under center and distributing the ball to Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas could turn Thursday’s game into a shootout with Brady and his body from Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette and so on.
Prescott had a historic start in 2020 before a horrific ankle injury kept him from playing five games. Dallas eventually used four players under center, but couldn’t keep their season on track behind Andy Dalton, Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci. The Cowboys’ efforts to regain the upper hand in what was a depressed NFC East last year hinges on Prescott being healthy and ready to pick up where he left off in 2020. For his part, Prescott has said he was ready to go, as soon as he launched. shoulder (which put him on the sidelines for much of the preseason) to his leg to his mind.
Meanwhile, Dallas has used the offseason to attempt to reshape a defense that allowed for the fifth most NFL points in 2020, including importing a new coordinator to replace Mike Nolan (more details below). The Cowboys’ top six draft picks, and eight of 11 overall, have been devoted to defensive players, including lanky and athletic linebacker Micah Parsons, who will likely become a central cog in that defense very quickly. However, Week 1’s mission is tough, as the Bucs’ Brady-led offense ended the 2020 season on an absolute tear and expects even bigger things in 2021 now that everyone involved has a good grip. understanding of the offensive.
The Buccaneers have won two Super Bowls in franchise history, and in both cases they lost their first game of the regular season. The franchise’s title defense won’t depend solely on what happens on Thursday night, especially with a 17th game added to the season. But the Bucs want to start quickly this time around, and they want to prove they’re still the team to beat in 2021. Dallas, with Prescott back in action, will look to signal that they are indeed real contenders this time around. year. Only one team will achieve their goal of the first week. Here’s a look at some of the challenges and opportunities the Bucs will face when NFL football returns on Thursday:
THE DIFFERENTIATOR COWBOYS
Even with Prescott out for much of the year, the Dallas offense still produced five players with over 50 catches, including the four mentioned above and tight end Dalton Schultz. The Cowboys offense has long been fueled by one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, although injuries have plagued this unit in recent seasons. With their trio of star receivers, the Cowboys executed 71% of their offense on 11 staff in 2020 – the league’s eighth-highest percentage – and are expected to rely on that group again in 2021. The defense of Dallas was 23rd in allowed yards and 28th in runs allowed last year and was in the bottom half of the standings in defense against runs, interceptions, sacks and efficiency on third down. Jaylon Smith was the team’s top tackle last year with 154 saves – exactly double the next man on the Cowboys’ roster – but the team will reassess their linebacker rotation with Parsons added to Smith’s trio, Leighton Vander Esch and Keanu Neal. Those three receivers and Parsons will have a lot to do with how the season unfolds for Dallas in 2021, but here are four other players who could make a difference Thursday night: