Cowboys vs Bucs Preview & Free Pick [September 9th 2021]

Dallas (0-0) at Tampa Bay (0-0)
When: Thursday, September 9th, 2021
Where: Raymond James Stadium,
Tampa, Florida
Time: 8:20 ET | TV: NBC
Opening Odds: Tampa Bay -6/53

The 2021 NFL season begins with a team that ended the 2020 season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by 44-year old Tom Brady, took home the franchise’s second Super Bowl trophy last February and will attempt to do something no team has done since 2004. The Bucs will look to repeat as Super Bowl champions for the first time since the Brady-led New Patriots did so in 2003-04. Tampa Bay will host the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night as 7.5-point favorites with a total set at a very high 51. The Bucs have not fared well in season openers of late, losing 10 of their last 14 Week 1 contests including last year’s 34-23 loss at New Orleans.

Dallas is looking to rebound from a lost season that saw star quarterback Dak Prescott suffer a bad ankle injury early on. The Cowboys went on to finish 6-10 (5-11 ATS), but that was good for second place in the NFC East, only one game behind Washington. They’ve lost nine of their last 11 road games, but have won seven of their last eight games against the Bucs. The Cowboys ended the 2020 season by hitting the Over in five of their last seven games.

Last year, Prescott was on pace to have the best season of his career before he fractured and dislocated his ankle in Week 5 against the New York Giants. In his last 14 starts, dating back to 2019, Prescott has 27 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions with 4,635 yards with a 98.5 passer rating. Prescott has some good weapons outside in the trio of Amari Cooper (1,114 receiving yards in 2020), CeeDee Lamb (935 yards) and Michael Gallup (843 yards). Running back Ezekiel Elliott is expected to have a bounce back year after teams focused on him with Prescott out. Elliott recorded career lows in rushing yards, TDs and average rush. Protection could be an issue on Thursday as the team announced starting right guard Zack Martin tested positive for COVID and will miss the game. Connor McGovern, who made eight starts last year, is expected to replace Martin. Right tackle La’el Collins, who missed all of last season due to hip surgery, returned to practice on Sunday and is expected to play on Thursday. Defensively, the Cowboys will introduce rookie linebacker Micah Parsons, who should be an asset for a Dallas defense that was horrible in 2020.

Tampa Bay will bring back most of their Super Bowl roster, which is why they are one of the favorites to repeat as champions. In 2020, the Buccaneers ranked near the top of the league in total passing yards (4,626) and total touchdowns (59). Brady threw for over 4,600 yards to go with 40 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. Tampa has surrounded Brady with loads of talent on offense, but the defense is also stacked. They led the NFL in rush defense, holding opponents to just 80.6 yards per game. They were also near the top in rushing touchdowns allowed (10) and yards per carry allowed (3.6). Tampa Bay’s pass rush had a lot of success with 48 sacks – the fourth-most in the NFL. Safety Jordan Whitehead is nursing a hamstring injury and is listed as day-to-day. Mike Edwards would likely replace Whitehead in the lineup.

Yes, Tampa Bay is better than Dallas, but there might be a little letdown early on after that great Super Bowl run. The Cowboys’ rush defense should be better this season and Prescott will bring an immediate spark back to the offense. Dallas should be able to keep this one within range.

Pick: Cowboys +8
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